It’s fast answer Friday — seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…
1. Can I save my reputation at my summer job?
I managed to get a summer job that is (sort of) in my field (thanks to your blog), but I’m afraid that I’ve made some REALLY dumb mistakes and ruined this opportunity and maybe even my future in the field. The first mistake was that I didn’t get along very well with the other summer worker, but we’ve managed to resolve the situation and we are getting along better now and things are going more smoothly. However, the manager spoke to us both about the situation. Second, I spent too much of the budget for the project I was hired for on one part of it. My manager spoke to me about it and was not pleased at all, and I feel absolutely beyond embarrassed and I’m stick to my stomach about the mistake now. She said I wasn’t in “trouble” but that she questions my “judgement.”
I get along well with the other staff members there and as far as I’ve been told (by the manager), I’m doing a good job. But I don’t particularly get the impression that my managers like me and I feel certain that because of my mistakes I won’t get a good reference from this, when it’s said and done. I don’t know what to do. I can’t quit (not that I would anyway), because my field is small and, you know, people talk. If I suck it up and stay, they’re still going to talk about what a horrible job I’m doing. I honestly fear that I won’t be able to get a job in my field because of this and I don’t know what to do. Is there any chance of me being able to turn this job around and maybe end up leaving with a good reference, if not… what do you recommend I do?
Talk to your manager. Tell her that you’re mortified by the mistakes you made and that you really want to do better. Tell her what you’ve learned from the mistakes that you’ve made, and ask for her advice in moving forward from them. People do make mistakes, particularly early on in their careers, and they recover from them. You will too, particularly if you’re explicit with your manager about your desire to repair your reputation. (By the way, the not getting along with the coworker was probably more damaging than the budget mistake. That’s always avoidable and will make you look petty — make sure that going forward you simply don’t see it as an option to get prickly with coworkers.)
2. The same person keeps getting all the jobs I want
I am a patent secretary in the Boston area. The patent community is very small and pretty much everyone knows one another. I have applied to a few positions where I thought I “had it in the bag,” only to find out that they chose another candidate. As it turns out, the “other” candidate is always the same person. She moves from job to job and brags about getting more money each time she moves on. This person changes companies/firms approximately every 6 months! This is so frustrating. I’m not the only one she does this to. I have a friend in the same profession who is her Facebook friend, and she is always aware of her Facebook employment updates.
How can I get around this? I wish I knew what she says to be able to bounce around and still land all the good jobs. I’ve been a temp for a couple of years and I always get questioned why I bounce around.
That sounds horribly frustrating. All you can really do is keep in mind that you never have it in the bag, no matter how qualified you are or how well the interview goes; there could always be a stronger candidate than you. And of course, it doesn’t follow that if she were out of the picture, you’d be the one getting the offers — they could be hiring someone else instead. Which I realize might just be more discouraging, but I think it will help not to see it as her taking jobs you would otherwise get.
That said … it’s weird. And I’ve got to assume that eventually her mad job hopping is going to cause problems.
3. How do I convey personality traits in a cover letter?
In a cover letter, how do I convey intangible personality traits that often set me apart from other applicants without sounding egotistical or like I’m full of it? For example, I am very approachable. I smile a lot, make eye contact, look nice, and, as a librarian, that makes patrons extremely comfortable approaching me and asking me for help. I am very friendly, I will always go that extra step or ten to make sure a patron gets what he/she is looking for (but that sounds cliche in a cover letter), I am passionate about my work and my field, and generally, people just like working with me. But see, that all sounds conceited and perhaps quite untrue. But it’s not, I swear. When I am close but not quite on many jobs I am applying for (different type of library, not quite enough tech experience) this can set me apart. So, any thoughts?
This is where the old writing advice “show, don’t tell” applies. You’re right that you don’t want to say, “I’m friendly and passionate and make people comfortable and they like working with me.” Instead, describe how that comes through in your work, talk about how you approach patron relations and why, and maybe some successes you’ve had. You’ll convey the same things, but instead of just asserting that you have those traits, you’ll be demonstrating them, which is a lot more effective.
4. My GPA was low in law school due to family health issues
I’m finishing off law school, and working on applying for jobs. However, during my 1L year, my grades took a nose drive. In October of my first year, my father needed emergency open heart surgery. He’d had a kidney transplant the prior winter, and because of multiple infections and complications, he needed to have a heart valve replaced. He had a 40% chance of surviving the surgery. Unfortunately, his surgery was during the week of midterms at my school. The dean was very understanding, and my absences were all excused with exams rescheduled, but my father’s recovery was long and arduous.
I was certain that I was going to lose my father, and I spent as much time as possible with him over the rest of the school year. My grades took a tumble. Since 1L year is fundamental, I spent the last year catching up on two years of law school. My grades have since improved drastically (so has my father), but my GPA is still low.
Since then, they’ve recovered, but now it’s job hunting season. I’m really concerned that prospective employers might dismiss me based on these less-than-stellar transcripts. Should I address this issue up front, like in a cover letter? Or should I hope that I still get an interview, and explain it there if I’m asked about my grades?
If you don’t have to include your GPA on your resume, don’t. If you’re asked about it in an interview, you can explain it then. If you do have to include it though (because of application instructions, etc.), then yes, include a short explanation in your cover letter — just a sentence or two — and explain that your grades have since improved dramatically (you might even say, “my GPA since that time has been X”). (And I’m glad your dad is doing better.)
5. Who can I use for references?
I have just started a new job search and have come across my first posting that asks to submit references. My current job is my first full-time job after college, and I have only worked there for 2 years. I worked several summer internships prior to my current position, however I did not have a specific manager and have not stayed in contact with anyone I worked with at the companies.
I am struggling to determine who I should contact for a professional reference, as I definitely do not want to list my current employer. I recently started a volunteer position, but have not volunteered there long enough to use them as a reference. What other type of references, other than past managers, would be suitable references to list on a job application? What type of relationship is expected between a reference and a job applicant?
Generally managers, but when you’re in your first job out of college, it’s understood that you might have a hard time coming up with manager references, since you usually won’t be using your current manager. However, I’d do whatever you can to get in touch with someone who could be a good reference from your internships — think about who there knew your work best and try to find them on LinkedIn, etc.
If I were interviewing someone in your shoes, I’d absolutely understand why I couldn’t talk to your current manager, but I’d expect to be put in touch with people who knew your work in your previous roles.
6. Should I remove unrelated summer jobs from my resume?
I’m a college student and I will be graduating in decemeber 2013 , I have work experience but only summer jobs that don’t relate to the kind of position I want to obtain after graduating should I remove them from my resume considering the time frame has only been from may-august for 4years and q different one each year?? I don’t have any other work experience.
Uh oh. The first thing you need to do is clean up your writing. I’m not one to nail people for minor mistakes in a casual email to a blog and I usually clean up those errors without comment, but this is so extreme that I want to point it out to you here, because this kind of email (misspellings, missing punctuation, run-on sentence, etc.) will get you instantly disqualified from any job you apply to, no matter what’s on your resume.
On to the answer: Keep your work experience on there. It’s far, far better to have some work experience — even if unrelated to the field you want to go into — than to have no experience at all. Also, do whatever you can to get an internship in your field before you graduate; it’s a tough job market, even with that experience.
7. When people where I volunteer offer to help in my job search, what can I ask for?
I am currently working at a nonprofit as a volunteer. That is, I am an Americorps volunteer and am just about to finish my year of service. All the upper management in my department and for the organization in general know that I will be leaving soon and have asked me about my job search. They seem to want to help and have mentioned in passing that if I need anything to ask them. My question is how do I reach out to these potential resources? Should I send everyone my resume and let know what I am looking for? Any advice would be helpful!
Meet with people individually. Tell them what type of work you’re looking for and ask for their advice. Email them your resume afterwards, with a thank-you for their time and a request that they let you know if they hear of any openings that you’d be a good fit for.
Individual meetings are better than simply emailing everyone your resume because (a) they’ll get more invested in you and your search and (b) you’ll have the chance to hear their advice, rather than simply giving them a resume. Good luck!