#keywords #resumes #gettingnoticed

I don’t know about you, but lately I’m feeling #hashtagged2death. Despite its social media inception being as far back as 2006, it seems that the hashtag recently overtook not just the Internet at large, but pop culture in general. It is everywhere – T-shirts, television shows, bumper stickers – and when paired with some of the social media acronym trends, mediums like Twitter feeds, Facebook updates and Instagram posts can sometimes seem like a whole new language. (I will admit I Googled #yolo when it first took over my social hashtagyourlife-1024x768media feed and I once asked my 14-year-old niece what #tbt meant on Instagram. It’s hard to keep up!)

Admittedly though, hashtags are useful, in that they cleverly group together a myriad of thoughts and musings from different people centered on a single topic. I’ve been known to use them in my own postings, but more often use them to gather information. When Superstorm Sandy hit about a year ago and I was worried about family and friends at the Jersey Shore, I found myself compulsively monitoring my Twitter feed for any post that had #sandy attached to the end. When I participate in Tweet Chats for work, hashtags are a great way to communicate virtually and share ideas with other Career Services professionals all over the country. And I didn’t even have to watch this year’s VMAs to know that Miley instantly became the most popular Halloween costume of 2013 (#twerkortreat). In a sense, social media has turned into a series of keywords and I just have to pay attention, or at least be a good guesser, to find the information I want in one single feed.

Keywords, keywords…why does that sound so familiar? Ah yes! It’s the resume tip that we, as an office, stress to students #every #single #day. When you are applying for a particular job or internship, include keywords in your resume. We review mounds (literally mounds – just look at my desk) of resumes each week and, more often than not, students have not tailored their resumes for a particular job or internship. You must tailor your resume for a particular job or internship. Now, that’s not to say you should ditch your generic resume to guide you through each application, but when you have that specific position that interests you, your resume submitted should be geared directly to that role using keywords throughout the page. Recruiters spend an average of 6 seconds scanning your resume, so you want keywords that are highly visible and eye-catching.

Tip: Every single job opportunity gives you a “cheat sheet” right there in the job description. Make sure you take advantage! Keep in mind you’ll want to incorporate the keywords while ensuring accuracy and integrity in your resume (don’t just copy and paste line items from the job description and then hope you can explain your way out of your fabrication when you are called in for an interview – that would result in a definite #fail). But if a company is looking for a particular skill that may be buried deep in your resume, pull it out and make it front and center, even if it wasn’t a main component of your role. Recruiters are looking for evidence that you can do the job based on your previous experience.  In a way, think of keywords as hashtags – if you don’t “tag” it, your resume won’t get pulled into the recruiter’s “feed” and will instead just float out there in the black hole of cyberspace. (Disclaimer: Please don’t actually incorporate hashtags into your resume. I would like to keep my job.)

Don’t forget, Career Services is here to help you 5 days a week. In addition to appointments, mock interviews, our online resources and our Career Services Library, we do offer a resume critiquing service for FREE (for both current students and alumni), so please be sure to get your resume reviewed by an advisor in the near future. Contact the Career Services team that serves your school to set that up.

Good luck as you navigate your career path! #BFN (That’s “Bye for now!” – Googled that one, too!)

Don’t Follow this Advice

Dr. Joseph Barber

I was reading this blog post the other day, and found the content to be quite interesting and useful. Well…, all except for the sentence in the final paragraph that stated:

“However, do not seek the advice of career services at your university (the topic of a column in this space in the future)”

While I appreciate the idea of cliffhangers to keep readers interested in future articles, this one seems unnecessarily negative and unhelpful – especially since I work at Career Services and think you should come and see us. It is a little like saying:

“…and whatever you do, do not drink hot drinks on a cold day – and I’ll tell you why in two weeks”

You are left imagining all of the horrible situations that might arise if you do. Are hot drinks going to melt my insides, make my teeth shatter, or will they just happen to fog up my glasses momentarily when I take a sip? A little context would be helpful.

I don’t know why the author suggests that you shouldn’t visit Career Services (don’t follow this advice!). There may be some very good reasons if the Career Services office at a particular university does not have a team focusing specifically on graduate students and postdocs, like we do here at Penn. Advice for a cover letter for an undergraduate-level consulting position and advice for an faculty job cover letter will be very different, and advice given for the former may not always be relevant to the latter. The wrong advice is perhaps worse than no advice at all in this case.

Staff members at Penn’s Career Services do work directly with graduate students on their academic job search materials. We often partner with other university student services, like the Center for Teaching and Learning, in our workshops and programming. We utilize Penn faculty and other Penn alumni in faculty roles at other institutions to provide their perspective in our speaker discussion panels. Our staff also includes one of the authors of the Academic Job Search Handbook!

So, definitely come to Career Services. However, take the advice that we give you under your own advisement. That is, we are not telling you what you must do with your application materials, your answers to interview questions, or your offer negotiations. We are providing advice based on our own professional and personal experiences that have been gained from a variety of different sources, including working with many, many students/postdocs who have been in the same position you are in today.

You will get some conflicting advice. Given that there is no one way to format a CV, for example, you’ll get some people telling you to order the sections in one way, another suggesting just the opposite, and someone else telling you to forget about ordering the sections and to focus on the size of your margins instead. Different advice from difference people with different personal experiences will always be a little conflicting, and it is OK to be initially confused.

As a researcher, your business is processing large amounts of information and being able to identify relevant patterns and themes to the argument you are making. Make sure that you use the same approach when you are seeking advice about your future careers. If a Career Services advisor makes one suggestion, but your thesis advisor makes a different one, you will need to weigh up your options. Each discipline has its own peculiar conventions when it comes to submitting applications. You may want to follow those as much as possible. A Career Services advisor might not come from your specific discipline, but will have reviewed many, many differently formatted CVs from across disciplines, and will have identified best practices to share.

I have seen CVs used successfully to get academic interviews that I would have covered in red ink if I were doing a critique. Obviously, I am not the final word in what is deemed good or bad. It helps to realize that this final word rests with the ultimate user group in the job application process, the individuals who read your applications and determine from their personal and professional perspectives whether they like it or not.

If you are going to take anyone’s advice, take theirs. Unfortunately, they don’t regularly give advice on these sorts of things, and so you will have to gather advice from multiple other sources and decide which is the most relevant for your unique applications – and remember, each application should be tailored so that it is unique.

You are the ultimate arbiter of the advice, suggestions, and feedback you receive. I would recommend seeking out as much information from as many people as possible to be in the position to make an informed decision about what you feel is useful information. That means you should come and visit us at Career Services…., and reach out to Penn alumni (and here too)…, and speak with your thesis advisor or PI…, and read helpful blogs like this.

Just don’t follow all of the advice you are given – you’ll be glad that you did…, or didn’t…, wait, now I’m confused.