Wow, My Resume is Dusty!

At the Office - 1/13/11

Now that I’m seriously looking for a job, I can’t put it off any longer – it’s time to get serious about my resume. (And my hair. Good Lord, look at that rat’s nest. Luckily, there is a hip hair salon just down the street from Kevin’s office that I’m going to try out because it’s pretty obvious I need to get a more professional ‘do before I actually go on any interviews).

Kevin and I went to Border’s last night to look for one specific resume book, but once I found it and skimmed through it, I didn’t like it. So, I browsed the other resume books and found one that I thought looked promising. It’s called “101 Best Resumes to Sell Yourself” by Jay Block. One of the reasons I liked it was because it has examples of resumes that I can work off of. It also gives you some examples of cover letters as well.

Kevin has a pretty awesome resume book at home, but it’s like fifteen years old and I knew that given today’s competitive market and the fact that it’s been at least FIFTEEN years since I’ve put a resume together for myself, I better get with the times.

And I’m glad I did because one of the first things this book covers is “chronological and format resumes are OUT.” Everyone uses them and if you want to be noticed, then you have to do something a little different.

I can do different. In fact, I prefer it. I like getting creative with things like this, so I’m looking forward to trying a few things. This book offers the “Organizational Message Chart” which focuses primarily on one’s value to a prospective employer and developing powerful messages that tell prospective employers how you can benefit them and why they should hire you.

This won’t be easy for me. I’m not exactly comfortable tooting my own horn. Especially since I’m not really sure what my horns (strengths) are, to be perfectly honest. But I’m a writer and I like to think I’m creative, so if I can’t come up with something then those self-imposed titles should be stripped from my cold, numb hands. (Because they are cold and numb, I’m in the office again today. But at least I got smart and brought a space heater with me, which is helping … somewhat. I’m also drinking Red Bull and munching on Vanilla Wafers – breakfast of champions, don’t you know).

The book goes on to list 21 guidelines for creating value-based resumes. Most of them are pretty common sense – no grammatical or typographical errors (which really IS the kiss of death for someone looking for a writing job, like me), keep it to one page, choose your words carefully, make the format “reader friendly” (don’t write a bunch of convoluted paragraphs), avoid fluff (you know, the old standbys: hard working, energetic, results oriented), etc.

It also lists some things that I’m going to have to think about:

  • How can you improve a company’s economics?
  • Think of ways to exceed expectations.
  • Show your human side. (This shouldn’t be that difficult for me. I have more trouble keeping it professional).
  • Don’t be afraid to toot your own horn. (*wince*)
  • List how well you did something as opposed to what you did.
  • Put yourself in the shoes of the person who is hiring you.
  • Identify and clearly document your signature talents – these have high impact value. (Now if I can just identify and clearly document my signature talents I’ll be set).

In addition to these guidelines, Block lists six key “P” principles to create a value-based resume:

1. Purpose – (clearly articulate its purpose)
2. Packaging – (“Toilet paper is better packaged/promoted than 99% of the resumes circulating out there.” Oh my! That’s not intimidating!!)
3. Positioning – (good positioning of information means organizing your resume so that the format and flow is “reader friendly.”)
4. Punch – (communicating core messages about yourself that prospective employers want to see.)
5. Personality – (your packaging should convey your unique attributes as a person, along with your value message.)
6. Professionalism – (managers know that the way people present themselves, professionally on paper and in person in the interviews, predicts how professionally they will represent the companies and approach their jobs.)

I need to read that last one to Dude.

By the way, I’m sharing all of this with you because writing this out helps me digest the material and formulate a plan. I’ve always done this (you should see some of my notes from my college classes), so if this stuff is boring to you, just skip it. Then again, maybe some of this information will help you build a better resume too, which can only give you an edge in today’s working world. And if you get the job? I totally want a commission fee. πŸ˜€

I was kind of hoping that I wouldn’t have to go down this resume route – but the places I want to apply with have specifically asked for my resume to be attached to their online application so … *SIGH* here we go. This will be good for me though. Forcing myself to sum up my abilities should also help when I hit the interview process.

Oh Lord. Which opens up a whole other can of worms … what to wear!?! And OMG, how will I answer the questions without spewing spittle all over the interviewer because I’m too nervous to swallow? ACK!

Calm down, Karen. One hurdle at a time, girlie. (Though the software company says they are “informal” so I’m thinking business casual on that interview. Listen to me, talking as if they are even going to call me for an interview. Well, I suppose being confident is a positive attribute, right??)

So basically, now, I have to come up with one statement that sums up what I can do for the company I’m applying with – I have to answer the question:

Why should the company hire me?

Why indeed??

Tough question, even a tougher question to answer, I’m finding out. And these statements change depending on where I’m applying.

In addition to answering this question, I need to come up with statements that answer the following question: What skills, abilities, qualifications, and credentials do you offer in order to achieve the answer to the above question.

I now have something to stew on, which means it’s now time to turn my attention to something else entirely. That’s how I work – juggling more than one ball helps me focus, for some reason.

I’d like to post a sample of my resume, but I’m not sure that would be a good idea. At any rate, I’ve learned that old chronological and format resume styles are pretty much dinosaurs now and that knowledge alone should help give me an edge.

I hope.

I Do it to Myself

I’m taken advantage of a lot. However, before you feel sorry for me, know this, it’s my own fault. I like helping people out. It makes me feel good. And I’m humbled that they put so much faith and trust in me. And though it embarrasses the socks off of me when the people I help gush their gratitude, it SATISFIES some deep-seated need in me to have helped them out of a jam.

I don’t have many talents, but what talents I do possess, I freely give away.

My husband gets very annoyed with me. My time is worth something, he says. And he’s absolutely right. But I always feel guilty putting a dollar amount on my time because, well, helping people out isn’t about money for me – it never has been, nor ever will be.

But when I do charge someone for something, I’m cheap. I’m dirt cheap, if you want the truth. And again, it’s not that I don’t WANT to charge more, I just feel GUILTY doing so. What I do is so easy for me and I enjoy it so much, I just feel terrible charging people for it. So, to appease the husband and to satisfy the client, I charge a pittance.

I’ve been doing websites for about four years now. Again, I LOVE what I do. I get a high out of designing something from nothing, or taking someone’s idea and turning it into something concrete. And it’s only been recently that I started a “business” of sorts. I still don’t think of it as a business because I love it so much – it’s still classified as a hobby in my mind. But I’m slowly changing that way of thinking because people?

Really are taking advantage of me.

I see this but I’m loathe to do anything about it.

However, I’m starting to learn to put my foot down and say no … occasionally.

When I offer to help someone, I do so because I have an honest desire to see them settled – to help them get back on their feet and produce a website they can be proud of. A lot of times, I make an offer to help before I really stop to think about how much of my time it’s really going to take. And once I realize it, I end up kicking myself because I never once quoted a price to help them, though I really should have.

By the time all of this goes through my head, it’s too late. I can’t offer to help and then say, “Oh, and by the way, this is going to cost x-number of dollars because it’s going to take x-number of hours to complete.”

I just can’t do it. I have a super active guilty conscience and I would rather do something for free and be guilt-free than get stuck in an awkward business transaction and feel like a meanie the entire time.

But this last email correspondence …. is really the last straw.

I don’t advertise. I haven’t had to because word gets out and I get a lot of referrals. I love this. Mainly because people have seen my work, they like what they see and they would like me to do something similar for them.

But this can backfire, too. Sometimes people expect me to give them the same deal I gave someone else and due to the nature of what I do and the people I deal with, this is a gray area. There are often times I do something for someone because I owe them a favor, or they have been a long-time client of mine so I offer a discount, etc. etc.

This email started out great. They had seen my work on another website of mine and wanted me to do something for their website. But they needed to leave their web host, transfer their domain name and get copies of their files because their previous web master was no where to be found. (Shame on you).

So, I offered to help them make the transfer … and neglected to quote a price because I felt sorry for them. It sounds like they got quite a run-around with their previous web master.

It didn’t dawn on me, until after I made the offer, what I had done and what I HADN’T done.

*sigh* I’m such an idiot.

But I couldn’t back out because I honor what I say and I figured, oh well, I’ll consider this an investment toward the price of obtaining another project, right?

Wrong.

Weeks went by and I didn’t hear anything from these people. I just figured they had found someone else to help them out and I stored the emails in the appropriate folder and moved on.

And then, out of the blue. I received an email. It listed their situation, what they needed from me and oh yeah, they had decided not to obtain my services after the transfer was complete – they were going to train someone to do the job.

*blink*

The way I see it, I have two options: 1). quote them a price to help them make the transfer, or 2). shuffle my current work schedule around, expend time and energy setting up accounts and making phone calls for them all for free.

And with no promise of future work from them.

I have to say, I’m pretty irritated with my choices here. I suppose I should be grateful that they were honest with me upfront as opposed to letting me go through all of the work and THEN say, “Oh by the way, thanks, but we don’t need you anymore. Have a nice day!”

Again, this is entirely my fault. I’m just not firm enough when I deal with people. I tend to read between the lines and feel sorry for people.

Now, I’m in an awkward situation and I have no one to blame but myself.

Catching My Breath

Karen is very tired. She has been working, nonstop, for the past five days on her newest project. It was a large project. A whopper, in fact.

(Karen hopes that her readers do not think she means the edible kind of whopper).

Karen has spent a lot of time and effort tweaking and perfecting this high school website.

Kickapoo High School

And it’s still not done. But actually, she wonders, are websites EVER really done?

She thinks not.

But it’s a good tired. It’s a she-built-something-really-attractive-and-it’s-helping-people-out-sort of tired – and she is satisfied.

And she has received many thanks from many different people. And even though the gratitude embarrasses Karen, she would be lying if she didn’t admit – she sort of likes people gushing all over her.

Verbally, that is.

And she has had lots of fun. Lots and lots of fun building the high school website.

For you see, high schools are challenging. There is SO much information that needs to be shared that sorting all of that information into cohesive, digestible chunks is quite challenging to display in an organized electronic manner. Karen’s websites are simple. She does not, nor has any interest, in building fancy-smancy websites that require crazy graphics or flash movies. She prefers her websites to be functional, yet attractive. She would rather build a website that informs it’s visitors as opposed to burning the retinas of it’s visitors.

She knows that people’s time? Is valuable. And most people do not have time to wait for cutesy, sophisticated graphics to load before they get to the meat of their search – the information the website contains.

And so, Karen’s websites are straight forward, yet elegant. Informative, yet entertaining – on a more subtle level, you see.

*pause*

*another long pause*

Alright, enough with the third-person talk. Is that not annoying or what?! I have a blog in my Google reader that reads like the above. It’s all in third person and I have to tell you, I’m on the verge of deleting the blog from my reader because it annoys the ever-loving shit out of me. (Sorry, but I’m quite cranky).

I mean, what is up with the third-person journal? Not only is it EXTREMELY annoying to read, but it automatically distances your readers from you. It’s like your living your life, on the outskirts – not really participating but rather an observer.

How lame is that? If you write your blog this way, I’m sorry, but I don’t get it. Why? Can anyone tell me how writing in third person, in a journal, about YOUR LIFE, is a good thing? Because I’m seriously curious to hear your answers.

But anyway…

Getting back to the website design thing. Yes. I’ve been really busy these past days. Things are settling down now and I can breathe for the first time … in a while. I’m seriously excited about this website because I truly think it’s going to help the school, overall, improve it’s public image. I also think it may stir up some school spirit with the students and teachers, too. After all, the more information that is made available, the more people know about it and the more people want to get involved.

Right?

I also gave my Write From Karen blog a face lift. (Did you notice?) This is my fall template. I plan on changing it to a Christmas template at the end of November and then I’m going to try and put a template together that I can live with all year long so I can concentrate my energies on designing things for other people and my writing.

I’m seriously thinking about hiring a cartoonist to make me a customized header. I have one in mind, thanks to my good pal Dale (thanks Dale!). He’s very reasonable (the cartoonist that is, though I’m sure Dale is reasonable, too) and I like his work. I’ll link to him soon – I don’t want to jinx anything at this point.

My brother-in-law is also an artist. And I’ve thought about asking him to do a caricature of me, but I haven’t worked up the nerve to ask him yet. AND, I’m sort of afraid of what he might come up with. My big nose? Pretty much a given, but I can only imagine what other characteristics he might exaggerate. πŸ™‚

I’m splitting my websites in half. I plan on having one website devoted strictly to school and small business websites and one strictly for blog templates and blog components (buttons, banners, etc). I think it will be easier for me to keep track of project requests that way.

Of course, I’ve been talking about doing something like this for like, forever, so who knows when it’ll actually happen.

In the meantime, I’m accepting more website clients if you’re looking for a designer. I’m REALLY easy to get along with and I’m pretty cheap – much cheaper then you probably think. So, if your parent/teacher organization needs a website, I’ve got four years experience in designing, AND maintaining school websites. Again, I like to keep things simple, so if you’re looking for a lot of flashy stuff, then I’m probably not the designer for you.

In case you’re curious, here are some other websites I’ve done:

Disney Elementary
Cherokee Middle School
Pershing Middle School
Wilder Elementary
Wanda Gray Elementary School
Glendale High School
Kickapoo High School (most recent)
Ozarks Regional YMCA (the YMCA people did the flash stuff)
Freedom Financial Inc.
Midnite Thunder (rock band)

If you’re interested in a website, contact me! I don’t bite (normally – *grin* – I’m kidding! I’m actually very nice!)

Argh, I need a nap. It’s HARD WORK being creative.

It’s All in the Design


(This week’s header – you can find an example of how this looks here. I call this “Graffiti”).

I spent the majority of yesterday exploring wordpress.com’s back room. I paid them $15 for the right to customize my CSS (if you haven’t noticed, I fixed the place up a bit) and had a lot of fun playing around with different looks. I’m a bit simplistic in my designs simply because I’m a firm believer in making the icing on the cake complement the dessert, not detract from it’s moist goodness.

In other words, I think blog templates should be attractive and eye-catching, but not distract from what’s really important, the content.

As a result, my designs are simple and usually pretty straight forward. I love designing fun blog headers and then color coordinating the rest of the blog so that it all ties together.

I’ve mentioned that I miss my old self-hosted wordpress blog, and I do. But I have to be honest with you, wordpress.com has made me feel right at home and there are only a few things I truly miss and wish wordpress.com would implement on their blogs: namely the sticky post feature. I miss the sticky posts. (WordPress people, if you read this, is there anyway you could design a widget for a sticky post? Pretty please?!)

I hadn’t really meant to bring this up right now, but since I’ve sort of muscled my way into it, I’ll share with you a couple of neat tools wordpress.com users can implement on their own blogs.

1. Polls. I used Twiigs as my poll host on my old blog. I loved how their polls were set up and they were easy for visitors to figure out and use. However, wordpress.com blogs do not allow you to embed any type of javascript or flash elements into their blogs, so Twiigs was out. I did a little research and found out that the good folks at Polldaddy converted their poll code so that wordpress.com users could easily insert their polls into their posts and/or sidebars. Hint: After you create your poll in Polldaddy, there will be an option in the right-hand column for wordpress.com users. Click on that and copy/paste that code into your blog. Works like a charm. Thank you PollDaddy! Your generosity has made me a long-time user of your polls.

2. Videos. WordPress.com already automatically converts Youtube videos into acceptable code whenever you copy/paste the embed code into your posts. However, there will be times when you would like to embed a video that’s not hosted through Youtube. That’s where Vodpod.com comes in. Vodpod is an extension for your web browser. You download the extension and it inserts the wordpress “W” icon in your browser toolbar. Whenever you come across a video that you would like to embed into your wordpress.com blog, you simply click on that icon and a pop-up window will walk you through the process. (Make sure your pop-up blocker is turned off). You will have the option of either publishing it right away, or sending it to your blog editor and publishing later. I’ve been using it for the past few weeks and it works like a charm. Thank you Vodpod!

I learned, through my wordpress.com blog experiments, that even though wordpress.com limits what you can and can not do on design, I think this is a good thing overall. I think having too much creative license tends to excite people and they go overboard on the flashy/cluttered design elements: one must be choosy when picking out cool features to post on your blog – too many things becomes overwhelming and slows load times WAAAY down. Visitors won’t generally stick around and wait two minutes for your page to load. I know I don’t.

I think wordpress.com gives people just the right amount of control so that they can personalize their blogs, but not so much that they get carried away and slow things down for the rest of the people on the server. Yet another “bravo” to wordpress.com. I truly love you guys.

Okay, so enough with the gushing praise … πŸ˜€

The real reason behind this post is to share a few of the banners I’ve been working on. I’ve taken some of the graphics that I purchased from istockphoto.com and have (hopefully) turned them into fun and unique banners for someone to use on their blogs. These banners can be customized into any size and/or into any font desired. If you would like one of these banners, just send me the exact size of your banner for your template and I’ll convert it.

Three things:

1. These banners are for sale. You can find a break down of the prices here. This would explain why the ugly “writefromkaren.com” lines are all over the banner because it’s not fair to me, or to the graphic artist, to steal it without paying for it.

2. When I purchased these graphics from istockphoto.com, I purchased a license that gave me the right to play around with said graphic for promotional purposes. Considering I’d like to sell the banners I create with said graphics, I will have to purchase the graphic from istockphoto.com again – the cost of the graphic will be passed onto the client and will be included in the overall price of the header.

3. I’m only selling banners at this time. However, if wordpress.com users would be willing to pay wordpress.com $15 to customize their CSS (this license fee is good for 12 months), then I can certainly customize the CSS to color-coordinate with the banner.

In essence, I’m selling blog templates, but on a more elemental level. WordPress.com doesn’t allow it’s users to manipulate the actual template elements, only the way it looks. But if you don’t know what you’re doing, manipulating the CSS code can be a bit intimidating.

I’m getting my feet wet with wordpress.com blogs right now. I will be offering customized templates for self-hosted wordpress blog users very soon and Blogspot users in the near future.

If you would be interested in seeing what type of banners I’ve made and am currently working on (the page will be constantly evolving as I add new banners) you can check them out here. Details on how to purchase these banners are also on this page (I go through PayPal).

If you have any questions/comments/suggestions, please feel free to email me (my email addy is in the sidebar). If you’re interested in a website, I do those, too. You can check out my professional website here. (I specialize in school websites).

Thanks for humoring me – designing is near and dear to my heart so you can probably anticipate more design talk in the future. πŸ™‚

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(By the way, if anyone would like a Twitter button like the one I made above, just email me [email addy in sidebar] and I’ll be happy to make one for you, FREE!)