Resume Writing: Putting it all Together

Having written a few posts addressing common issues for first time or teenage resume writers, I thought it might be good to wrap up the short series with a few tips to help tie everything together.

Before you start writing: First, a huge heads up before I provide any more specific tips. A first time or teenage resume writer might be tempted to embellish or invent details for the resume, but this is a very bad idea. Employers have ways of finding out if you have lied in any way on your resume, so make sure every detail you include is the absolute truth. 

That said, here are some other handy tips:

  • Your contact information should always be placed at the top of the resume, and should include your name, address, phone number, and email address. A professional email address is best, so if yours is anything like partygirl99@hotmail.com, you should create another, more appropriate address for your job search.
  • In your education section, it is a good idea to include your graduation date, i.e. Class of 2018.
  • When writing about your experience, whether work or volunteer, be sure to start each bullet point with a strong, active verb. Examples include maintained, organized, developed, etc.
  • The expected headings on a resume are education and experience (work and / or volunteer), but many others are possible. You might consider: skills, leadership experience, research experience, writing experience, computer experience, objectives, leadership, related coursework, etc. Choose the headings that best represent what you have to offer.

A few more things to keep in mind:

  • Always proofread your resume; you would not want to be removed from the running due to a careless typo or other mistake. Also, have someone else you trust read the document. They might be able to find mistakes you missed in your own proofreading.
  • Have multiple copies of your resume available: on paper, on a flash drive, and in your email. You never know when you might need one.
  • Update your resume often. Add new experiences, activities and clubs while you are still involved in them; this will help you to remember the relevant details more easily.
  • Be conscious of what you have posted on your social media accounts, like Facebook and Twitter. Employers can check these, so make sure you have updated your privacy settings, and have removed anything that could reflect poorly on you from your accounts. Or better yet, don’t post questionable or controversial content in the first place.

Whether you are writing a resume for a summer job, an internship, or co-op placement, these tips can help you craft the best document to help you land the position.

Career Studies Upgrades on the Way

The province of Ontario has recently introduced a plan to update and improve the current Grade 10 career studies course. Key to these changes are a focus on financial and digital literacy, as well as an expansion of hands-on learning opportunities.

The new course is slated to start in September 2018, and will also have students learning about career pathway planning, and innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship.

The province also plans to increase hands-on learning opportunities, and every board will hire a new coordinator, whose role will be to expand learning opportunities with community partners, for all grades, courses and programs, from kindergarten all the way to adult learners.

First of all, I think this is excellent news for a few reasons. Experts have long been saying that financial literacy needs to be taught in schools so it is encouraging to see it being addressed here. Also, as more and more of our lives shift to online platforms, being digitally literate becomes more crucial, so I think including that is another step in the right direction.

I am also very glad to see an expansion of hands-on learning opportunities, as I’ve long believed that one of the best ways to learn about a possible career is to observe it first-hand. Co-op, job shadowing and bringing in guest speakers to share the realities of various jobs are all great ways to expose students to the many potential career paths they can take.

Along with all of my positive thoughts around these upgrades, I do have some reservations as well. First of all, I’m wondering what exactly is meant by “innovation and creativity.” These terms are quite broad, and it isn’t immediately evident to me how these will be applied to career development. It’s one thing to use industry buzzwords to bolster interest in the initiative, and another thing to apply those terms in a concrete way.  I will be curious to find out what that will look like in this upgraded course.

My other concern has to do with the actual rollout of this new course. I think it’s great that so many people will be hired to implement these new initiatives, but I wonder how consistent their efforts will be. Will there be some standard each coordinator is held to, or will they be able to do whatever they feel is best for their board regardless of what the other coordinators are doing? The potential pitfall is that there could be a disparity between what some boards are able to achieve, as compared to other boards. Only time will tell how this works, with more information to come as the new course is introduced.

So, kudos to the province for their efforts to update the information provided to students. Here’s hoping the rollout is smooth, and the students benefit from a much stronger career studies course. It’s a good step in the right direction, if done well.

 

 

A Hard Look at Soft Skill Development

Previously, I wrote about the fact that our high schools are not doing a good enough job of helping students develop the soft skills they will need to succeed in the workplace. I also noted that many HR professionals believe that making some changes to existing high school curriculum, and providing more experiential learning opportunities (i.e. volunteering or co-op), could help to address this problem. However, I wondered how students could even obtain such positions, if soft skills are important in the search for them.

I would first suggest that we start when children are young. All children can be taught how to communicate clearly,  the importance of being on time to appointments, and how to be courteous and a good team player. Parents and teachers can all play a part in teaching young people these important soft skills, just by working them into every day interactions. It needn’t be a difficult process, and it would go a long way to ensuring students’ success, not just in the workplace, but in life in general.

I think for too long now, students have been coddled and treated with kid gloves, in the misguided belief that this will preserve their self-esteem. I noted in the previous post how many times, students are not held accountable for turning in schoolwork late, or for repeatedly being late to class. By allowing them to get away with such behaviours, we miss out on the chance to help them develop useful soft skills, and to become more responsible people, and thus, more valuable workers.

Once students are accustomed to using soft skills in their school life and at home, they will be better positioned to obtain volunteering and co-op positions when they reach high school age. Their interviews will have a greater chance of going smoothly, since they will be better able to communicate and interact with the decision makers they will encounter. This strategy has the best chance of success if we start teaching our children from an early age, and not leaving it until it might be too late.

What do you all think? What is your take on the soft skills question? I’d love to hear from you!

The Problem with Soft Skills

According to a survey from the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) in Toronto, our high schools are not adequately preparing students for the workplace; in fact, 42% of respondents reported that these young people are lacking the necessary soft skills required for entry-level work.

Perhaps before I go any further with this, I should define what exactly hard and soft skills are, as some people are not clear on the difference. Hard skills are those that are required to perform a job successfully; these skills are often included in the requirements for a job, and are those that can be acquired through formal education and training programs. Examples of hard skills are web design, accounting, typing and mathematics. Soft skills on the other hand, are attributes and personality traits that are not quantifiable like hard skills are. Soft skills include things like leadership, empathy, and communication, all things which are very hard to teach in a formal setting. Both hard and soft skills are required for success in the workplace, which is why this survey is so interesting.

According to the results, the top three soft skills that are lacking are problem-solving (cited by 62% of respondents), attention to detail (cited by 56%), and interpersonal / teamwork skills (48% of respondents chose this). Where this becomes really interesting however, is in the fact that 70.7% of respondents felt that changes to high school curriculum could help students gain the skills they are currently lacking. But, I just noted above that soft skills are very difficult to teach in a formal educational setting. How then, can this be reconciled?

I would suggest that part of the reason for the lack of soft skills stems from the lowering of standards that is becoming more prevalent in our schools. I hear more and more that secondary students are often not held accountable for turning work in on time, and that communication and writing standards are on the decline, with text speak and poor grammar becoming more common. In my own work with college students,  I witnessed first-hand the lack of soft skills every day. I was an employment advisor, who met one-on-one with students to provide them with help on job search skills and resume writing. I can’t even count how many times students would not show up for their appointments, and never let me know they would not be in, or who could not communicate to me what their goals were or what kind of work they were interested in. In many cases, I also noticed a lack of initiative and a failure to take responsibility for the students’ own learning. All of these things speak to the problem with soft skills that I have been discussing.

Whatever the reason for the missing skills, the HRPA did suggest a possible solution to the problem. Respondents overwhelmingly felt that if schools provided more opportunities for experiential learning, the issue might be improved. Examples of experiential learning include co-ops and volunteer experiences.

But, herein lies a conundrum. How can a student obtain one of these positions to improve their soft skills, when soft skills are necessary to land the opportunity in the first place? Hmm. Seems like a good topic to explore in a future blog post. Stay tuned for my thoughts!

*See the survey at http://www.hrreporter.com/recruitment-and-retention/33644-high-schools-failing-to-provide-foundational-soft-skills-survey