Kevin from the University of Texas at San Antonio asked:
When highlighting experiences on my resume, should I summarize them in a paragraph or use bullet points? Which is recommended when going to a career fair?
Hi Kevin -
Great question, but one that does not have a single answer which can be applied to every resume in every instance.
In my opinion, the most important factor to consider when trying to resolve the “paragraphs vs. bullets” debate is your audience:
Present your information in a way that is reader-friendly
You want to make all resume content as reader-friendly as possible. The easier it is for them to get to know you, the better chance you have of being considered.
Bullets usually work when you have a lot of ideas/accomplishments/unique statements to present, paragraphs work when you have fewer messages to present. Present your information in a way that will allow readers to get to know you quickly. The more time they have to invest in a specific section of your resume in order to understand it, the greater the chance they are going to give up and skip to the next section; whether that means jumping from one bullet to the next, from one paragraph to the next, from one complete resume section to the next, or from your resume to the next person’s resume!
Remember, you are not writing this resume for yourself. you are writing it for the reader. Make it easy for the reader to get to know you and what you offer.
Let me give you a few examples:
Paragraphs are used below, because the amount of information being presented is relatively small and focused.
Paragraphs are used in this example, as well. Note that each paragraph begins with an action verb and each highlights an accomplishment.
Bullets are used below. The statements are brief, but each one is unique. The bullets help create a list of qualifications.
Bullets are definitely the right call for the example below. Each bullet contains a key accomplishment/qualification that would be obscured if all of the information were provided in one large paragraph.
Remember, resumes are marketing documents, not informational documents, and you need to be prepared to discuss everything that is on your resume with potential employers. If you are not ready to have that conversation, it won’t matter whether you used bullets or paragraphs on your resume!
Hope this helps,
My colleague asked: Why do you think you haven’t found a job yet?
The alum’s answer after a long pause: I’ve been limiting myself to automotive companies because that’s what I’m really interested in.
This exchange reminded me of many conversations I have had over the years with students.
Conversations like the following:
Matt: “Did you apply for this job?This exchange reminded me of many conversations I have had over the years with students. Conversations like the following:
Student: “No, I don’t know if I want to work in that city, so I didn’t apply.”
Matt: ” What about that job?”
Student: “No, I don’t think I want to work for that company, so I didn’t apply”
Matt: “Okay, so how about this job?”
Student: “Yeah, I didn’t apply for that one either. They’re not in my industry.”
Matt: “So what kinds of jobs and careers are you looking for? What is ‘your industry’?”
Student: “I don’t know; something I’ll like; something in my major.”
Matt: “How do you know you won’t like the jobs we’ve been talking about? How do you know they’re not right for someone in your major?”
Student: “I don’t know; they’re not what I’m looking for.”
Matt: “How do you know they’re not what your looking for if you don’t know what the jobs involve and you don’t know what you are looking for?”
Student: “Look, I can’t describe what I’m looking for, but I’ll know it when I see it. So, I have one more question.
Matt: “Okay, what’s your question?
Student: “Why is it so hard to find a job? Nobody seems to be hiring.”
Don’t you just love circular logic like this? I do. It brings a real level of certainty to the process. In this case, it guarantees you just one thing:
“You will not get jobs for which you do not apply – 100% of the time.
How do you like those odds?
Listen, I want students to be selective when considering their career options. I don’t want student randomly applying for jobs just because a job is available and they need a job. But there is a huge gray area between “perfect fit” jobs and “not a chance” jobs that far too many job seekers neglect. And worse yet, many job seekers don’t even take the time to define or describe they types of positions they are seeking, yet are perfectly happy to reject opportunities outright as “not for them” without any reasonable explanation.
Former US Supreme Court Justice Potter, when asked to characterize pornography in a 1964 opinion (Jacobellis v Ohio), had difficulty defining it, but said:
“I’ll know it when I see it.”
Is that your approach in your job search? If so, I’ll bet you’re pretty frustrated.
Don’t use the “Justice Potter approach” in your job search! It might be a good way to characterize your definition of pornography, bgut it’s a lousy strategy for a job search.
If you don’t have some idea what you are looking for, chances are it (and many other really good opportunities) will pass you by. Don’t arbitrarily apply for every job out there, but don’t arbitrarily reject potential opportunities unless you can legitimately defend your rationale for not applying.
Finding a job is hard – identifying a career path is even more difficult – don’t make the process that much more (and unnecessarily) challenging by being picky.
It’s good to be selective in your search for a job. Being selective means you are evaluating your options and pursuing those most suitable to you and your goals.
It’s bad to be picky in your search for a job. Being picky means you are not willing to invest the time necessary to be selective.
So, are you picky or just selective; are you looking for opportunities or excuses (and be honest when you answer that question!)
Can you point me to the right tools most commonly needed for welders. I have a hood, gloves, half round file, leathers, goggles, glasses, adjustable T-square, tip cleaners, folding rule, and tool bucket. What else do I need?
I have to admit, welding is not my area of expertise, but your question gave me the opportunity to show how easy it can be to find information while looking for a job when you know where and how to look.
A basic Google search
I googled your question. A lot of useless info came back to be sure, but the following news release came up, as well:
The information is a little old, but it is sound.
It is amazing how valuable the most simple of searches can be. Not always, of course, but often.
Company and Industry Discussion Forums
The news release mentioned above was produced by a company in the welding industry, so I searched for more companies and found some company and industry discussion forums that proved very valuable. One offered a good reminder that you have to make sure you are asking the right questions if you want valuable answers. The following response was very enlightening:
An Iron Worker Welder will carry much different tools than a Machinist Welder, and an Aerospace Welder will carry no tools. You need to be more specific with your questions.
Check out the Welding Design and Fabrication Discussion Forum and company discussion forums, like Miller Electric’s MillerWelds that answers the question What tools should one own as an apprentice welder fabricator?
And, finally – check out YouTube
I found the following very helpful video: The 10 Must Have Hand Tools of Every Welder
Hope this helps!
What can I do with my major?
This can be very easy or very difficult to answer, depending upon your major.
If you are majoring in accounting, chemical engineering, social work, architecture, or any other field that tracks directly toward a specific professional, you have at least one possible answer to that question.
If you are majoring in a foreign language, any of the liberal arts, or many of the natural sciences and social sciences, you have a wide variety of possible answers.
If you in your senior year and have just discovered that you do not want to work in the area of your undergraduate major, you have a lot of options to consider, and you are probably a bit frustrated and scared.
What should you do? Here are a few things to consider.
Many people with college degrees work in fields NOT directly related to there undergraduate major
Not working in a field related to your major is NORMAL. It certainly is easier to look for work when you are an accounting major looking for a job in accounting, but that doesn’t make it better. Take a look at the new Education section on LinkedIn. (If you’re looking for work and your are not on LinkedIn . . . what are you waiting for?) Search your school’s alumni by major and you will see that you have a lot of options. For example, I went to the State University of New York at Oswego and studied communication. Look at the “Where they work” and “What they do” columns below.
Surprised by the variety? You shouldn’t be. If you limit your search to those opportunities that are directly related to your major, you are really limiting your options.
You major does not define you
You are not an English major, you are a student who happens to be studying English.
You might call it semantics. I call it a big distinction.
Defining yourself by your major is self-defeating. It says “I can only do things that people similarly educated do.” It tells potential employers that the only thing they need to know about you to consider you for a job is your major; nothing else matters.
I don’t mind saying . . . THAT”S CRAZY!
What you offer potential employers is the grand collection of education, skills, experience, qualities, characteristics, gifts, talents and passions that make you who you are. And, you are a lot more than just a major.
But there is a catch . . . . (there’s always a catch) . . . .
You have to help employers understand what you offer and what you want
Even when you are majoring in a clearly definable professional field (e.g., architecture), you still have to help employers understand who you are, what you are looking for in a job, what you offer in qualifications, why you want to work for their company, and why you want to work in their industry.
If you can’t explain who you are, what you want and what you offer to employers, how do you expect them to figure you out?
Answer: They won’t!
You must be curious, ask questions and explore your options
If you are going to ask the question - what can I do with this major? - you had better be ready to look for answers. If you want to consider your options, you have to be willing to explore those options. Be curious! Let your knowledge of yourself, your interests and your talents guide your exploration.
If you are really into sports, what industries, business, non-profits, etc. focus on sports. Not everyone who works in sports in an athlete. Where might you fit in?
Likewise with arts & entertainment: Not everyone who works in the arts is an actor, sculptor, artist or musician. What roles exist in arts and entertainment that allow the artists to create? Again, where might you fit in.
If you haven’t explored your career options, you are in no position to complain you don’t have any career options.
You must be realistic
Understand this – you will not live in a big house, drive an expensive car and vacation in exotic locations on a school teacher’s salary, unless you marry well, win the lottery or have a trust fund.
No matter how badly you would like to be a teacher and earn a six-figure income, those two concepts are largely incompatible.
As you explore your career options, be realistic. Look at jobs and career paths that are compatible with your needs and lifestyle expectations. Not doing so will be very frustrating for you and everyone who might offer you job or be willing to help you look for a job.
You should seek help
Why try to answer the What can I do with my major? question on your own?
Chances are, your college has people and resources that can help.
For example, the California State University Chico Career Center has an excellent What can I do with my major? page and career center advisors who can help you navigate your options. Likewise, St. Norbert College’s Career Services office has a What can I do with a major/minor in . . . ? page on their website, and helpful career center staff.
Get help! And, start with the career center on your college campus.
What can you do with your major? What can’t you do with your major? You’re not going to become a brain surgeon by studying sociology, but if you really explore your options, you will find they are many, but the answers don’t always come easy.
If this describes how you feel, then Vocational Education and Training (VET) might be for you. In the past, some people have looked down on VET as somehow “less” than the education you get at a regular university, but is this really true? What exactly is the difference between what you would be learning in VET and the classes you’d take at a typical institution of higher learning?
Vocational Education and Training courses tend to concentrate more on developing specific skills for occupations, while university classes deal more in theory and generalized knowledge for different career paths. So rather than university students getting “better” knowledge, in reality VET is just designed differently – it provides you with different knowledge that has a different purpose.
What is this purpose? Well, while university educations are primarily just about that – educating you so that you have a large base of knowledge about the world – the goal of VET is to provide you with a certificate or degree that enables you to work within a specific profession.
What kinds of industries can you work in after completing VET? Practically any that you want! Floral services, automotive, business advertising, occupational health and safety, viticulture, music, hospitality, law, and even more.
If you’re trying to decide between studying at a university or going through a VET program, here are some things to consider:
VET programs are shorter
Vocational Education and Training programs are set up so that you can get a variety of different diplomas or certificates depending on how advanced your hopeful future profession is. For job types that don’t require as much in-depth knowledge, the time frame it takes to earn your certificate is shorter – as little as a few weeks. But even the longest VET program, the one you would take to obtain an advanced diploma, can be completed in 24 to 36 months.
Better yet, VET programs aren’t just designed with some arbitrary timeline that you have to slog through in order to “pass.” Once you can show that you have reached the skill level that the program requires, you can get your qualification. Contrast this with university studies, which take the equivalent of four years worth of work – or longer! – before you are allowed to earn your degree.
VET programs offer you up-to-date industry norms
At the speed with which things are changing in all kinds of workplaces, “career path” knowledge isn’t enough anymore – you need to be able to keep up with the latest trends and ways of doing business. That’s exactly what VET students are taught, and this knowledge has helped lots of people find gainful employment in high-paying professions.
How are these programs able to teach to up-to-date policies and procedures? Because VET courses are constantly being refined through consultation with the respective industry to which they are attached. That means that if all bankers suddenly stop using iPhones and go back to only using rotary phones, your VET program will teach you how to use a rotary phone. Obviously, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the idea.
VET programs are national
No one thinks that it will happen to them, but every year circumstances in their lives force students to transfer from one school to another. What happens if this occurs during your university studies? Will your credits transfer?
VET students don’t need to worry about this problem, because the curriculum is exactly the same from state to state. Moving in the middle of your course means that you’ll be transferring the credits you’ve earned to an identical program and can pick up right where you left off.
VET programs give you practical work experience
University education tends to put students in a sort of bubble where they are free to learn all kinds of different things about the world in an effort to provide them with a large base of knowledge that they can they take out into the world and use as they see fit. In theory, it sounds really nice, but unfortunately the world isn’t run on theory, and employers want to see clear transferable skills in their job applicants.
Vocational Education and Training programs give you these skills by educating you about the specific ways in which your chosen profession works. This includes letting you learn how your workplace operates, showing you what you’ll be doing and how to do it, and teaching you interpersonal skills so that you can handle the people at your job, too.
VET programs don’t preclude university study
The nice thing about choosing between VET programs and universities is that it doesn’t have to be an either-or decision. Nothing is stopping someone who goes through a VET program first from later attending university. The difference is that, if you do decide to do this, you can transfer your credits over to the university so that you don’t have to re-take lower level courses you’ve already completed, which not only saves you time but money as well.
Of course, none of this definitively answers whether you should choose VET over going to university, and the only person who can really answer that question is you. Are you goal-oriented with a clear idea of what you want to do, and always impatient to get on to the next part of your life? If so, enrolling in a Vocational Education Training program might be a better option for you – remember, you can always transfer those credits to a university later, and you’ll probably have saved money by doing so!
About the Author: Andrianes Pinantoan
Andrianes Pinantoan is InformED’s editor and part of the marketing team behind Open Colleges. When not working, he can be found reading about two of his favorite subjects: education and psychology. You can find him on Google+ or @andreispsyched. This originally appeared on Open College’s InformED blog: http://www.opencolleges.edu.au/informed/career-tips/vocational-education-and-training-vet-should-you-do-it/
While these programs were created initially for students who were unable to participate in traditional programs, like older students and working parents, today, individuals from every age group and background are enrolling in online degree and certificate programs.
While distance learning is becoming more normalized, some prospective students are still hesitant to enroll due to concerns that future employers may not take their online educations as seriously as they would view more traditional programs. However, these old stigmas are fading fast and online education is now being accepted as readily as traditional formats.
Some of the old stigmas of online education will be explored, as well as the reality of how prospective employers actually view online programs.
Old stigmas and misconceptions
Individuals opposed to online education share a belief that online classes are easier than traditional classes, and students can complete them at their own pace. In fact, online learning requires a lot of self-discipline on the part of the student. There is still a syllabus and assignment deadlines that have to be met. Students need to participate regularly in discussion boards. In fact, the ability to be successful in online programs shows employers that you are a motivated self-starter.
One of the most beautiful things about distance learning is that it makes education accessible to talented students everywhere, including stay-at-home parents, individuals suffering from illnesses and ailments, and people living in remote locations.
Another misconception is that the professors may not be as high quality, since students are mainly self-directed learners. The reality is that many professors are true experts in their fields, with a vast range of experiences. Not only do professors need to receive special training in the technology being used, they need to be more accessible to their students. They work more unconventional hours, responding to student work and inquiries more frequently. Online education is essentially more individualized.
For some reason, online programs have carried the stigma of being lower quality than traditional programs. Many prestigious universities offer online courses and programs, including Stanford and Harvard. Students today are technologically savvy and universities understand that demand. Also, by offering online classes, they can serve a talented global population, rather than just students in the nearby radius.
One of the most beautiful things about distance learning is that it makes education accessible to talented students everywhere, including stay-at-home parents, individuals suffering from illnesses and ailments, and people living in remote locations. It is also well suited to different learning styles and students who do not feel challenged enough by traditional education. As more virtual schools open up at every educational level, it will soon gain the respect that it so rightfully deserves.
The importance of accreditation
On-line programs offer equivalent programs to their traditional programs. When you look into a potential program, make sure that the institution is accredited. The accreditation process is rigorous and will show you that the program is high quality. This will also assist employers in seeing that you were enrolled in a serious institution, and not a “diploma mill.”
“Diploma mill” programs make unrealistic promises, like extremely expedited certificate programs and do not require students to complete much work. Simply put, they are money-wasting scams.
What online education says about you
There are a number of traits that future employees must possess to be successful in an online program. Completing an online program shows prospective employers that you are driven, have initiative, can manage your time well, and are technology-savvy.
Many online learning students complete their programs while they have jobs or responsibilities, like raising children. Despite these challenges and time constraints, these students persevered, proving how driven they truly are.
It also takes initiative to complete online programs, since they require a great deal of structure and self-directed learning. This is an excellent way to promote your worth for upper level and managerial positions. Time management is highly valued by employers and online learning requires you to carefully manage your schedule and be able to prioritize.
Finally, 21st Century skills are needed to be successful in today’s industries and online learning certainly helps shape these skills more than their traditional counterparts.
How employers really view online learning
First of all, as with any degree, grades do matter. On your resume, you should include the name of the institution that you completed your program at, your GPA, and your major coursework. Be ready to explain how the courses were structured and what types of projects you worked on.
According to CNN, Excelsior College and Zogby International conducted surveys online, and the results were predominantly positive. Of the CEOs and business owners polled, 61 percent were familiar with online programs and 83 percent of the executives polled agreed that online programs were just as high quality and credible as traditional programs.
Most employers looked for online programs that were accredited and reputable.
The big picture
Online education not only prepares you for a local economy, but you can compete on a more global level. You can access your coursework from any location at any time, unrestricted by your local area’s offerings and you are able to take coursework that is accepted internationally. One example of this would be TEFL (teaching of English as a Foreign Language) certification programs.
Many of them are internationally accepted, allowing you to work all over the globe. Additionally, your local university might not offer special certificate programs, like Accounting or Beauty Therapy, but you can find your desired program online, making you that much more marketable. You are completely unrestricted.
More employers are looking into online education for their employees, to provide additional training and special coursework required for promotions, as it is less expensive and more flexible. The Huffington Post explains that the cost savings of online education can be as high as a third cheaper than traditional schools. That is quite a bit of money from the budget that can be directed elsewhere.
Finally, check out this study published in the Journal of Statistics Education. Besides it proving that prospective employees are independent, motivated, and efficient, it also gives employers access to a much larger pool of qualified candidates with more diverse life experiences.
More competition equals more qualified employees.
About the Author: Andrianes Pinantoan
Andrianes Pinantoan is InformED’s editor and part of the marketing team behind Open Colleges. When not working, he can be found reading about two of his favorite subjects: education and psychology. You can find him on Google+ or @andreispsyched. This originally appeared on Open College’s InformED blog: http://www.opencolleges.edu.au/informed/career-tips/what-do-employers-think-of-online-education/
I just finished the coursework for an MBA in Marketing, and I’m really struggling finding a career opportunity. I have experience in sales, customer service and banking, but my interests are in education and finance. Every job I want seems to require 5-10 years of experience. I can’t even get employers to look at my resume. I’m so frustrated. What do I need to do to make myself more marketable?
Hi Dawn -
It can be very frustrating when you are trying to transition from one industry to another. Here are some tips that I think will help you make yourself more marketable to employers:
Focus your message and keep it relevant
Employers won’t understand you or what you offer unless you help them – particularly when you are trying to change fields. If your resume is a simple historical record of what you have done and where and when you did it, it is telling the employer who reads it that you want to do what you have always done. If your resume presents your accomplishments and qualifications in sales, customer service and banking, why would an employer think you want to work in any other field?
Your resume, cover letters, LinkedIn profile and other job search marketing materials should present your qualifications in terms and language relevant to the fields you wish to enter.
When you say you are interested in education and finance, what exactly do you mean? If you can’t describe what you mean in detail, you can’t expect employers to figure it out.
Focus your message on things relevant to prospective employers, and you will see more success in your job search.
Speak the employer’s language
You will earn credibility with potential employers if you can show them you understand their world. When you can speak the language of their business, they have great confidence that you understand the culture of their industry. If you want employers to understand you and what you offer, you have to make the effort to understand them. Learn about their companies and their industries.
Learn to speak their language, so you can understand them (and so they will understand you).
Look in the right places
Often, people get frustrated looking for a job because they are looking in the wrong places. While you can find a lot on Indeed.com, you cannot find everything. If you have a niche interest, look at the niche job boards and related resources. If you are looking for jobs in higher education. Look at resources focused on that industry. For example:
The Chronicle of Higher Education Online Job Board
National Academic Advising Association (NACADA) Position Announcements
National Association of Student Affairs Professionals (NASAP) Job Announcements
PhDs.org – Finding a Job
Student Affairs.com Position Listings
If you are interested in finance, check out the resources in my blog post - What can I do with a degree in Accounting and Information Systems?
There are many places to look – make sure you look in the right places.
The kind of experience is more important the number of years of experience
Employers are more concerned that you have the kind of experience they need, than they are concerned that you have the number of years of experience spelled out in the job description; so take those date ranges with a grain of salt!
If it says 5-10 years of experience, they mean they need candidates with some experience, professional maturity, and - of course – the skills they are seeking. Translation: Entry-level graduates and inexperienced candidates need not apply!
If you believe you can legitimately make and defend a case for your candidacy, then apply for the job.
By the way, the word “legitimately” is the most important word in that sentence. Wanting a job and feeling qualified for it is different from wanting a job and being able to make a case for yourself as a qualified candidate.
You must be prepared to make a persuasive and compelling argument that you deserve to be considered. If you cannot do that, perhaps you should not apply for the job.
So – to sum this whole blog up into one sentence:
The better employers understand you, what you offer and what you want,
the better chance you will have of getting hired.
Hope these tips help,
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