angry rejected candidates: “I never had a class in college teaching me the etiquette of prostituting myself on paper”

by Ask a Manager on November 8, 2013

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A reader sent me an exchange that she had with a recent graduate who applied for a job with her company. The applicant had submitted a three-page resume with short essays about her experience on it. That exchange is further down, but first here’s what the reader wrote to me:

I thought I’d share something that could help a lot of your recent college graduate readers. I keep coming across this complaint that recent and upcoming college grads aren’t ready for the working world. I used to think this was unfair and ageist, as I work with a lot of them that I think are, in fact, ready and able.

However, I’ve recently changed my mind a bit. As I work on hiring for my company, I also come across a lot of graduates who seem to prove this point. Things like keeping your resume to 1 page if you’re a recent graduate really do escape them. I’ve included an email exchange below that proves the point. I’ve taken out the person’s name to protect her. (Please note that her resume is a 3 page debacle complete with short essays about her experience.)

Perhaps my point is that many recent and upcoming college graduates might stop and take some time to do a little research on the finer points of how to hunt for a job, how to behave at their first job, etc. There is also plenty of confusion about graduate school and what its function is (see email exchange below!). I think there may be something to this rumor that recent and upcoming college grads aren’t as prepared as they think. I just want to spare them some pain if this is applicable for them.

Okay, so here’s the email exchange. First, the email our reader sent to a job applicant:

Hi [name removed],

I passed this on to my manager to fast-track things and he declined. Just thought I’d pass on some advice in case you’d like to use it in your future job search. The resume you sent me is way too long and detailed for most employers to want to look at. Try to bring it all down to 1 page with very few details. I am happy to look it over for you if you’d like once you fix it. I read and write about how to search for jobs constantly as part of my job so I’m happy to share any information I know. Good luck in your search and I’m sorry again it didn’t work out here.

The applicant responded with this:

Very few details? Then what is the point? Isn’t a resume meant to “show yourself off” to the world?

I’m skilled in writing, that is what I know, I never had a class in college teaching me the etiquette of prostituting myself on paper. I do not understand a job market that desires watered down individuals. What does that say about the jobs or employers? Are they as watered down as the people they employ?

Thank you it will be Graduate School for me.

Sigh.

There are so many problems here — the “why should I learn about how job searching works” attitude and the idea that if school didn’t teach her something, she shouldn’t be expected to look into it for herself; the expectation that employers should be willing to read whatever she gives them about herself, regardless of length, because she shouldn’t have to “water herself down” (and isn’t this condensing, the opposite of watering down?); the idea that concise resumes are “prostitution” — but the biggest problem of all is the rudeness to someone who went out of her way to help her.

To be clear, I’m not printing this because I think this job applicant is representative of most people in her peer group; she’s not. But she’s also not entirely alone in approaching things this way, even if she’s on the extreme end of the silliness spectrum. This resistance to making an effort to learn what employers want and why — and then getting bitter and huffy when the way that you want things to work doesn’t align with the way employers actually do things  – isn’t terribly uncommon … and it will make you far less happy and your life harder than it otherwise would be.

Regardless of how you think things should work, it’s worth learning how things do work, and why. You’ll be happier. You’ll probably be more successful at whatever it is you want to do. And you won’t find yourself heckling kind strangers offering you favors.

P.S. On the advice that resumes should have “very few details” — That might mean different things to different people. In general, you of course want to include enough details to give the employer a sense of what you’ve achieved. But given this applicant’s three-page resume with essays, I think “very few details” was appropriate advice in this context.

{ 301 comments… read them below or add one }

RedStateBlues November 8, 2013 at 12:25 pm

“Regardless of how you think things should work, it’s worth learning how things do work, and why. You’ll be happier”

+1; This is sound advice that applies beyond just job searching

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Arbynka November 8, 2013 at 12:32 pm

+1

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Del November 8, 2013 at 12:35 pm

There are a lot of people who could stand to internalize this.

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Anonymous November 8, 2013 at 1:10 pm

I work in a big company, with lots of processes and many groups that need to be involved in every decision. I have lost count of the new employees over the years who flame out because they resolutely refused to learn/follow how we do things – because how we do things is way too compicated and time-consuming.

They aren’t wrong about that but that ends up blinding them to the fact that flawed as it is, it IS how things get done.

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Chinook November 8, 2013 at 2:32 pm

The irony is that schools are set up in a way that means the students should already know that following procedures is as important as the actuaal content. Unless you are of the special snowflake variety, you know there are dress codes, deadlines, ways to dtreat different groups of people and even schedules to follow. They should be taught in Languae Arts how to write/present for an audience. And they most definitely need to know how to research to graduate colllege/ university. The information is there even if it isn’t spelled out for tem.

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TL November 8, 2013 at 3:33 pm

Uh, colleges (and many high schools, though not mine) don’t have dress codes.
And the different ways of treating people is generally something you have to intuit – I know two or three people who honestly think they are equal to or better than their professors when discussing matters in the professors’ fields.

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Laufey November 8, 2013 at 4:25 pm

Some do. My (college) had an informal one. There was always that one person that showed up in pajamas, but for the most part, people more or less followed it. But we’re a weird school anyway.

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TL November 8, 2013 at 6:19 pm

Yeah, I meant to put most colleges; definitely have a friend at Liberty. And I was definitely that kid in pajamas. :)

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Blue Color (Not Blood) November 8, 2013 at 11:03 pm

Re: TL’c comment: “I know two or three people who honestly think they are equal to or better than their professors when discussing matters in the professors’ fields.”

Ugh, that was the case in my school, which had a number of very wealthy students from prominent families in the area. They really did think they were better—because socially-speaking they were indeed “better” than the brilliant, accomplished educators teaching them (who would never ever have access to the exclusive, affluent world of privilege they inhabited.”) And since their family connections will likely forever open doors for them, any clueless rudeness will go forever unpunished.

The rest of us, however, learned how to behave (and seem to have done quite nicely for ourselves from what I can tell.)

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Blue Collar (Not Blood) November 8, 2013 at 11:04 pm

Ugh, that should have read COLLAR not color (so much for my hard-won education!)

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Anon Accountant November 8, 2013 at 2:06 pm

+1

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Nodumbunny November 8, 2013 at 2:23 pm

I spend quite a bit of time trying to get my teenagers to internalize this lesson.

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Rachel November 8, 2013 at 4:14 pm

I don’t know. While I can see the merit in that argument, it also seems to advocate complacency. Imagine in 1964 with the Civil Rights movement, if we’d just told folks “regardless of how it should be, this is how it is, so just accept that.”

It’s only because people said, “no, actually, I DON’T accept that,” that things changed (at least somewhat) more into how it should be.

If everyone just accepted the status quo, no progress would ever be made. But at the same time, I’m not sure how we can truly have an impact on something as huge as the job market. (Then again, I’m sure suffragettes and other pioneers of social justice throughout the years said the same thing).

I totally understand accepting what you cannot change, but I don’t know if I’d feel comfortable telling people to internalize that lesson as a general rule. Thoughts?

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llamathatducks November 8, 2013 at 4:18 pm

But in order to change the status quo, you first have to understand what the status quo IS. Then you have to do some analysis about how best to change it. Then you have to do some organizing to build a coalition of people who will work with you. You don’t get change by just yelling individually about what you don’t like.

Plus, while the job market certainly has lots of problems, the expectation that resumes should be clear and comprehensible is just NOT one of them.

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myswtghst November 8, 2013 at 7:12 pm

“But in order to change the status quo, you first have to understand what the status quo IS.”

Exactly! I’m all for people proposing innovative ways to do things in my org, but you need to understand what we do now, and why we do it that way, before you can propose effective change.

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Ask a Manager November 8, 2013 at 4:35 pm

Hey, I’m someone who spent most of my career working to change the status quo on various social issues, so I get where you’re coming from and I absolutely wouldn’t recommend “just accept it” as advice across the board. But when it comes to what form of job application employers will respond best to? Yeah, I do think that you’re better off understanding how that works and why, and making your choices accordingly.

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Rachel November 8, 2013 at 4:53 pm

Yeah, there I agree. I was more addressing the “generally internalize this for life in general” comments above. That may make your life easier, but what is right is not always easy, and what is easy is not always right (I saw a poster that said that once).

And I also agree with Llama about resumes being clear and comprehensible – not a problem to be challenged at all.

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De November 9, 2013 at 2:03 am

Exactly. And if you then want to change it, do it in the full knowledge that you are doing something unusual. I am in Germany and now that I have a few years of work experience, next time I apply to jobs I will not provide a picture and/or my marital status on my resume. I think these shouldn’t be on resumes and can only be used to discriminate (number of children on a resume? Really?) and I know that will be unusual, but as a worker in an in demand industry I feel that I can subtly do my part to change this norm now.

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Mike B. (@epenthesis) November 8, 2013 at 6:13 pm

Well, most hapless job candidates would probably be just fine with the existing hiring system if they knew how to navigate it, whereas Jim Crow simply had to change. There are always some idealistic people who are eager to make noise about reform, but if they don’t have a cause that’s particularly worth reforming, no one’s going to listen.

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RedStateBlues November 8, 2013 at 6:57 pm

Would you be happier with “picking your battles?” That’s what I take away from it, not “just sit there and take it”.

I mean no disrespect, but to compare the civil rights movement to some penny ante nonsense from a disgruntled job applicant strikes me as a little intellectually dishonest.

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Rachel November 9, 2013 at 3:23 am

As I clarified above, I wasn’t comparing it to the job applicant. I was comparing it to the “adopting that attitude for life in general” statement. The exact quote I am referring to is, “it applies beyond just job searching.”

When it comes to the job searching part, I completely agree with AAM and others here.

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nyxalinth November 8, 2013 at 4:17 pm

When I was in the Navy, we had a saying: “There’s the right way, the wrong way, and the Navy way.” What you said sums this up perfectly. It’s just much easier, and you stay sane!

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JamieG November 8, 2013 at 7:16 pm

That general perspective is a huge part of why I love AAM (and, similarly, Captain Awkward).

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Anonymous November 9, 2013 at 2:08 am

Amen!

The hardest thing about growing up is realizing that the “eff the establishment” ethos doesn’t go over well in the real world.

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Arbynka November 8, 2013 at 12:37 pm

I have seen this also in people who had to re-enter the job market. They have experience and very set in stone ideas about how it should work. Or that it should work the way it worked before.

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MR November 8, 2013 at 12:41 pm

I was just thinking this. The person who was in the same job for 20 years and is now looking for work for the first time since the early 90s could easily fall into this category if they are not careful.

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anonymous me November 8, 2013 at 1:16 pm

This is me. I’m now looking for a job after 17 years at the same place. Had I not been reading AAM for so long, I’d be totally lost.

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Del November 8, 2013 at 12:48 pm

Like all those parents who insist their kids should be out beating the pavement or cold-calling and if they don’t they’re not “really” trying to get a job.

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Elle-em-en-oh-pee November 8, 2013 at 1:04 pm

Whoa! You have met my father! Once upon a time he disconnected the internet at our house because he reasoned it would force my brother to “go out an find a job.”

Dad said he was tired of my brother being on “that damn thing all day” when according to Dad the key to finding work was wasting fuel and harassing employees at companies that weren’t even hiring in person…

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Arbynka November 8, 2013 at 1:15 pm

Elle, that’s just gave me a chuckle. I know it was not fun for your brother but honestly, that sounds like a scene from sitcom. I just pictured father unplugging a computer and pushing his son out of a door…

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Elle-em-en-oh-pee November 8, 2013 at 1:43 pm

Just as you are picturing it, that is pretty much how it happened!

Worst part though, my brother DID find a job hitting the pavement.

Dad is now officially impossible.

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Arbynka November 8, 2013 at 1:58 pm

“Just as you are picturing it, that is pretty much how it happened!

Worst part though, my brother DID find a job hitting the pavement.

Dad is now officially impossible.”

OMG, do you have anymore details ? Because this gets better every time you post :)))))
I keep saying, if we put together every experience that was posted on AAM, we would have a hit show. The Office (even the British one) would be green with envy.

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Elle-em-en-oh-pee November 8, 2013 at 2:44 pm

Whoa… Someone ELSE knows about The (British) Office?!

For your sake I would post more, unfortunately though, I have Gareth and Oggy on the three way line, and this conversation might take awhile.

…Oink oink oink!

Yeah. See you later!

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thenoiseinspace November 8, 2013 at 1:46 pm

Your poor brother!

I had this at the beginning of my job search, too. Luckily my parents are very supportive and understand that their experiences aren’t relevant anymore (well, my mom does, anyway.)

It’s made me think: I really wish there was a video or something, just a few minutes long, that we could show our old-fashioned friends and relatives. Just something called “Old hiring practices don’t work anymore” that’s just a few minutes long with Alison and Evil HR Lady and a few others introducing themselves to establish credibility, and then directly addressing these points. Maybe like saying a list of old methods that don’t work now, like “Don’t go in person” and “don’t call them to set up an appointment.”

I know that’s what a lot of the posts say, but I’ve tried sending the links to people and they just can’t be bothered to read them. If I could just show them a video directed at them, maybe saying “your job-hunting friend appreciates your concern, but you need to know that the game has completely changed” coming from a reliable source that they could watch in only 3 or 4 minutes, it might help.

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Elle-em-en-oh-pee November 8, 2013 at 2:53 pm

That making a video is a good idea. Count me in, and be sure to send a copy to my State Unemployment Agency please.

In my father’s defense (this one time only, Dad!) my brother’s aspirations were limited to working at any fast food restaurant in walking distance… sometimes the notable exception to “the don’t bug employers in person” rule.

He just wasn’t willing to walk there.

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Sandrine November 8, 2013 at 4:38 pm

Give me the arguments, I’ll make the video and link to AAM hahaha :P

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Jax November 8, 2013 at 1:47 pm

My parents made me “hit the pavement” after college and I came home with a minimum wage job at the mall. Great if you’re desperate for money (I was) but not the way to job search for anything more than retail or food service.

But if you’re looking for a professional job, sauntering into offices like a salesman and asking to drop off your resume and speak to the hiring manager doesn’t work.

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Bean November 8, 2013 at 1:59 pm

What irritates me is my college’s co-op counselors giving outdated advice to students. Since I am studying HR and have taken recruitment classes, attended seminars and workshops, and I read AAM daily, I know how not to apply for jobs. I feel sorry for the students who do not know any better (how could they? They assume the co-op counselors are pros).

My favourite is them telling students to harass employers to show that you’re interested in a position at the company. Well, they don’t say harass, but they suggest doing things that could potentially get a restraining order put on job applicants.

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Arbynka November 8, 2013 at 2:05 pm

“My favourite is them telling students to harass employers to show that you’re interested in a position at the company. Well, they don’t say harass, but they suggest doing things that could potentially get a restraining order put on job applicants.”

Oh yes, the “be persistent, that shows them you are really interested”

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RedStateBlues November 8, 2013 at 3:35 pm

Sadly, I’ve known too many people in my lifetime (exclusively male) in which this is their dating strategy as well…

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Wubbie November 8, 2013 at 4:03 pm

Really? Women never do this?

RedStateBlues November 8, 2013 at 4:13 pm

Guess I was asking for that :P

some1 November 8, 2013 at 4:18 pm

I didn’t take this as inherently sexist. Just that Red State only dates men and is speaking from personal experience.

RedStateBlues November 8, 2013 at 7:09 pm

Thanks for the support, but I’m a male referring to male friends :)

Ellie H. November 8, 2013 at 11:05 pm

In my younger (not as younger as I’d like) days I have unfortunately employed this strategy as well on a couple occasions. It definitely does not get good results for women either.

Jax November 8, 2013 at 2:27 pm

Actually–let me amend this. I walked into a staffing agency and got an interview with a recruiter on the spot, and she placed me at a company that I stayed at for 2 years.

But if that recruiter had been busy (I’m surprised she wasn’t) or not in the mood for a cold call, that would have been a failure. Plus temp agencies/staffing agencies are different from a corporate HR department.

I could *possibly* see this working at a business with a go-getter culture and an old-school owner or hiring manager…but mostly I’d think one would just annoy a lot of receptionists and waste gas.

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Elle-em-en-oh-pee November 8, 2013 at 3:00 pm

Thank you Jax!

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RedStateBlues November 8, 2013 at 2:53 pm

The funny thing is that if you go in person to most major retailers to apply for a job, they direct you to a computer kiosk that connects to their application website; the same website you could have reached from home, school, library etc. They generally do not have walk in, on demand interviews like some people (mostly our parents) imagine.

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Elle-em-en-oh-pee November 8, 2013 at 2:57 pm

+ 1,001 litres of wasted fuel.

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Jax November 8, 2013 at 3:31 pm

Target, Wal-Mart, JC Penny’s (like you said, the big department stores) all go through online applications. But the best way to stand out IS to walk in, walk up to the customer service desk, and ask who you would talk to about a job.

I feel like the Queen of part-time retail positions (sadly–it’s been a rough decade!) and I’m telling you, having the manager or head-cashier or even a responsible employee talk with you and know you’re interested is huge. They take your name down, pass it along to HR, and your application gets pulled for an interview.

It may not become an interview right then and there, but you’ll get a special star by your name from your future supervisor. It’s a big plus.

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Arbynka November 8, 2013 at 3:44 pm

“Target, Wal-Mart, JC Penny’s (like you said, the big department stores) all go through online applications. But the best way to stand out IS to walk in, walk up to the customer service desk, and ask who you would talk to about a job.”

But you would not necessarily stand out in a good way. When I was three months pregnant with my first, my company closed down. I got part time job with Target. If anyone asked at the customer service for manager (or the person who does hiring), they would point them out to the kiosk and asked them to fill out application there. If they insisted, they would call a manager and let me tell you, she was not impressed. At all. If company has a certain procedure and you show flat out that you won’t follow it, I don’t think that speaks in your advantage.

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Anonymous November 8, 2013 at 3:53 pm

I used to work in a big retail store and this woman came in every single week to ask to talk to the hr manager to get a job… Every week!

The hr manager thought she was crazy and wouldn’t talk to her but the woman was still really persistent. She would also call and ask to speak to the hr manager and act like it was some kind of family emergency, I recognized her crazy voice though so I didn’t transfer her (she still tried multiple times!!)

My mother always tells me to apply places in person and even after telling her the above story she doesn’t get it…

Jax November 8, 2013 at 5:36 pm

If someone is rude and obstinate, than no, that isn’t going to win points.

Every job I’ve had in retail has been through cold-applying in person. It’s worked at a mall department store (Clinique make-up counter), box stores like Sam’s Club, and little storefronts like Bath & Body Works and NY&Co. I’m polite and upbeat, talk with the person working in the customer service desk or at the register, and they will usually give me the scoop on whether the store is hiring.

At Bath & Body works, my friend and I just finished jogging around the outside of the mall (hey, it’s flat) and went in to check out a sale. I saw the sign for Seasonal Help, joked that we should get a job there together, and we went up to the counter and chatted up the employees. They laughed with us, took down our names, and the next week we had interviews and job offers. (I said no–they work until 2 am setting up those displays!!!)

I’ve also been on the other side of the counter and had people too shy to approach me about an application (not a good fit for retail) or people who asked me about job openings with a huge attitude. So leaving a good impression is key.

Maybe I’m an anomaly in the world of retail hiring, but it’s worked for me.

Kelly O November 11, 2013 at 2:23 pm

I have to add a big PLEASE DO NOT ASSUME THIS IS ALWAYS ACCURATE to this piece of advice.

My company hires part time hourly people in a variety of roles. We have an online system for applicants to use, and that is the absolute first step, always. We do not have any paper applications – everything is online.

Our HR manager goes through those, arranges interviews for qualified candidates, and has even set up a couple of open mornings so she can interview people, but you have to have that online application filled out completely first, and you have to come in during your arranged time or one of the open hours times.

Trust me, failure to follow those rules will get you eliminated from consideration. We are a strictly regulated industry overall, and an inability to follow the rules does not make you stand out in a positive way.

This morning we had someone come upstairs to the Payroll and Finance Departments, asking us if we were hiring. We had to send him downstairs, to the door with the big HR sign on it. You would not believe the people who come up here and want to talk to us because “downstairs they won’t even talk to me if I don’t fill out an application online first.”

You could potentially work a warm connection to get your application pulled out of the stack, but that’s a purely internal networking thing. It does not have a thing to do with showing up here unannounced (and we have eliminated candidates who might have been good fits and were employee-recommended, because they thought that employee contact trumped any need to follow the rules.)

So that special star may not be a big plus after all. Just another perspective.

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A Jane November 8, 2013 at 2:01 pm

My parents used to yell at me for being on the computer all the time as well…I now work in technology development. They still think I’m on the computer too much and I might agree with them just a bit

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Anon Accountant November 8, 2013 at 2:20 pm

Your poor brother. I’m glad he was able to find a job though.

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Elle-em-en-oh-pee November 8, 2013 at 3:31 pm

I felt a little sorry for my brother after my sister beat the bebeezus outta him…

Cutting off the internet didn’t hurt me per say, I was living a couple thousand miles away.

My sister however, was living at home and in the midst of trying to finish her University capstone course when this sanction was imposed.

Dad’s justification for doing this to *her*, was: “…she’s a student, it won’t kill her to spend some time at the library.”

Of course we all thought Dad’d lost his mind; even I had to admit his “conserve energy and kill two birds with one stone” strategy was sly.

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RedStateBlues November 8, 2013 at 7:31 pm

your Dad is freakin’ awesome!!! I would love to be a 3rd party observer to all of this, less so a dependent living under his roof :)

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Ashlee November 8, 2013 at 2:17 pm

I was getting the old hit the pavement advice from my parent’s friends. Luckily my parents had both gone job-hunting within the last eight years, and they understand that the internet is how most places do their hiring, not in person.
So when I graduated high school, my parents recommended a combination so I could at least get a first part-time job, and then look around for something better to work at the same time and save up for college.
Prostitution is literally selling yourself for money to anyone who pays up. Resume/Cover Letters are not, they’re showing how you’re the best for the job.

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PollyRhea November 8, 2013 at 12:46 pm

One of the things my school makes (well, super strongly encourages at least) us do before we graduate is get an internship. The best part is, we’re not thrown right out into the job search. There’s an internship coordinator within our program that looks over our experience level and interests, and tries to place us with a company. But it’s not like we don’t still have to interview for the position, so it’s a really great way to get access to the “working world” before you’re actually working.

Anyway, I know there’s a lot of people my age who would be totally flabbergasted at this person’s email. These are people who are out there, working in your field! If you can’t take their advice, why take anyone else’s?

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Arbynka November 8, 2013 at 1:15 pm

My university has actual hiring managers come in and talk to students.

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A Jane November 8, 2013 at 1:47 pm

So glad I got an internship as an undergraduate. I was strange in that I took an internship outside of my major, but I was far ahead of the curve once I graduated.

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Abhorsen327 November 8, 2013 at 12:49 pm

This may be off-topic, but I have some questions about the principle of submitting only a 1-page resume as a recent grad. Is this just a guideline, or is it pretty much a strict rule? When I finished with my undergrad, I had extensive student government experience, as well as several research positions and tutoring/teaching jobs on campus. As a result, even with keeping descriptions to a minimum I had a full 2-page resume. Is this something that I would have been criticized for?

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Ask a Manager November 8, 2013 at 12:52 pm

A full two pages just after graduating? Yes, that’s too much. Strong senior level candidates manage to get everything on two full pages, so there’s no reason a recent grad needs that … and it tells me you need to edit it down. This may help:

http://www.askamanager.org/2012/04/how-long-can-your-resume-be.html

http://www.askamanager.org/2012/06/know-how-to-pare-down-your-resume-to-what-matters.html

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A.Y. Siu November 8, 2013 at 12:55 pm

I’ve rarely seen justifiable two-page résumés, and I’ve never seen one justifiable for a recent college grad. Pare it down. Really. The idea of the résumé is to summarize what you’ve done that you think will impress a hiring manager at a quick glance. It is NOT to comprehensively describe absolutely everything you’ve ever been involved with. If your one-page résumé and cover letter sell you well enough, you’ll get an interview, and the potential employer can find out all about your several research positions and tutoring jobs (if she cares or thinks those experiences are relevant).

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Ask a Manager November 8, 2013 at 12:58 pm

Yep. My own is one page and I’m 40. So I’m very skeptical that a recent grad needs two.

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EngineerGirl November 8, 2013 at 2:14 pm

I always struggle to get mine down to 2 pages. I have 33 years of experience. It is quite broad, with a lot of accomplishments. I’ll admit, that there are something I don’t want to take off even though they are old accomplishments (two of my designs are in the Smithsonian – does that make me old or what?)

I love the comment about condensing Vs watering down accomplishments. I think of tomato paste. Diluted tomato juice is disgusting. But concentrated tomato paste is powerful and you can’t ignore it. And you can use it for so many things! If we could figure out a process to concentrate our achievements then everyone on AAM would have a job.

I guess I’ll be thinking about that today as I am updating my resume to prepare for my next assignment.

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ExceptionToTheRule November 8, 2013 at 2:28 pm

You are officially now the coolest person I’ve ever “met” on the internet. Your stuff’s in the Smithsonian? Wow.

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EngineerGirl November 8, 2013 at 2:38 pm

I officially made a fool out of myself when I went there with my cousins recently – with me yelling “WHEEEEE” and running up to my project to have my picture taken next to it. I have a fun job – usually.

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fposte November 8, 2013 at 3:12 pm

Hey, if it were me, I’d make that the wallpaper on my phone and show it to everybody I met in life.

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Elizabeth West November 8, 2013 at 4:21 pm

I wanna see!!!

I’ve been there, but it’s been a long time. I love the Smithsonian.

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VintageLydia November 8, 2013 at 5:12 pm

Come and I’ll give you a tour (after EG tells us where her stuff is!)

EngineerGirl November 9, 2013 at 4:25 am

I’m so sorry, but that would be way to identifying. It’ll have to wait until after I retire…

Abhorsen327 November 8, 2013 at 1:10 pm

I think there’s a perception among a lot of recent grads that a resume is, in fact, a place to include a “complete life history”. At least, that’s the advice I and all of my friends received from professors and other mentors. This might be due to the fact that many academic mentors are used to seeing and editing CVs, rather than resumes. I think there’s also an attitude that (nearly) anything could be potentially relevant, and could make the difference between getting an interview or not based on if it piqued the HM’s interest. College students often receive very little information and training on that aspect, and thus have poor intuition regarding which are the most important aspects.

None of this ended up being relevant to me at that point, since I went straight to a PhD (for legitimate reasons, I promise!)

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Lils November 8, 2013 at 1:15 pm

Having worked both in and out of academia, I find that academics, god bless ‘em, have inaccurate perceptions of how the non-academic work world functions. I would find mentors who are actual working people in your field.

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Cath@VWXYNot? November 8, 2013 at 2:21 pm

Academic CVs really are a complete life history… you have to list every paper you’ve ever published (some funding agencies require extremely detailed information about every paper, such as number of times it’s been cited, why it was submitted to that particular journal); every presentation you’ve ever given; every person you’ve ever supervised (with information about where they are now); every grant you’ve ever got (and any that are pending), including tons of information about the grant’s objectives and budget… it goes on and on. When I submit a grant with 4 senior professors’ CVs attached, the CVs sometimes take up hundreds of pages, and some proposals are only 6 pages… it’s ridiculous!

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fposte November 8, 2013 at 3:13 pm

One of our main funding agencies limits CVs to two pages. I rather enjoy slashing them down from twelve. “One of these, and one of these, and one of these, and…ya done.”

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Cath@VWXYNot? November 8, 2013 at 3:39 pm

heh, I can just imagine some of our PIs having panic attacks if they were told to cut everything down to two pages!

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Ellie H. November 8, 2013 at 11:08 pm

I’ve been reading a lot of CVs recently as I apply to grad school and am figuring out where has professors I might be able to work with. (In addition to reading the CVs of students who apply to my office for research funding.) They are really crazy long. Some are impressive of course but I sometimes wonder how useful it is to include all publications. Especially if you have a lot, it’s hard for me to imagine that they are all really crucial to getting a sense of someone’s work and areas of real expertise.

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John November 8, 2013 at 1:28 pm

I get that. Grads are in a tough spot since, unless they’ve had multiple internships or summer jobs in their field, they don’t have a lot of relevant info that will allow employees to assess them. But your major, your GPA, your leadership/involvement with college activities, internships and basic work experience are enough to give a sense of your interests and work ethic.

Actually, as a former working class kid, what resonates with me is a strong history of work — and not just of the internship variety. (Not to get sidetracked, but my bias from experience is that internships tend to be relatively cushy and don’t often approximate a real job in terms of demands or how one is treated.)

Someone who worked the counter at McDonalds or swept the floors of a factory is someone who isn’t afraid of hard work and is familiar with workplace politics. They don’t take things for granted. They don’t expect the world to be fair. That makes me much more inclined to believe they have something to offer and want to help them.

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some1 November 8, 2013 at 4:21 pm

I’ve never put my GPA on a resume. Maybe if it had been better I would have though :)

I have on *applications* that ask for them.

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Felicia November 9, 2013 at 10:29 am

I had an awesome GPA but I never put it on a resume and was never asked about it in interviews:) By the time I graduated, I had two internships in the industry I was interested in, and two part time jobs in that industry. Unfortunately there are hundreds of people who have teh same thing by the time t hey graduate, and lots of people with 5 years experience applying for jobs that require one, so it’s not necessarily enough anymore. I don’t know many people who’ve only done one internship. Most people nowadays in this particular field end up doing 3-4

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Broke Philosopher November 9, 2013 at 9:12 pm

What’s the consensus on this (if there is one)? I have my GPA and top X percentile of my class on my resume. I figure that once I’m a couple more years out of college it probably should come off, but it seems to make sense for a recent grad if it’s high enough.

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NonMoose November 8, 2013 at 2:51 pm

Geeeyeaaah. ._. Funny that you mention “a place to include a “complete life history” “…

I listened to a webinar yesterday about how to write a cover letter (for librarians) and someone basically asked that: “Should I include a detailed account of my life before library school?”

Noooo. @_@ Unless something is relevant, like “I see you’re trying to improve your chocolate teapot collection… as an undergrad, I had many independent research quests looking for wild teapot species.”

Also, this — “(nearly) anything could be potentially relevant, and could make the difference between getting an interview or not based on if it piqued the HM’s interest.” :( Sigh. I think I’m guilty of that… it’s hard trying to second-guess what might be the most helpful. It sort of feels like a dart game sometimes.

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JCDC November 8, 2013 at 3:02 pm

Post-college, I actually applied for (and received) a position that asked for a “CV or resume” in the posting. Not knowing what a CV was, I relied on Google, and of course the samples are all way long. I’m still embarrassed that I applied with a 2-page CV as a 22-year-old, but the wording was confusing!

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Anonymous November 8, 2013 at 3:10 pm

I just read a 6 pager. Gods!

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beeryse November 8, 2013 at 4:25 pm

You actually READ the thing? That’s a lot more than I would have done. TL/DR for sure.

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Blue Collar (Not Blood) November 8, 2013 at 11:28 pm

Of course if it’s a European/Australian/NZ company or organization, the word “CV” *is* the term for resume. If you’re in the U.S. it might have been a position that attracts non-U.S. applicants or the person who drafted the job post might be from another country.

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Anonymous November 8, 2013 at 5:21 pm

I am a university administrator, and I think the tendency for long CVs in academia has started to bleed over into administrative staff as well. For the last director-level search that I was involved with, we regularly received 10-page resumes. It was like 1 page per year of work experience.

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tina November 8, 2013 at 8:33 pm

I’m co-chair on director level search committee right now, and one applicant sent a 2 (full) page letter and 7 page resume. And some of the material was 20 years old and irrelevant. Are you kidding me?

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Victoria Nonprofit November 8, 2013 at 12:55 pm

In my experience with recent grads (managing college student workers and AmeriCorps programs):

1) A 2 page resume won’t kill you. It’s pretty common and will likely not be remarked upon. However…

2) It is very, very rare that someone just starting their career really needs a two-page resume. If you feel like you do, it’s likely that you can tighten up what you have now and focus more clearly only on those things that hiring managers care about. (For example, your student government experience should probably take one or two lines). Alison has a LOT of detail about what a resume should focus on – dig through the archives!

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Ask a Manager November 8, 2013 at 12:59 pm

While I agree a 2-page resume won’t be an instant rejection for a recent grad (with most hiring managers, at least), it contributes to an overall impression of the candidate as unable to edit / unable to determine what’s most important / or a little self-important. And those aren’t good impressions to make.

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John November 8, 2013 at 1:39 pm

We had a candidate who used 5-6 lines to discuss her experience as a Subway “sandwich artist.” I was adament we not consider her or the rest of her 4-page resume — she was still in college! — and was overruled. They HIRED her and, well, suffice it to say, those who overruled me soon wished they’d heeded those warning signs…

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Anonymous November 8, 2013 at 1:57 pm

4 pages?!! I want to read that resume for the entertainment value alone.

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John November 8, 2013 at 2:03 pm

We learned about her time on the softball team and other facts no one could do without. It screamed “self-importance” and, frankly, “delusional”…the delusion being that she thoughts any of these minor details had any bearing on a corporate job. And, don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that she worked jobs like Subway…the job part was a positive but not all the bullets that explained how she collaborated with her teammates to build client sandwich satisfaction.

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Jax November 8, 2013 at 2:31 pm

“Collaborated to build sandwich satisfaction” = pushed meat-filled bun to co-worker in charge of veges.

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Jen in RO November 8, 2013 at 4:48 pm

This made me actually laugh out loud.

TL November 8, 2013 at 3:41 pm

I have a friend at Apple and her resume is almost exactly like that. (And two nearly full pages of very small font after 3 yrs out of college.)

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SevenSixOne November 8, 2013 at 5:36 pm

Did she list her boyfriend as a reference too? Because this sounds an awful lot like my first resume/job when I was a 19-year-old who didn’t know any better :(

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Anonymous November 8, 2013 at 3:36 pm

Overall, I agree with the above – a resume should be concise while stating the appropriate details of past work/relevant experiences. However, I had a 2 page resume out of college due to a science background and applying to positions in the biopharm industry. Hiring managers wanted to know more than just my past jobs and where I received my degree. Specifically, principal investigators (both in academia and at biopharm companies) encouraged me to include the title of my thesis, relevant lab techniques (per job description), conference presentations, and publications. When including those with research jobs and internships and formatting, my resume was 2 pages. Having read about parsing down resumes, I initially felt paranoid about my 2 pages, but after speaking with employed friends and colleagues, grad students in my field, and my mentors, I was put at ease. I’m not advocating long, drawn out resumes, but just want to point out that it really depends on your field. Additionally, it is just best to always, always, always ask others to read and review your resume! People are more willing to help than you may think.

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fposte November 8, 2013 at 5:34 pm

In fact, when I looked at Abbott’s site recently, they seemed to use the terms “resume” and “CV” pretty interchangeably, so I think that’s another indication that you might be looking at a place that’s looking for longer takes.

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Elizabeth West November 8, 2013 at 4:27 pm

Alison, what about non-traditional students? I know obviously we wouldn’t list the last twenty years of jobs on our resumes anyway. What about someone who is changing careers but still may have a lot of transferable/relevant experience?

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Mike B. (@epenthesis) November 8, 2013 at 6:28 pm

I’m inclined to think that about anybody who needs more than a page, frankly. A resume should concentrate on recent, salient, impressive events in one’s career; if you’ve honestly got more than a page worth of those, I suspect you also have a professional reputation that speaks for itself.

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fposte November 8, 2013 at 2:24 pm

There’s also a difference between a resume that spills a couple of lines onto a second page and one that takes up two pages, wall to wall.

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Felicia November 9, 2013 at 10:42 am

Mine spills a couple of lines on the second page, but it’s definitely not a full two pages, and it’s not a lot of work experience, it’s some technical skills too. The types of jobs I want just require 2 years experience (there’s pretty much nothing in that field that requires less), and I do have that, but I have that over 5 short term positions, because that’s the only way you can get your first experiences anymore, so i have trouble knowing what to leave out. I left university with 2 internships and one part time job related to my field, plus related volunteer work, so it’s not like I put any retail jobs or my admin job on my resume. I have cut it down a lot though!

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Ask a Manager November 9, 2013 at 12:02 pm

You definitely don’t want just a couple of lines on a second page though; that makes it look kind of sloppy and like you couldn’t be bothered to condense to one.

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fposte November 9, 2013 at 12:16 pm

Oh, I hadn’t thought about it that way. True; I don’t literally mean two lines on the second page–I was thinking more about 1/4 or so. And since I’m always reading them electronically and in various post-submission formats I’m thinking more about what kind of content length is an issue rather than the paper-count effect, but obviously that’s often not the case.

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Ask a Manager November 9, 2013 at 12:22 pm

Yes! Sorry, I could have been clearer (and less strident). A quarter page is much better than two lines (which I realize might seem counterintuitive to a new resume writer hearing that they need to condense) … although I’d still say a new grad should have neither.

I wrote that first comment while still sleepy from a late-morning nap.

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Laufey November 8, 2013 at 1:32 pm

One thing that might help, Abhorsen, is customizing your resume. Since student government can encompass a lot of different things, only put on the line or two that matter to whatever job you’re applying for.

I used to have a couple of set things that would always be on my resume (ie, internship with big name in field, job experience with 50 thousand applications), but I would swap out my interests/club experience section depending on my job. So, for finance-related jobs, the finance and business club-related activities went on, and discussed my leadership in those. For teaching jobs, the tutoring experience went on. So on and so forth.

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Elysian November 8, 2013 at 1:48 pm

After I graduated (and frankly, now) I have one “long” version of my resume and several “short” versions of my resume. The long version is like 3 pages, and never, ever goes out to employers. But it is essentially a life history, with every job I’ve ever had and everything remotely relevant that I can say about those jobs. When I’m applying places, I take the “long” version and cut it down to short version, keeping only one page worth of revelant information. I look at every item and think “Does this line of info make me a more attractive candidate/better for the job?” If the answer is no, it goes. Whole jobs frequently get cut off. Who cares that you bartended during college when you’re applying to be a legal assistant (for example)? Unless it’s your only work experience and you don’t have much else to put on the page, it isn’t worth the precious little time and space you have to impress a potential employer.

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llamathatducks November 8, 2013 at 2:01 pm

This is such a good idea! I similarly customize my resumes for particular job openings, but it would be so much simpler if I also kept a master-resume with everything in it. I think I’ll have to start doing that.

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Elysian November 8, 2013 at 2:18 pm

Thanks! It came quite naturally to me, because I worked through college and ended up having a billion jobs. Occasionally I would forget “Oh yeah, I did do student calling for that one summer, and I can spin soliciting alumni donations to be a benefit for this job!” So keeping a “master” resume just ended up coming naturally. I’m working toward something more unified now though, since I’ve now found a field I want to stay in for a while.

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Chinook November 8, 2013 at 2:38 pm

I do the “long version” to and it is up to 4 pages at 39 (but my past is unique). It is great for personalizing resumes for jobs and is useful for when I do security clearances that want my work history over the past 10 years.

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Elysian November 8, 2013 at 2:53 pm

Yes!! While it was not my intent when I started, the “long form” resume came in super handy when I needed to apply for something that required a 10 year employment background check.

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anonengineer November 9, 2013 at 12:18 pm

I had one job for 7 years, but ended up working on over 100 projects, with at least 20+ in-depth (the standard for my industry in that time would be 5-10 projects).

When I was job hunting I never made a “master resume” – so smart! – but I’d ask myself “which projects are most like the projects they do at X?” or “which projects show skills they need?” and ended up with a list of a dozen or that highlighted what I _wanted_ to do and not what I currently did.

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AMG November 8, 2013 at 2:39 pm

I like this idea! I will use it if/when the time comes.

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Tina November 8, 2013 at 2:40 pm

That’s a great idea, and what I tell all my students/alumni. It’s great to have one file where you can find everything, but it’s not what I would send out.

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Elizabeth West November 8, 2013 at 4:28 pm

I do that too, and I pulled from it for addresses when I was filling out online apps. I like to keep the resumes up to date all the time, just in case disaster strikes.

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anon.. November 9, 2013 at 4:30 pm

That’s a really great idea, especially having the one main ‘history’ resume. Regarding the shorter ones – how do you deal with the gaps in dates?

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MR November 8, 2013 at 8:47 pm

Yes, you only want one page at this stage of the game. A few years ago when I finished undergrad, I had extensive student government experience, several part time jobs, an internship at a Dow component company and I held a real political office. My resume was only one page then.

Since then, I’ve finished graduate school, worked for a different Dow component company and owned my own business. All before the age of 3o. My resume is still only one page.

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Joey November 9, 2013 at 12:46 am

It’s pretty hard to have extensive anything as an undergrad. 1 page

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Sharon November 8, 2013 at 12:52 pm

I think there are a couple of things going on here:

1. A lot of people don’t fully understand that the purpose of a resume is to intrigue the hiring manager enough that they call you in to ask more details.

2. It can be really hard to know which job-hunting advice is valid and appropriate because (as we’ve seen in previous AAM letters) misinformation is EVERYWHERE. And if you don’t have the experience to filter out the dumb ideas, and haven’t found AAM yet…. well, you can be doing some pretty dumb things and not realize it.

That all being said, I agree that this candidate was beyond rude and there’s no excuse in the world for that.

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Anoners November 8, 2013 at 12:52 pm

Can I just say, that the trend of going to grad school just for something to do is pretty much the worst idea ever. Obviously in some cases it’s necessary, but just going to grad school because you can’t get a job is not the way to go. A lot of people I went to grad school with didn’t get a job in the fist few months, so they went back to undergrad for totally unrelated topics (I graduated in LIS, people went back to take accounting?). Just to clarify, I’m not saying you shouldn’t go to grad school (if it’s legitimately part of your plan), but to finish an e-mail off to a hiring manager like that is just a little much.

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Anoners November 8, 2013 at 12:53 pm

Also, I totally want to teach a class someday on resume writing, and call “the etiquette of prostituting oneself on paper”. GOLD.

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Ask a Manager November 8, 2013 at 12:55 pm

It might be my new tagline for this site.

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Z November 8, 2013 at 2:15 pm

What ever happened to “Grow a pair”?

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Nodumbunny November 8, 2013 at 2:34 pm

+1M for these both.

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AMG November 8, 2013 at 2:41 pm

I certainly hope so. The writer is in for a rough road, but that was a very colorful descriptor.

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Jen M. November 8, 2013 at 4:57 pm

That would rock.

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College Career Counselor November 8, 2013 at 1:03 pm

Agreed. DON’T go to grad school because you don’t know what else to do. It probably isn’t going to help you figure it out, and depending on the program, you’ll likely have more debt and still no experience when you finish. Which isn’t gonna help your sense of frustration/entitlement.

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Kevin November 8, 2013 at 1:11 pm

There is a group of people who then leave grad school (my guess like the person from the original post) who then feel people should roll out the red carpet since they have an advanced degree. Unless she wants to go into academia where she can write the longest CV in the world and it would be ok.

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Vicki November 8, 2013 at 1:41 pm

Actually, I explicitly did go to grad school because I “didn’t know what else to do”. Or, more to the point, because my undergrad degree had prepared me for a career that I didn’t want and I needed more time and experience with possibilities.

The BS (and the MS) are in Microbiology. But the MS gave me the opportunity to find a thesis topic that let me do a lot of programming and that thesis got me my first programming job. I’ve never had a Micro job and didn’t want one.

So, for some of us, it;s much much better to go to grad school _because_ you’re not sure what job to look for yet.

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Kimberlee, Esq. November 8, 2013 at 1:53 pm

But even in your case, I’d argue it still wasn’t a good *plan,* it was just good that it worked out. There are a million (well, several) ways that you could have discovered that you really liked programming for free or very cheap in your spare time.

I’m glad I went to an expensive liberal arts school because my life turned out pretty great and I’m very slowly paying back my $60K and it was all worth it. But that doesn’t mean I’d recommend anyone else doing it. It wasn’t a great plan, it just happened to work out for me. :)

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Abhorsen327 November 8, 2013 at 2:34 pm

An aspect that’s worth considering when deciding on grad school is funding… many schools/programs in the sciences provide partial or full funding (tuition/fees and living expenses) for their MSc and PhD students. If you want to put in the time and work on the degree, find a thesis or project topic and an advisor that you enjoy, there are worse options. It has the potential to be especially valuable if you can be open with your advisor about not being sure what you want to do, and your advisor can point you to relevant projects, help you network, and discuss potential career opportunities with you.

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fposte November 8, 2013 at 2:50 pm

That’s if you’re talking on the STEM side, though. Very different on the humanities side.

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Ask a Manager November 8, 2013 at 2:54 pm

I’d still argue you shouldn’t do it without plans to go into a field that requires an advanced degree, because otherwise it can actually make your job search harder when you get out:
http://www.askamanager.org/2011/12/thinking-about-grad-school-think-again.html

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Anon Accountant November 8, 2013 at 3:12 pm

+1

This article talked me out of grad school and saved me tens of thousands of potential debt for grad school (assuming I’d have enrolled).

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Mira November 8, 2013 at 7:49 pm

Yeah, I earned an MA because I wanted to teach community college. I didn’t know at the time how scarce jobs were and how fierce the competition is. But it’s nearly impossible to get hired for anything else because employers assume you’ll leave for more money.

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Shane Watson November 20, 2013 at 1:48 pm

I agree with this. The degree looks impressive, but it can be a huge weight on your soul when you’re required to get a high-paying job in your field because of school debt, but only have experience for entry level.

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TL November 8, 2013 at 3:45 pm

Yes, and even if you get a full ride in the STEM field- at least in the sciences- there are a lot more academics than jobs, there’s a bias against those who “industry out”, and there’s not a lot of information in most places on how to turn your Ph.D into a paycheck if you can’t get a job in academia.

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Elizabeth West November 8, 2013 at 4:32 pm

Yay that you got a job from it though. I went thinking I’d do one thing, then discovered while in grad school that I didn’t want to do it (to be honest, I had no clue until I got inside info from other students). I ended up not finishing.

I don’t consider it a waste, though; I learned a lot of soft skills that are pretty transferable. It was education, btw.

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Tina November 8, 2013 at 2:41 pm

+100.

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Lils November 8, 2013 at 1:18 pm

That being said, I *wish* they had offered accounting in my LIS program. I can’t even tell you how many times a week I wish that.

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Laufey November 8, 2013 at 1:35 pm

One of the questions I often asked of alumni at under-grad networking event was what one class they wish they had taken before graduating. I estimate about 85-90% of them responded with accounting.

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Kimberlee, Esq. November 8, 2013 at 1:56 pm

I agree totally with this. If one plans to go to college anyway, I’d definitely suggest picking up a minor in either Accounting, Computer Science, Programming, or Graphic Design. They’re all useful in a lot of disciplines, and they’re all great safety skills when you’re 4 years out of school and still can’t get a job in the silly field you majored in.

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Laufey November 8, 2013 at 2:56 pm

I know! I took a couple of programming classes during high school just as a couple of throw-away electives – and it’s amazing how handy they’ve been. And just the practical knowledge of accounting – when to harass a/p vs a/r for something’s that’s due to you, basic tenants like inflows should be greater than outflows, and time value of money principles – it’s impossible to overstate the value of basic accountancy classes.

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Ellie H. November 8, 2013 at 11:16 pm

I struggle with this question – what I wish I had taken. At this point in my life (age 26), I’m really interested in statistics, economics and general finance, data etc. things. (I took math classes in college, but it was all abstract math major-y type stuff, and I ended up not majoring in it anyway. I majored in a humanities field and didn’t take any social sciences skills-type classes) I also went to a college quite famous for its economics. My dad told me approximately a thousand times to take statistics or economics in college. I wasn’t interested in it in the least, so I didn’t. I don’t think this is a bad thing, because I wouldn’t have wanted to take it and I don’t think I would have appreciated it at the time. It’s of course possible that I would have developed my current interest much sooner, and that I would have taken to it. But I’m really different now, closer t0 10 years later, than I was was that age and I don’t think I was in a good place to be open-minded about and apply myself to something I wasn’t very intrinsically interested in it.

I really wish that you were allowed to go back and do another year of your undergraduate school at any time. I know you can take classes ad hoc (and I have), or online, as an adult but just the ability to take four things a semester and take classes at random if you want and do it full time . . . I think it can be sometimes wasted on the young!

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Gigs November 8, 2013 at 7:23 pm

Ditto, Ditto, Ditto!

I’m an archivist, and have been in the field for 10 years. I spent the last 6 as an archival project manager, and boy did I wish I had taken accounting as about 25 – 35% of my job involved creating and maintaining budgets.

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Felicia November 9, 2013 at 10:45 am

People keep telling me I should go to grad school because it will get me a job, but for what I want to do, grad school won’t really help and it might hurt. For certain career paths you need grad school, but I’d never go unless i knew it would benefit me. Just because isn’t a good reason.

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Anne November 11, 2013 at 9:52 am

Yes. I admit that I did have a bit of a cynical “you think that will make you MORE employable?” thought while reading that response…

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College Career Counselor November 8, 2013 at 1:00 pm

Wow, lot of immaturity and entitlement dripping off the page from the job applicant. I agree that while she’s not representative, she’s not alone, either.

A couple of observations by way of explanation (but not excuse) for the applicant’s behavior:

1) a three page resume with mini-essays is the applicant trying to be thorough and complete, to show her work and provide compelling evidence for her argument (ie, “here’s what I’ve done to be worthy of being hired”). That’s what she’s been trained to do in college (which generally does not prepare you to apply for jobs or be effective in the working world).

2) She thinks she’s following the rules (go to college, do well, get a good job), so she’s flummoxed (and annoyed and pissy) when she’s given feedback to the contrary.

What she has here is a failure to communicate (some applicants, you just can’t reach) and understand her audience and its requirements. Just as you don’t write a psych research paper the same way you write an essay for English literature, you don’t send a 3 page long-winded narrative essay resume for an entry level job.

TL;DR: Know your audience. Target appropriately. Take constructive criticism graciously.

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Anonicorn November 8, 2013 at 1:48 pm

She thinks she’s following the rules (go to college, do well, get a good job), so she’s flummoxed (and annoyed and pissy) when she’s given feedback to the contrary.

Exactly. I do have some sympathy because it truly is difficult to transition from a world where doing (or over-doing) your work can earn you an A and success, to one where even the to-the-letter overachievers are rejected.

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Lindsay the Temp November 9, 2013 at 3:28 pm

I always remember being given a semester-long project on the first day of class (along with a 300 pg packet of other assignments), and being told, point blank, “You will NOT have time to finish it all. You will need to assess the syllabus and decide which points you deem most important.” …Reality check!!!

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Senor Poncho November 8, 2013 at 1:02 pm

That whole thing was just such a train wreck, but this in particular stood out to me:

“Thank you it will be Graduate School for me.”

Mother of God.

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College Career Counselor November 8, 2013 at 1:08 pm

The other thing that got me was the applicant’s apparently unshakeable belief that she’s skilled in writing. I count a lot of mistakes in her email that belie that statement.

Also, showing yourself off to the world =/= “rattling on about every little twitch you ever had.” A resume is supposed to be a BRIEF summary of one’s RELEVANT skills, experience and education. I’d be willing to bet that the applicant’s career center (despite any of faults it may have) didn’t approve that resume.

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Anonymous November 8, 2013 at 1:13 pm

No kidding, if your argument hinges on your superior writing skills…you better display some.

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Diet Coke Addict November 8, 2013 at 1:16 pm

No kidding. Is it wrong that I would desperately love to see the rest of the application only to see how egregious the writing got?

I think this is one of those things that falls squarely into “Show, don’t tell.”

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AMG November 8, 2013 at 2:45 pm

I would love to hear from the person who wrote this, amybe after grad school, to see how it worked out. If only. Perhaps someday she will stumble across this website and see herself here. Ah, to be in my 20s again. Not.

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AMG November 8, 2013 at 2:47 pm

a note to anyone in their 20s: Not saying you are a comparable train wreck, but that I am guilty of mistakes of this caliber and have since learned from them.

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Elizabeth West November 8, 2013 at 4:36 pm

That’s what your 20s are for. :)

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Windchime November 8, 2013 at 3:40 pm

Yeah, I was thinking that the writing skills left a lot to be desired, too.

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Collarbone High November 8, 2013 at 4:27 pm

There’s an inverse correlation between most people’s assessment of their writing skills and their actual skills. Yesterday I heard the dreaded phrase “I fancy myself a writer, so you won’t need to do much editing on this.” I cleared my calendar for the rest of the day.

Also, after years of hiring editors, I would estimate that 70 percent of people who boast in their cover letters about their “excellent proofreading skills” or “superior attention to detail” will have a mistake within two sentences.

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Jill November 8, 2013 at 1:08 pm

+1,000 If you didn’t learn it as an undergrad, what makes you think grad school will teach you. Plus, guess what girlie, grad school, in most fields involves intense RESEARCH. In other words….finding out for *yourself* the more advanced concepts of your field!

Really, it’s 2013. There is no excuse for ignorance in a day and age where you can look anything up on the internet and teach yourself!

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glennis November 8, 2013 at 1:09 pm

Yes, one wonders what she plans to learn there. And also the financial choices she’s making. I’m not one to criticize anyone for choosing more education, even making financial sacrifices for it. But turning away from the working world because you can’t be bothered to try it, and taking on more student loans? Poor choice.

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khilde November 14, 2013 at 1:20 pm

“Mother of God.”

All I can think of is Super Troopers when Ramethorn says that. Whips off his sunglasses…”Mother of God.”

Thank you – I’m still chuckling.

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Anonymous November 8, 2013 at 1:05 pm

Wow, this letter made me LOL. Just reading the scenario, I was inclined to think that the applicant had gotten bad advice (including short essays is the resume) but seeing the actual response, it seems like a combination of bad advice + bad attitude. Unfortunately, the bad attitude part will likely interfere with the applicant being able to find good advice.

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glennis November 8, 2013 at 1:09 pm

It also won’t help her much in grad school, either.

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bearing November 8, 2013 at 1:09 pm

I hope that when she gets to graduate school, they teach her to use commas properly.

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bearing November 8, 2013 at 1:11 pm

Sorry for the double post. Obviously, it was caused by my posting a snarky comment about commas, followed by worrying that I had failed to use commas correctly in my snarky comment.

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AMG November 8, 2013 at 2:47 pm

lol

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bearing November 8, 2013 at 1:10 pm

I hope that in graduate school she learns to use commas correctly.

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Elle-em-en-oh-pee November 8, 2013 at 1:11 pm

Too precious! Allison and Letter Writer, please know you have made my week with this posting.

I know it really isn’t funny… But I can’t stop laughing!

Kudos to you LW, for (I am assuming) holding back your laughter, and (probably) remaining silent and professional in the face of this overwhelming provocation.

I don’t think I could have in your position.

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Letter Writer November 8, 2013 at 1:30 pm

Thanks. Feel slightly guilty for having sent it out to a blog, but there are just too many lessons to be shared here. Believe it or not, this grad was from a pretty decent college. That made me feel particularly worried about what this says about her peer group. Almost sent her advice about grad school, but I was worried it would have been construed as some kind of academic “prostitution.”

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Yup November 8, 2013 at 1:36 pm

Don’t feel guilty. :) You were kind and really helpful in your response, even though the applicant thinks she knows it all right now. And I honestly think it’s helpful for people tempted to do this to see (a) Alison’s deconstruction of why it’s bad idea, and (b) commenters having a negative response to it, to show how it rubs people the wrong way.

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holly November 8, 2013 at 1:57 pm

haha, yeah, i’d be a little scared to try to offer more help.

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Elle-em-en-oh-pee November 8, 2013 at 2:30 pm

Letter Writer don’t feel guilty!

At worst, your submission was a victimless crime, because frankly, if the job candidate in question actually ever read this blog, she might not have ever found herself featured in it…

I maintain there is good advice to be found here, something that our jciq apparently has an aversion to.

Ignorance is bliss, and I doubt she will ever know.

I am sorry though for making you feel bad.

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Windchime November 8, 2013 at 3:43 pm

Just think how differently this could have turned out. What if she had said, “Oh, thank you so much for your offer. I’ve attached a new version of my resume; could you please review and make suggestions? I really appreciate it!” She would most likely have been remembered by the Letter Writer as a mature young person who was open to constructive criticism. It’s a shame.

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Elizabeth West November 8, 2013 at 4:40 pm

It doesn’t say much about her peer group, but it says a lot about her attitude.

Don’t worry about it. You did what you could and you sent it to Alison in hopes that someone else may learn from Snotty McGraduate’s mistake.

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Katriona November 9, 2013 at 8:47 pm

I wouldn’t assume it says anything about her peer group. As others noted upthread, the same attitude could easily come from someone with decades of experience doing one job who hasn’t written a resume in 20 years.

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Kat A. November 8, 2013 at 1:12 pm

I hire and have actually gotten the “prostituting on paper for a job” response. More than once.

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FD November 8, 2013 at 1:33 pm

Weird. I wonder if there’s a movie or show that used that phrase once and it caught on?

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Elle-em-en-oh-pee November 8, 2013 at 2:19 pm

Robot Chicken once spoofed Mtv’s “Pimp My Ride” with a vignette deplorably titled: “Pimp My Sister.” (It’s on youtube if you are inclined for quick trip into the gutter.)

Unfortunately “Prostituting on Paper” has a similar ring and I couldn’t help but be reminded.

I believe they used the word “Prostitude” in reference that for someone posessing that special ‘Je Ne Sais Quois’.

Even if our job candidate didn’t use that word or get her specific idea from that show, I know plenty of people (including myself) who did.

Only unlike the dear job candidate in question, I like to pretend I know when to use discretion…

No matter how much you rant and rave in private you never treat someone who tried to help you this way.

I wish I had a nice stranger-in-the-know willing to help me work out my CV bugs for free.

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literateliz November 8, 2013 at 2:10 pm

I’ve heard the sentiment expressed before (although it takes chutzpah to say it to a hiring manager! WTF?), and it seems to me like a particularly privileged expression of the idea that having to do anything or change any part of their behavior in order to earn money in the working world is totally beneath them. I mean, we all draw the line somewhere–I felt pretty degraded filling out one of those 100-question “personality tests” for a retail job, but I hustled pretty hard to find a job, and writing a resume and cover letter that hew to industry norms is, well, pretty basic. People like this seem to think that a resume and cover letter are for their self-expression, and how dare we suggest that it might be wise (and effective) to instead think about what the employer wants in a candidate.

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Wakeen's Teapots Ltd. November 9, 2013 at 6:07 am

” it seems to me like a particularly privileged expression of the idea that having to do anything or change any part of their behavior in order to earn money in the working world is totally beneath them”

This. I was looking for the right words and you wrote them, so thanks for that.

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PPK November 8, 2013 at 1:13 pm

Keeping your resume to 1 page (plus easy to read) isn’t a new thing, right? I remember 15 years ago going over and over my resume with a fine tooth comb to fit it on one page in a reasonable manner. Taking stuff out, putting stuff in, rearranging, condensing, expanding, etc.

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Anonymous November 9, 2013 at 2:13 am

Right?! In fact I was surprised to hear recently that it’s okay to have it go over one page if all the info is relevant, etc. However I’m sorta anal and I like to keep it exactly one page!

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Yup November 8, 2013 at 1:14 pm

I may be in the minority on this, but the idea that new grads might not be “ready” for the working world doesn’t bother me immensely. Maybe it’s because my own work life has been mostly trial and error. I feel like it’s pretty normal for people to make a bunch of mistakes starting out and then learn as you go. Like I probably would have been more prepared for work if I’d done internships, but getting my first office temp job pretty much sanded off edges those edges anyway. It’s only fatal when someone refuses to learn from experience and won’t see why they’re getting the same result over and over, or when they do something that’s going to haunt them like majorly burning bridges. As long as somebody isn’t hopelessly intransigent, lazy, or rude, it’ll probably right itself over time. (And if doesn’t — well, hell, I’ve worked with plenty of mid-career people that I’d like to send back to the starting line, too.)

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FD November 8, 2013 at 1:34 pm

I think the big issue is that recent grads are not only unprepared for the work world, but often also have massive amounts of student debt that really makes it a big deal that they need more time to adjust to the working conventions of the adult world.

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Yup November 8, 2013 at 1:37 pm

Yes, you’re absolutely right about the student debt. The amounts involved are just chilling.

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Elizabeth West November 8, 2013 at 4:42 pm

Tell me about it.

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Supervisor November 8, 2013 at 1:38 pm

Totally disagree. When I hire, I want someone who can do the job or is willing to learn quickly and do whatever it takes to get the job done professionally and accurately. I don’t have the time for months of trial and error, even from an entry level employee. Everyone has a learning curve, but come on (!), I was able to step up when I was an entry-level employee straight out of college.

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EngineerGirl November 8, 2013 at 2:02 pm

There’s a good medium though. You absolutely should expect to train a college grad. They have a lot of information in their head, but are usually lacking context in how to apply it. It’s the difference between theoretical and real world. Real world has a lot of extra rules because real world has a lot of messy complications.

I think you are short sighted in not investing in someone. You want to develop a deep bench for the future. I look for a teachable spirit, hunger, quest for excellence, and yes, they can do most (not all) skills requested.

So far, I have only made one hiring mistake (and it was a doozy). I hired a bully and mistook their arrogance for self confidence. I now know the warning flags, and it won’t happen again.

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Windchime November 8, 2013 at 3:49 pm

In OldJob, we hired a young man straight out of college. He literally came to his first day of work about a week after graduation. He had good programming and social skills, but there were a few bumpy times early on with things like punctuality and professional attire. Those were minor, though, and he really seemed to adjust to the working world well. He did have a programming internship for several years (on campus), so maybe that’s why the transition was smooth for him.

I can see how the transition from student to professional employee might be hard for young people who have never had a professional job, though. So yeah, I think that some training for young graduates is to be expected.

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PEBCAK November 9, 2013 at 11:50 am

In addition to the points you’ve made, workforce readiness is strongly correlated with class/race privilege, and a reluctance to invest in entry-level employees who may need a little more guidance can be a recipe for a really homogenous team.

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A Bug! November 8, 2013 at 1:52 pm

I don’t think your comment puts you in the minority at all. I don’t think the main issue here is the applicant’s unpreparedness. It’s that she refuses to recognize that she might be unprepared at all, and got rudely defensive when offered assistance.

The OP was willing to help the applicant address issues with her resume, and if I’m reading correctly, she was even willing to bring an updated resume in for reconsideration. It was the applicant’s response to this generous offer that sunk her boat, not the initial show of naivete.

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KimmieSue November 8, 2013 at 2:08 pm

Agree +1000 – The LW was “helping” this candidate. She didn’t need to take the time to do that and was rewarded with a snarky, rude response. NOT cool and really underscores why most recruiters (including myself) don’t provide specific feedback in a rejection.
By the way, I’ve seen similar responses in experienced (non-new college grad) candidates also. Those candidates, like the one we’re discussing, go into the “NEVER contact again” status.

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AdAgencyChick November 8, 2013 at 3:27 pm

Totally. I can deal with “somewhat unprepared,” but “unprepared and entitled”? Fuhgeddaboudit.

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EngineerGirl November 8, 2013 at 6:28 pm

That’s what really bothered me. The OP was incredibly generous in the offer. The fact the newgrad a) didn’t understand that and b) thought that she was just fine tell me that she’s very Dunning-Krueger. Good for OP for turning her down.

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Anonymous November 9, 2013 at 10:12 am

I wonder if internships actually contribute to the problem instead of fixing it like it’s supposed to. There have been discussions here about the uselessness of interns and internships. Sure you can gain a lot of experience but neither side has much of a sense of commitment so you have supervisors that allow inexperienced interns to get away with things an employee never would and interns

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Anonymous November 9, 2013 at 10:21 am

Sorry got cut off…

who don’t really know any better are used to scenarios where life is “fair” and A for effort. Unless you have interns really looking to learn and supervisors looking to mold interns into good employees, an internship could just make the interns think that their behavior is acceptable in a workplace because they will be gone in 2 months anyway.

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Jake November 11, 2013 at 10:03 pm

I certainly had the “I don’t care, I’ll be gone soon” attitude at my internship. I knew there was no way I’d ever work for that organization again, so my productivity tanked my last 2 weeks of a 12 week internship. At the end I still received an “excel” rating on every category, and was called a week after I graduated to see if I wanted a job.

I got my first entry-level job with a different organization, and I found myself having a hard time getting motivated after about a month. I still attribute that lack of motivation to me ruining my own attitude at my internship, and showing myself how easy it is to get away with such behavior.

Overall, my internship hurt me far more than helped me. Or rather, I hurt myself far more during my internship than I helped myself.

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Anony1234 November 8, 2013 at 1:17 pm

Granted the three-page resume and subsequent email exchange with the OP say a lot about the job seeker, and in not such a great light either, I must wonder where this job seeker received her original ideas and advice.

But the job seeker needs to be open to constructive criticism and new, better ways.

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Zahra November 8, 2013 at 1:18 pm

Actually, I suspect the short essays might partially be transferred to the cover letter (if they are not exclusively regurgitating the content of the resumé).

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JCC November 8, 2013 at 9:15 pm

That’s the main culprit there for length. Most recent grads don’t really have much in the way of objective experience, so the need to contextualize what they do have increases. However, there’s also a belief that nobody bothers to read cover letters. (http://www.collegegrad.com/ezine/08cvrlet.shtml , http://www.cnn.com/2011/OPINION/02/15/silverman.cover.letters/, http://blog.nwjobs.com/careercenterblog/2010/08/should-i-write-a-cover-letter.html, etc. etc. etc.)

So where do the supplementary essays go? Right back into the resume. :)

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Jax November 8, 2013 at 1:28 pm

I’d love to have feedback like that offered from a company. Even if I did bristle because “What do you mean there’s something wrong with my resume?!?”

So many times I send my resume and cover letter and hear crickets.

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Mints November 8, 2013 at 3:09 pm

+1
I would have felt mortified and panicky if I saw that first email. But then I would have calmed down and realized this person seems nice, sent a quick thank you, then probably send an edited version a week or so later when I had time to feel less embarrassed

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Elizabeth West November 8, 2013 at 5:03 pm

Yes. In writing submissions, unsolicited feedback is GOLD. I think that could apply to job seekers as well.

I once got a rejection email that told me every single thing that was wrong with my story. Instead of getting mad, I read it very carefully and tried to see how I could improve the story. It turned out that it wasn’t really worth the effort, but I really appreciated that editor taking the time to give me a valuable critique. I even wrote a blog post about it.

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FD November 8, 2013 at 1:30 pm

I do think that some new graduates can have two page resumes. I had to do mine on two pages because I started working in high school, held several different jobs in college which contributed to my application, and also ran some school volunteer organizations. However, two pages (one page front and back, that is) is about the hard limit, IMO, until you’re farther out of school. Even then, I’d be leery of a three page resume.

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Meg November 8, 2013 at 1:40 pm

I’d be really hard-pressed to think of a job you held in high school that NEEDED to be on your professional resume.

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FD November 8, 2013 at 3:13 pm

I held it for six years, starting in my last year of high school. I was promoted to a manager in my last year with them. It needs to be on because it’s customer service experience, which is the field that I’m in.

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Meg November 8, 2013 at 3:32 pm

You can still condense that into two lines. I work in customer service as well (well, not so much anymore), and the good thing about that field is it’s actually really easy to describe concisely. And the comments below about how to handle high school activities just don’t become important after high school. Even if it shows what a well-rounded, multi-talented person you are.

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Zahra November 8, 2013 at 4:46 pm

But if you have accomplishments, if a few lines more. None of my job descriptions take more than 2 lines (they’re separated by commas, not listed as bullet points). However, my accomplishments can be 2-3 bullet points in addition to those.

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FD November 8, 2013 at 5:06 pm

Exactly. I don’t have any descriptions listed at all, just accomplishments under the job headers.

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tesyaa November 8, 2013 at 1:41 pm

While you may feel that your HS/college work and activities are important enough to take up two pages, they aren’t to a hiring manager. I’d also suggest less detail in order to stay to one page.

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holly November 8, 2013 at 2:02 pm

for volunteer stuff, i’d probably write it out like: Club1, Club2, Club3 under a heading of Professional Groups/Volunteer or something. instead of writing them out like i would regular jobs. unless that was all i had. if there was something spectacular that i did at one of them that was relevant to the position, i might mention it in the cover letter as an illustration of my abilities.

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fposte November 8, 2013 at 2:40 pm

Yes, this. FD, you’re kind of exemplifying what’s being talked about in the initial post. This is not a work history that requires two pages; it just feels that way to you because these things are important to *you*, but they’re not going to be full-section important to somebody looking to hire you.

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FD November 8, 2013 at 3:28 pm

Fair enough. I see your point. However, I do respectfully disagree with it.

In this case, I have three jobs on my resume, because each one had significant accomplishments with them. One was the job I started in HS, one is the job I’m about to leave. One is a job that I held in college where I was basically responsible for creating a program and developing all materials relevant to it.

I also organized and ran a traveling team and another club, including being responsible for all the fundraising ideas and the budget. My current resume is about a page and a half, including a section at the top that highlights key accomplishments.

I understand your point, but nothing is on there because it was important to me. It’s on there because it demonstrates specific skills that I developed through being in specific positions.

Now, could it be trimmed to a single page, if I messed with the editing some more? Possibly. But the way I have it is very readable and clear and I’ve gotten good feedback on it from managers in my field, so I’m not inclined to worry excessively about the length.

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fposte November 8, 2013 at 4:05 pm

What I’m mostly disagreeing with is the underlying concept that because you’ve done so much it must take up more space. CEOs with thirty years of experience have one-page resumes. One page is not about underachievement.

I think Dan, below, actually makes a good point about resumes being somewhat longer when you’re first starting out because your past is more cobbled together, and your achievements don’t speak for themselves as much. But there’s no overall achievement amount = resume length correlation, because resumes aren’t a list but a thumbnail.

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FD November 8, 2013 at 5:51 pm

Actually, I was toying with the same idea in my head, but wasn’t sure I was ready to say it. (You know how sometimes you’re bouncing around an idea in your mind but aren’t sure about it enough to share yet?)

Now that I’m getting my first management job that will include managing budgets, the clubs I ran will fall off. And the college job where I helped create the department will probably fall off soon too when I’ve got more work experience that demonstrates being able to carry a project from inception to completion.

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Felicia November 9, 2013 at 11:00 am

I agree with that – I think when (or if, i’m starting to get worried if that’s even possible)! I have a permanent job in this field for several years, it will be easier to make my resume shorter. But since all my experience is cobbled together from short term stints, since that’s all i can get, and no one will hire you permanently without two years experience, it’s harder to condense. But if/when i get something permanent, I will take off a lot of the earlier stuff, beccause I won’t need it anymore. I graduated in 2012, and my resume doesn’t go earlier than 2010 or list things not related to this field, so it think it’s ok.

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Anonymous November 8, 2013 at 2:03 pm

Your high school job must be pretty amazing if its still worth putting on your resume.

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FD November 8, 2013 at 3:11 pm

I held it for six years (last year of HS, through college, and a year after graduation), and it included being promoted to a manager during the last full year. It’s relevant to the field that I’m in.

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fposte November 8, 2013 at 3:17 pm

That’s fine to include, then, but it doesn’t need to get you to two pages.

Now if I’m compiling threads correctly, you just got a nice new job, so clearly your resume isn’t too shabby :-); it’s also not death to go beyond one page. But you’re still talking about stuff that doesn’t need to take up the space that it sounds like it’s taking, so you’re not actually describing contents that require a two-page resume.

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FD November 8, 2013 at 3:35 pm

Fair enough. To be fair, it’s about 1.5 pages, and part of the reason it’s that long is that I like to leave the font a reasonable size and some reasonable spacing for readability. I could tweak it to 1 if I made the font smaller and reduced the space, but I figure that if a manager has to scan dozens of these, making it easy to find what section is where is better than being draconian on the length.

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fposte November 8, 2013 at 3:50 pm

And that’s definitely true–while some formatting can help (there’s another reason for losing the objective!), the length issue is a content one that will be exacerbated rather than solved with a smaller font.

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fluffy November 8, 2013 at 1:39 pm

Just my opinion, but if you’re prostituting yourself, good cotton sheets are better than paper

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ExceptionToTheRule November 8, 2013 at 2:33 pm

There’s Dr. Pepper on my computer monitor now. =)

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Tina November 8, 2013 at 2:49 pm

I’ve got Cherry Coke on mine!

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fposte November 8, 2013 at 2:47 pm

See, that’s why she needed to take that class.

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AMG November 8, 2013 at 2:51 pm

lol! I always liked your posts, but this is one of the best things I have ever seen on AAM!

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Sandrine November 8, 2013 at 5:00 pm

You win the comments section with that one :P

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PuppyKat November 8, 2013 at 10:27 pm

I’m laughing out loud in my office right now, probably perplexing some people down the hallway.

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Anonymous November 8, 2013 at 1:44 pm

I agree with her wholeheartedly; not in the way she expressed her frustration and disappointment, but in the underlying point she tried to convey, i.e. that it appears some have actually taken course in landing jobs while others were busy doing whatever. Of course, there’s no such course, but the appearance persists. It was perhaps only a couple of weeks ago that I concluded likewise, that some applicants are better equipped, gifted even, whether by design or nature, to sell themselves to employers both in writing and in person, conveying a natural sense of competence and fit.

I recall an article a few years ago that concluded that ‘B’ students out-performed and out-earn ‘A’ students in the workplace. Why? ‘B’ students, it argued, are most likely very social in college, foregoing the potential ‘A’ in favor of developing their social, interactive and interpersonal skills, key to landing and keeping a job and being promoted. The ‘A ’student, conversely, stalls at the gate, for want of these skills.

If you look back at your graduation class, the social butterfly with modest grades, particularly the social White male butterfly, does better than perhaps even the Valedictorian. His gift of the gab, self-belief and assurance are unparalleled; at least on the surface. Those countless hours spent carousing, drinking and perhaps weeding pay dividends on the open market. Did they take a class? No. But, nonetheless, they’re somehow clued into the fact that your social skills are just as important at the beginning, middle or end of one’s career, unlike grades. Good grades might get you an interview for your first job, but that’s as far as they will take you.

Grad school sadly is no cure for what ails her.

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AMG November 8, 2013 at 3:23 pm

True; I tried to strike a balance like this one and go for the A- but with contacts, network, volunteer work, a social life, etc in order to be more well-rounded and have the complete package (I erred on the side of getting the grade versus being a social butterfly because that’s my personality). My husband is the solid B example, talks to everyone, can get an appointment with anyone, never studied but is the planet’s best guesser, and always lands on his feet with little to no planning or effort.

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AdAgencyChick November 8, 2013 at 3:31 pm

As they’re hammering into me in my management training class, “IQ is what gets you the job, but EQ (emotional intelligence) is what gets you promoted.”

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Anonymous November 8, 2013 at 4:02 pm

As someone who had straight A+s my whole life but no social skills whatsoever, you are completely right. :(

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Felicia November 9, 2013 at 11:13 am

I actually did take a course in university on landing jobs – it was ok, but none of it was nearly as helpful as this blog. I had amazing grades, but they’re not what will get me a job

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Brittany November 8, 2013 at 1:53 pm

“I never had a class in college teaching me the etiquette of prostituting myself on paper. ”

HOLY CRAP. I guess if you’re dead set on burning bridges, that’s a good way to start. Yikes. Do people not realize how small this world is?

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Luke November 8, 2013 at 2:10 pm

Things like keeping your resume to 1 page if you’re a recent graduate really do escape them.

I can not. My resume is 2 pages minimum and it includes
- jobs / internships during my college experience
- research papers
- small listing of honours and awards
- education

not everyone should limit it to 1 page.

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Graduate School November 8, 2013 at 2:35 pm

If you’re not in the US, the conventions may be different. But in the US, what you’re describing is a CV, not a resume. Which may be fine for the field you’re applying in, but an “honors and awards” section, for instance, is not a good use of space for resumes in most fields.

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fposte November 8, 2013 at 2:38 pm

Oops–that was me!

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The IT Manager November 8, 2013 at 2:57 pm

You may be apply for academic jobs (research papers and honors and awards) or outside the US, but if you’re not then you’re the epitomy of not taking the good advice that’s out their for someone apply for a professional job in the US.

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Luke November 8, 2013 at 2:10 pm

Things like keeping your resume to 1 page if you’re a recent graduate really do escape them.

I can not. My resume is 2 pages minimum and it includes
- jobs / internships during my college experience
- research papers
- small listing of honours and awards
- education

not everyone should limit it to 1 page.

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Nodumbunny November 8, 2013 at 2:43 pm

You’re choosing to ignore what the hiring managers in these comments are saying. Unless you’re applying for an academic job, the research papers aren’t relevant. See Alison’s note above – she’s 40, well-established in her career, and her resume is one page.

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Luke November 8, 2013 at 2:57 pm

My “work experience” consists of 6 relevant internships + 1 job. Each has 3 sentences to describe it. 11 pt font.
My university has 3 lines (gpa + degree + name)
this is the entirety of the first page.
page two includes leadership experience (8 lines) , a 3 line section of relevant honors, and 3 lines of relevant research papers

I do not see how I can reduce this even further to one page without losing relevant experience.

I already removed all the out-of-field internships, pre-college work experience, etc.

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Luke November 8, 2013 at 2:58 pm

oh, and about 4 lines for name and contact information on the first page I forgot about.

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llamathatducks November 8, 2013 at 3:01 pm

That can fit on two lines easily.

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ArtsNerd November 8, 2013 at 3:19 pm

Assuming you’re applying to a non-academic professional position in the US:

Don’t give each position equal weight. Your relevant job should be more than three sentences. (Actually, bullet points of your achievements in the job is better.) Your least substantial and/or oldest internships should get cut altogether. Keep the rest to one-two notable achievements.

Also what do you mean by “Leadership Experience”? I’ve served on panels as a local “expert” in my field, and I only have 5 lines dedicated to that + volunteer experience.

Cut the research papers altogether. Notable academic awards should just be a few-word mention near your degree info.

Also, columns are your friend.

You’re coming across as inflexible here – and unable to hear feedback because you can’t see a bigger picture outside of your original expectations. In the workplace, you want to be a problem-solver, creative, eager to learn, and able to put your own knowledge and experience in appropriate perspective.

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Lindsay the Temp November 9, 2013 at 4:05 pm

There is absolutely NO reason your name and contact info should take up more than a header, and your college info shouldn’t need more than 2 lines…any backup here…?

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llamathatducks November 8, 2013 at 3:01 pm

University experience can all fit on a single line.

All the page 2 stuff is probably irrelevant for most jobs. Even if it’s relevant, it should be seriously condensed.

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fposte November 8, 2013 at 3:05 pm

Yes, this. University experience, one line; you can do honors on one line after that if you can’t bear to let them go. Each internship is not worth a full entry; condense them. I don’t know what you mean by “Leadership Experience”–is that volunteering and extracurriculars? Condense again.

Resumes like this are like sending somebody who wants marshmallow bits a bowl of Lucky Charms. I may be able to get the information I want out of it, but it takes a lot of extraction.

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llamathatducks November 8, 2013 at 3:08 pm

I love that way of putting it!

Also, in the defense of including research and extracurriculars, I have sometimes applied to jobs that specifically required research experience, or knowledge/skills that I had developed in my thesis research (much more than what I’d done in my work experience). In those cases, I did include little blurbs about my independent research projects. But I still fit it into a page because I only picked those things that were MOST relevant to this job.

(I also played around with fonts and margins and spacing a lot – I found that making empty lines between sections point 4 or 6 font cut down on a lot of unnecessary space!)

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fposte November 8, 2013 at 3:20 pm

Oh, absolutely. It really is about positioning yourself for the job you’re applying for–that’s why you often don’t want to have only one version of the resume.

A lot of my hiring is of recent grads, and I don’t insist stuff be completely limited to one page, but plenty of strong candidates manage to do it. What you want to avoid is the impression that because this was important to you you think it must be important to me, regardless of the relevance or significance of the experience to the job. Honors are a really good example of something like that–I’m hiring in an actual university, and even I don’t want to see an honors section.

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Ask a Manager November 8, 2013 at 3:04 pm

You should take out everything on the second page, it sounds like, and the college stuff can all be on a single line.

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Anon November 8, 2013 at 3:42 pm

what she said. plus, if you are more than a year out of college take off the GPA. Listing my BS and MS only take 4 lines.
Line 1: Name, Location, Dates
Line 2: Degree name
Line 3: MS Name, Location, Dates
Line 4: Degree name

Your internships with the most hours/most recent should ge the most space. Less hours or old can be pared down.

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Anonymous November 9, 2013 at 11:03 am

Please pay attention to the feedback you’re getting – most of your resume material is irrelevant for a job in the business world. As a hiring manager, two pages with a lot of irrelevant material is less impressive than one page of concise and relevant accomplishments.

Note that I did not say relevant experience, but accomplishments. If you can figure out what you accomplished in these internships and jobs (other than showing up and doing what you were told) you can pick the most impressive of these to showcase and forget about the rest.

Assume you have an absolute, inflexible, unchangeable 1 page limit on your resume and that the hiring manager won’t bother with the second page so there’s no point in sending it. Edit accordingly – that should be your resume. I promise you that a hiring manager in the business world will find it more impressive than your current one.

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J November 8, 2013 at 2:11 pm

Frankly, I’m thrilled to come across people with this kind of attitude toward job searching; it narrows down my competition by at least one person.

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Elle-em-en-oh-pee November 8, 2013 at 11:59 pm

You are positively Machiavellian! Delicious…

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Anon Accountant November 8, 2013 at 2:11 pm

I can imagine it now.

“Any weekend plans, Jane?”
“Yes. I’ll be busy prostituting myself on paper”.
“Um, okay”.

The candidate sure behaved rudely to someone who went above and beyond to offer to help her out. If she keeps up her rudeness, she’ll have no bridges left because she will have burned them all.

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Felicia November 9, 2013 at 11:15 am

I’m prostituting myself on paper this weekend:) At least i’m trying to, and reading AAM to make sure i do a good job at it!

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anon.. November 9, 2013 at 5:43 pm

Apparently her goal is to become an island!

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De Minimis November 8, 2013 at 2:22 pm

Yeah, what bugs me the most about this that the reader was really doing a nice thing by giving that much feedback, and this is what happened. I can see why many people elect not to do it.

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Anonymous November 9, 2013 at 2:15 am

I agree! That’s the really sad part. The OP was kind enough to offer feedback and the applicant threw it back in her face.

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Nichole November 8, 2013 at 2:34 pm

I would have been SO grateful to have received an e-mail like this from one of the jobs I was rejected for as a new grad. My post college resume (which included my GPA, a list of duties from my retail job, and the names of several of my courses *cringe*) was not so great, and an offer like the OP’s, even if I didn’t accept, would have been seen as a great kindness.

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Jessica (the celt) November 9, 2013 at 4:20 pm

I’m currently working on a resume assignment for a master’s class (no, I don’t get it, because it doesn’t go with the rest of the class but it’s required by administration apparently), and the career services page has great advice such as the following: If your resume is short, add to it by listing a bunch of your coursework. If you have a high GPA, don’t forget to list it. Your entire resume should support your objective statement, so think of your objective statement as your thesis and the rest of your resume as the supporting documents.

I think I’ll just leave all of that stuff off there, but thanks anyway.

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Whit November 8, 2013 at 2:52 pm

Cringe. This girl’s got to get the emotions in order. Either she’s having a meltdown or she’s a repeat offender…regardless I feel like she’ll have a giant pile of karma slapping her soon. I had one huffy moment (although it doesn’t even begin to compare with this) with an advisor in college and I’ve had to encounter that woman more times than I’d ever imagined because, guess what? We work in the same field, in the same community. Giant slice of humble pie.

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Interviewer November 8, 2013 at 2:56 pm

I have gotten about 60 resumes this week for an entry-level opening in my office, making copies & answering phones – and about 25% of list advanced degrees (mainly MBAs). I would strongly suggest that grad school is not the answer to job search woes, and the entry-level position is not a great way to pay back student loans. Of course, the commenters here may know that, but it sounds like the poor candidate in the post does not.

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Trixie November 8, 2013 at 9:33 pm

For this particular hiring situation, do folks consider not listing their advanced degrees? Or is that deemed to risky not to share upfront? I understand its different with online applications where they specifically inquire about highest earned degree.

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Greg November 8, 2013 at 3:06 pm

OK, I know it’s “Pile on the Recent Grad Day”, and I’m certainly not defending this woman, but I have to say: I wasn’t a fan of Letter Writer sending her unsolicited career advice. I get that she was trying to be helpful, but I think sending an email like that to someone you don’t even know can come across as condescending. (Again, that doesn’t excuse Recent Grad’s churlish response).

As a hiring manager, I’ve seen more applicant train wrecks than I can remember, and have been tempted at times to say something. But then I remind myself that my job is to hire someone, not be their career coach, and I resolve to only help those who request feedback (which I always make a point of doing for rejected candidates who ask).

Anyway, I don’t know enough about LW’s specific situation to judge. Maybe she does this frequently and it is generally well-received. I would just advise her (and anyone else who does this) to tread carefully. You may view yourself as someone who is trying to help. But a frustrated job seeker who doesn’t know you may not see it that way, and may even lash out in response.

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AMG November 8, 2013 at 3:25 pm

Interesting…I would have been happy to have the advice and it didn’t even occur to me that an unwelcome offer of help contributed to the girl going into a snit. Good perspective.

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Jen in RO November 8, 2013 at 5:00 pm

I felt the same when I read it. I understand the intention and the recent grad was out of line, but I would have been a little irritated at getting this kind of email.

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Felicia November 9, 2013 at 11:25 am

I would have been upset getting this kind of advice if i didn’t ask for it, but i never would have responded that way, because I know that’s inappropriate. After an interview is the only time i want advice, personally, but I get enough interviews to figure my resume and cover letters aren’t terrible – i get one interview for every 5 jobs i apply to pretty much.

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Zahra November 8, 2013 at 5:03 pm

Yes, help when help isn’t requested (or the wrong kind of help) is likely to get this kind of reaction.

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Loose Seal November 8, 2013 at 6:48 pm

Really? If I got the email offering help and I thought it was out of line from the OP (which I don’t), the most I would do would be to roll my eyes. Nothing in the email warranted that response.

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FD November 8, 2013 at 10:13 pm

I feel like splitting the middle might have been helpful. Maybe something like, “While we’re not able to move you forward at this time, I’d be happy to provide some feedback about how you can be a strong candidate in the future. Please let me know if you’d like to chat further.”

I find in general, that can be a helpful way of offering advice when you’re not sure it’ll be welcome.

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anon.. November 9, 2013 at 6:15 pm

For all the times that so many of us have sent our resumes that yield crickets and wonder why, this person actually got a REASON why she was not being moved forward. That’s a gift! Can you all truly say that you don’t want to know WHY your resume gets crickets?

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Dan November 8, 2013 at 3:34 pm

Heh. My post college resume was actually longer (spilled over to second page) than my current professional resume (less than one page.)

Why? Ok, there were some stupid things on there like “soft skills” that should have gone, but the other thing was that I had a lot of applied coursework, and I wanted to show that I skills above and beyond the text book. I didn’t think one or two projects was enough. Second, I had blue collar employment history in one of the domains that I was applying for. That really was useful. I also wanted to prove I had some experience in the real world and could keep a job.

Now? Well, the blue collar stuff gets trimmed down to two lines per entry; it’s sole purpose is to show that I have that background. What I actually did isn’t terribly relevant (and if you’re in the domain, you know what I did.) My professional resume is centered around my one professional job that I had for five years, some programming and data analysis stuff that I know, and my education. That’s it. Why? Because all I have to do is prove I can do the job they want me to do. When I apply to jobs outside of the domain of my blue collar background, they don’t even show up.

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Tara T. November 8, 2013 at 4:26 pm

The “hit the pavement” advice comes from the long-ago days when job seekers went to the company and filled out application forms by hand. The person who made the comment about “prostituting herself on paper,” meant that she would not lower her writing standards and use business English rather than literary English. She got that from being in the ivory tower while studying for her college courses. As for the length of resumes, I have seen resumes that were 3 pages that would bore an employer. Sharon’s 11/8/13 comment that the purpose of the resume is to “intrigue” the employer to want to interview for more details, is correct. The employers mainly glance through it and call if they are interested. Boring them is not the way to go. Sometimes a 2-page resume is ok.

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nyxalinth November 8, 2013 at 4:26 pm

This is why we can’t have nice things, like feedback.

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Min November 9, 2013 at 7:12 am

+1!

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AMG November 9, 2013 at 10:01 am

haha!

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Anonymous November 8, 2013 at 4:35 pm

See, I’m thinking this candidate would be a perfect match for this job listing I saw, in which the employer proclaimed, in many words, that resumes were garbage…

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PoohBear McGriddles November 8, 2013 at 4:49 pm

Too bad the new grad didn’t have any career counseling at her university. Heck, my little state U provided that. Had she taken the LW’s advice, there is perhaps a chance that her revamped resume might have actually made it back to the hiring manager’s desk.

Interesting that she decided to jump straight to grad school rather than continue her job search. Or maybe she was getting the same feedback from other employers.

Wait until she starts repaying the student loans from grad school… prostituting herself “on paper” won’t seem quite so bad.

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Marie November 8, 2013 at 9:55 pm

It sounds to me like she DID have career counseling at her university. That’s the problem! The career counselors at the universities are teaching these recent grads to do this. I went back to school for a graduate degree at 38 and attended the seminars. Some of the stuff they were saying was just ridiculous. These kids were told to include high school sports on their resumes to show teamwork skills and if they were captain, that was even better because now they have leadership skills. All part-time jobs were to be included, relevant or not, and if you had to shrink the font and margins to keep it to one page, so be it. You also needed to include any fraternities or sororities you belonged to so you could show you get get along well with others.
There were a lot of very crowded, unreadable resumes as a result. I’m glad I had enough life experience to know better. Obviously, the career counselors have never held a job outside of the university system.

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holly November 8, 2013 at 5:06 pm

i’m currently looking at undergrads resumes for a work-study position, and now i really want to offer to help them revise their resumes. they are all over 1 page even though the most number of jobs a person has had is 4.

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JenTheNiceHRGirl November 8, 2013 at 5:28 pm

Angry e-mails to prospective employers are never a good thing! Especially in this case where the reader was trying to help the candidate. It is sad that the candidate got angry instead of thanking the reader for the kind advice. Most hiring managers, recruiters, etc… are not going to take the extra effort to give someone some helpful feedback on their resume. The candidate should see this as a nice gesture and not an insult (which sounds to me like is the way she took it.)

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Rich November 8, 2013 at 5:42 pm

Wow, this is just… Frankly, there’s so much bad on the applicant’s end, it’s sad.

First, she should have thanked the OP for the offer, regardless of whether she wanted the help or not. Second, she used the term prostitution as a very poor synonym. She probably wanted to say “whoring,” which is also probably not the case as a recent graduate with a Bachelor’s degree. Third, I won’t swear to it, but I’m certain her college career center told her some of this was fine. The things I was told by mine were so totally off the mark that it’s sad. So we have someone who seems a bit pretentious and probably armed with a load of the worst advice an institution could give.

I’ll say part of it is just a sense of entitlement, but with all the bad interviewers and bad advisers out there, can we really be surprised ay bad new applicants?

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Anonymous November 8, 2013 at 6:07 pm

I think we have to remember that while it seems like it’s more likely to be a new grad making mistakes like this, plenty of letters that get posted here (and the comments to them, and the comments to this post) show that they’re usually getting their bad advice from older people. It’s just that an older person might or might not be looking for a job while a graduate almost certainly will.

Also, why is it always the Skilled Writers who do bizarre things like capitalizing Graduate School?

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Jake November 8, 2013 at 6:19 pm

Usually writing mistakes don’t bother me much, but improper capitalization drives me nuts.

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Jake November 8, 2013 at 6:13 pm

I wish people were more gracious when offered feedback.

I recently interviewed at a company where the interviewer was a little rude, unprepared and spent more time on “so what got you interested in this field” questions than on my actual qualifications. I did the best I could, and when he called to decline, he left me a voicemail telling me to call him if I wanted some feedback.

When I called he gave me some useful and some not-so-useful feedback, but I was gracious and thanked him for his time and willingness. At the end of the call he said, “hey you are still a great potential candidate, and you said you were happy in your current position, just concerned about the long-term business model of your company, so if in a year or two down the road you are looking for a change, please call me back. If you work on those things we discussed I would definitely be interested in talking again.”

The moral of the story is two-fold. 1. I learned some valuable information about how I was being perceived. He said I had a lot of reservedness and humility, which was great, but he had concerns that I couldn’t “flip the switch” and be assertive when I needed to be. That was so valuable because it is the exact opposite of how I’m perceived at work. My coworkers think I’m almost too direct and too assertive at times. This means I need to make sure that when I interview I do a better job of representing myself.

2. I truly believe he is serious about me calling back.

Overall, had I been like the job hunter in the OP, I wouldn’t have the valuable information that I need to work harder at shedding my “interview persona” and I wouldn’t have a good future contact in my network.

You’d be very foolish to pass up on either of those, even at the expense of feeling really good about calling out a rude/unprepared interviewer or making snide comments about watering yourself down.

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Elizabeth West November 8, 2013 at 6:33 pm

+1

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holly November 8, 2013 at 7:15 pm

i’m making so many resume revisions based on this post. it’s awesome.

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Marie November 8, 2013 at 10:11 pm

This goes beyond just needing help with resumes. I just interviewed a bunch of new grads a few months ago and can’t believe how badly it went despite their resumes being perfect. One used his opportunity to ask questions about the position to ask if we do drug testing. Another said he looked at our org chart on our website and didn’t see many entry-level position so he wanted to know how long it would be before he got his promotion. Neither of them asked anything about the position itself or the job duties they would be performing.
I made it clear we were looking for someone with attention to detail at the beginning of the interview because the employee we hired would be doing a lot of proofreading. One candidate sent a thank-you email that contained two different fonts-obviously pasted together from other emails from jobs he interviewed for. He also wanted to point out how ‘detailed-oriented” he is.
Another mailed a hand-written thank you card with several items covered with white out. At least she caught her mistakes, I guess.
One more sent a thank-you email with random words highlighted in yellow. I still haven’t figured that one out.

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Sourire November 9, 2013 at 12:16 am

I will highlight words in yellow when I type things if I dislike my word choice/can’t come up with exactly what I mean and know I want to edit it, but would rather continue with my thought process than fix it right then and there.

I can’t imagine sending something out like that though. Maybe he or she meant to edit and then accidentally hit send? Which is why I never add a recipient to an important email until I know for sure it is ready to be sent.

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Ali November 9, 2013 at 9:55 am

I had something similar to the first example in Marie’s paragraph happen to me at one of the places I write for (for no pay while I build my resume no less!). Another writer I know who covers the same topic as me applied to write for our site, as everyone, even our site’s top writers, had to do this and send writing samples when they first came on board. The editor asked if I knew this person and I said yes and asked if he’d like more information. When he confirmed, I gave some good traits of the person and then said some things that had helped him stand out in a bad way and gave him a negative perception.

My editor responded and said he got the same vibes, saying that he felt this person had no interest in working his way up and was immediately asking about benefits/perks rather than a willingness to come in and establish himself. He thought he’d be doing our site a favor by showing up. My editor, rightfully so, passed even though no one makes money off the site, but we don’t like to deal with those attitudes from writers. Everyone started at the bottom, again, even those who are now considered lead/top writers.

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Confused November 8, 2013 at 11:01 pm

OP, I just hope you keep in mind that this is one person’s reaction. Please don’t let this one incident keep you from giving constructive feedback to other young grads starting out. You even offered to take a look and help this perosn beyond your initial email. There is so much bad advice out there. Good for you, taking the extra time to try and help!

I remember some of the advice from my college career center:
-Include an objective. This seemed weird to me, even then, but I figured they knew what they were doing (?)
-Put “I’ll follow up in a few days to schedule an interview” because it would show initiative and put a little pressure on hiring manager to contact me back (?!?)
-Send a paper resume via snail mail or fax because a physical resume will get more attention (?!???)
**I will give them credit for encouraging keeping it to 1 page

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jesicka309 November 8, 2013 at 11:05 pm

So, when I first made my CV, I use an online program called Visual CV – at the time, I was a media grad, and it was a great way to include my portfolio, as it was all online. When I needed a PDF to email/upload, it had an option where it converted my CV into a SIX PAGE CV.
I got a HD when I submitted it for my Media Industries class (requirement). I somehow also got my first job with it….the CV had about 2 pages devoted to ‘skills’, btw. I switched out of media into marketing and was still using that CV. :(
I still cringe looking back then. I kept that damn CV for 3 years before I managed to snap up one of Alison’s rare CV services. I now have a new job. :)
Though I’m sure if a hiring manager had told me that my CV was too long and needed a change, I definitely wouldn’t have complained.

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MrsG November 9, 2013 at 8:58 am

I’m finding that 5 years after graduating with a BBA (in management, no less), I still have people who, upon scheduling my interview, suggest that I wear a suit and bring a resume. We had a class in high school called ‘intro to majors’ where we selected a major in high school and learned things like interviewing, building a portfolio of examples work we were proud of, applying to colleges and scholarships, volunteer work, writing checks, and other necessary adult life subjects. I have to wonder if anyone is paying attention!

I will admit, it is difficult to go to work in a business that has been “doing it this way for 30 years” and try to hold your tongue when all we’re taught in college is how to be innovative and change the work world. I would LOVE to receive feedback like this from an interviewer or colleague. I think we need more kind people like this in the world. Unfortunately they keep their mouths shut because of rude people!

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Anonymous November 10, 2013 at 12:41 am

I always viewed higher education as just that, education. I never thought of it as job training. I’ve spent a bit of money, but I don’t regret it. It’s not a path I would recommend to just anyone, but I’ve been successful to my standards. I think the key for me was having a field as my goal instead of a “job title”.

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Karen November 12, 2013 at 3:05 pm

Ugh. I HATE reading stuff like this from recent grads (being one myself). THIS is why people think that my generation is entitled.

The OP was extraordinarily generous to offer [very sound] advice and assistance with a resume – she certainly was not obligated to. If the applicant simply disagreed, they could have simply thanked them and went on their merry way.

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1983Grad November 17, 2013 at 5:30 pm

Fascinating.

I am a recent graduate from a broadcasting course in the North West of England. I didn’t give my University much credit for actually teaching us anything – but to be fair to their Careers department, they had the good grace to tell me what was wrong with my CV.

His first comment? “This [CV] is far too long.”

I’d have e-mailed the OP back with a shorter resume and asking for further guidance. The only thing I could possibly say in the favour of the grumpy post-grad student is that she may have been blindsided by terse feedback in the past and was acting out of expectation, rather than comprehension.

I found AAM by accident after researching how best to deal with some rather depressing issues in my job ; but the subsequent threads I discovered have been incredibly useful.

Needless to say, you’re bookmarked.

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