Laura Pelcher, a member of the Linguists Outside Academia community, has organized another resume workshop for our community! We did one of these a few years ago and it was a tremendous success. Great participation, and folks expressed that they learned a great deal both by giving and receiving feedback!
To get in on the fun, head on over to Linguists Outside Academia and find the discussion thread (for reference, I have reposted her introduction below)
Looking back at a blog post I wrote about looking back for this TBT!
Guest blog post for Beyond the Professoriate:
For all of us who have been trained as PhDs, such deliberate tracing back and reflecting on the links between our training and our work helps us to connect with meaning. Asking ourselves, “What makes me be good at this?” helps us to better understand our strengths, which helps us to better use them. When we make the conscious effort to remind ourselves why we care about the things that we care about, it can help us find the energy to do the aspects of the work that might be less than thrilling, or to work to recreate our jobs so that these tasks change, or work to create a career that involves a job change!
Getting to where you are going next begins with knowing where you are. Such navigation is essential for job-seekers and job-havers alike as we are all ALWAYS traveling on a path and moving forward.
I am a linguist, and for me, linguistics is ultimately about recognizing patterns, understanding how patterns express themselves. Beyond the Professoriate is a place to chase down patterns like how training in something like ethnography can show up in very different ways in very different kinds of work down the road. This is why I always ask of my interviewees for the “professional paths in Linguistics” section of my blog Career Linguist things like “how do your skills and training in linguistics show up in your work?” I try to get at least three answers.
What would it look like to think about every task that you do as part of your job as contributing to something that you find meaning in? This might take a few steps, or what we improvisational theater performers might call “and because of that’s.”
- Where’s the meaning in that?
- This process helps us to better understand how much money we spend.
- Where’s the meaning in that?
- This process helps us to see how much money we have left
- Where’s the meaning in that?
- This helps us to think about how we want to spend the money we have left
- Where’s the meaning in that?
- This helps us to more intentionally do the work of…(fill in the blank for the mission of your org)
Here’s to what comes next!!
If you want both your resume and cover letter to be heard by your audience, use your reading and listening to learn about the organization’s style of writing. Mirror this style in your materials. One thing that you may choose to listen for in particular might be the stories that they tell. What do they talk about, how are stories framed? What positions are taken up?
Verbify! While we know there is much more in the toolkit to draw from, resume experts continue to be very excited about VERBS!! They have convinced all of us that we need and want to hear active verbs in this genre, and there is probably great reason for this. A verb like “helped with social media campaign” doesn’t tell us HOW you helped or WHY. It obfuscates and hides your contribution and basically only communicates to your reader that you were present while such activities were taking place. Even if you were a low-ranked person on the team, there probably were contributions that you made which are indicative of your knowledge, skills and abilities. Thus “conducted social media research to support social media strategy” or “advised on website design based on principles of visual communication” or “edited messaging content for persuasive effectiveness” all work much more powerfully than “helped” does.
Some great sources for Action Verbs for your resume:
- 185 powerful verbs that will make your resume awesome (from the Muse.com)
- Action Verbs for Resumes (from the Career Center at Wake Forest)
- Action Verbs — By Skills Categories (from Quint Careers)
Quantify! As social scientists, we may be ready, willing and able to tackle both the quantitative and qualitative realms, but resumes exist firmly within the quantitative. Put yourself in that mindset when you are creating your resume and ask yourself when you make any statement: “can that be quantified?” Rather than say “Taught English” how many students did you teach, and how often? How were they evaluated? Were there any measurable outcomes that resulted from your work? Not all of these questions can or should be answered of course, but detail is always a good thing.
Support your claims! We know that you do not make any claim without supporting it. This is no less true of a resume than it is of a research paper. Make sure that you support any claim that you make with supportable evidence. So if your resume says that you are a skilled communicator, give examples of situations in which you effectively communicated (and not to be meta, but your resume best sing if this is one of the claims that you are making for yourself). Any piece of writing will be evaluated for its style, clarity and effectiveness, especially a resume, and especially if you claim to be a good writer, effective communicator, or design specialist!
Pay it forward! These skills are useful in writing resumes, and they are also extremely valuable when you are asked to evaluate a resume. I am a firm believer in paying it forward when it comes to the job search. Offer to read and provide feedback on someone else’s resume and cover letter. I promise you that you will learn something about your own in the process!
In thinking through the changes that are happening to resumes (and the contexts in which this document is typically encountered), Hymes’ SPEAKING grid mnemonic provides a means for capturing and organizing some of the more salient developments.
S – setting
P – participants
E – ends
A – acts
K – key
I – instrumentalities
N – norms
G – genre
Major changes have been witnessed at the levels of Participants and considerations at the level of Instrumentalities, specifically that while the vast majority of resumes used to be mailed, now they are often shared electronically, often by a mutual acquaintance via e-mail. Not only does it now become crucial to think about how a resume is experienced via a screen (including choices including use of white space, amount of text, placement, number and ordering of bullets, as well as layout generally will all be experienced differently on a screen than in printed form), formatting may get altered through dissemination or uploading to a resume or job bank.
Use of Keywords reflects another shift in use of resumes influenced by technology, which is that the first “person” who reads your resume nowadays may in fact be a computer, who has been programmed to search for and calculate the use of particular words. Years ago, with technological limitations, it used to be understood that applicant tracking systems would only search the first 100 words of a resume. This led to resume writers cramming in as many keywords at the very beginning as possible. Nowadays, such technological limitations no longer apply, and resume creators spread keywords throughout the document. This has changed the formatting of the summary or overview section, which now rather than giving a “career objective” or “keywords” list at the top of a resume as used to be found. As it is now used, this section serves as way to help actively “frame” experience for those who read it, especially for those candidates who do not want to have their experience be read strictly chronologically. Another option that a resume creator has in this regard is moving from a strictly chronological format to one that is more functional – or hybrid.
Practices are shifting so radically in fact with technology, that some employers do not even want to see a resume nowadays. They may impact Acts in that a job advertisement now may request simply that you forward a link to your LinkedIn profile rather than resume and cover letter. This change in fact may be so transformative that years down the road there might not even be such a thing as a resume any more. To think about this development in terms of Norms and the focus of this chapter, that of the shift in deictic center, would be to recognize that when the message cannot be targeted to the specific audiences that has come to be the central practice of creating a resume. Norms of length may shift as well as LinkedIn profiles tend to be a great deal longer than any one resume, which may impact Key.
In fact, the collection of activities surrounding asking for a job may shift so much that the Genre itself may even become a thing of the past. However, regardless of the changes that have been observed, and will not doubt continue to be observed at these levels the Ends of a resume, at least for the person creating it is likely to endure. However, remember that your ultimate Ends here are very different from those of your potential employer. You want a job. They want to be sure not make a hiring mistake. Use your resume to reassure them.
Again, we return to the idea that a resume is a conversational interaction. Shifting your deictic center means anticipating these questions in the mind of your reader.
Resume: A revised, peer-reviewed process!
There are many conceptual metaphors which are useful for thinking about a resume (and many excellent guides for working on resumes, and I encourage you to consult them freely. Some of my favorites are: Gallery of Best Resumes and No Nonsense Resumes). But I am an academic, and the conceptual metaphor that I am going to be using with you here is that of a research paper. I like this metaphor because it makes you think about process. Hopefully, you never hand in a research paper that has not been edited, revised and peer-reviewed many times.
Thinking about the writing process generally, I have heard from many writers and editors that there are three phases. First, the goal is to just get all of the ideas out of your head and down on the page, the next step is to make the words pretty, and then a final round of revisions helps you to make the words really say what it is that you want them to say. I suggest that these steps are tremendously useful in thinking about drafting a resume as well.
Getting the ideas on the page
The first step will be just to get the ideas down which often is the hardest step because experiencing work is very different from describing it, and communicating what its impact has been, especially if we haven’t been doing it very long, or are too busy doing it now. Note: As with any writing project, you want to write a resume in pieces, out of order. Write whatever feels the easiest to write about at the moment, describing one aspect of your duties on a particular job for example. This activity might help you think about the details of another job, or a particular education exercise that helped stimulate your interest in this subject. You may wish to create a series of folders that contain elaborated descriptions of each job, experience, etc.
Making it prettier
Is there too much text? Not enough? Different resume guides will say different things about length, but I insist that you work to at least create ONE version of your resume that is one page. When you think about it this way, what information do you choose to leave IN, not leave OUT? What does it look like? Is it symmetrical? Is there white space on the page? When we do this activity in the professional development workshop that I teach at Georgetown, we plug everyone’s resumes into a ppt and look at them from a distance and decide which is the most visually pleasing when we abstract away from content. Then, we zero in and see what exactly that person has done in constructing their experience. Often, it has to do with symmetry. Every job receives 3 bullets of description (whether or not that was “actually” the case if one job really was much more complicated and multifaceted than another one). The point is to present experience, and when it comes to resumes, you best be constructing the experience that you would most want to create for yourself in the context of your new job.
Making it say what you want it to say
Finally, I would suggest going through every bullet of your resume and asking yourself whether or not you have answered all of the “who” “what” “when” “where” and “whys.” A classic example is teaching. Many of us have had experience tutoring or teaching, but certainly none of us had the same experience. And this is a good thing, because it can set you apart, and as such is certainly something you want to be sure to capture in the resume. How many students did you have? What types of learners were they? How often did class meet? Did you design the curriculum / administer the exams? Were there any measurable outcomes? Did you improve the test scores of your students? Give as many examples as you can!
Think about this example:
“When I was a graduate teaching assistant, I took the initiative to create an online database for organizing teaching resources identifying websites and videos about sociolinguistics, cataloguing them in an intuitive user-designed interface.”
Now, as I just sat here and wrote that example, I realize that it exemplifies perfectly the need for quantification. These descriptions could mean more if you knew how big this database is, how many people used it, how it was accessed, and how often. Were there any measurable outcomes? For example” Making these materials accessible helped the teachers be more efficient and effective in their teaching, and it helped students become more engaged in the topic.”
The reason I particularly like the research paper metaphor is that as researchers, we know that you do not make any claim without supporting it. This is no less true of a resume than it is of a research paper. Make sure that you have supported any claim that you make with evidence. For example, if your resume says that you are a skilled communicator, provide evidence in the form of examples of situations in which you effectively communicated (and not to be meta, but your resume best sing if this is one of the claims that you are making for yourself).
I am often asked whether or not a resume needs to be one page long, and while yes, I personally do think that any resume you send to an employer should be no more than one page long, the goal is really that of being as smart as possible with a limited amount of space. There are many conceptual metaphors for resumes, but one that I would like to play with here is that of packing a suitcase.
Think about how satisfying it is when you get your packing just right! You spent the time to be really thoughtful about where you were going and the kinds of things you were going to need while you were there. You found items that could do double – duty (be dressed up / dressed down), you found that great pair of shoes that can be worn for many activities, but also don’t take up much space. You were creative enough to combine variety with practicality so you have something for every occaision, but you are not bored to tears at the sight of all the items in the suitcase by the end of the trip.
It has taken me many years (and many poorly packed suitcases) to learn the importance of not bringing too much with me. Having too much impedes my ability to travel well. The suitcase becomes too heavy and hard to manoever, you cannot find anything when you do try to open it up, you even forget that you have things because they are buried down in the bottom. So too with a resume. Less is more!
And of course, at the same time, there are certainly certain basic things that can’t be done without. So what are these items in a resume?
Active Verbs – all of the resume guides exhort readers to find “kicking” verbs and yes, I am going to have to add my voice to say that verbs like “helped” or “taught” really do not do what you need them to do in a resume. They do not go far enough. Who What When Where Why How did you help? Who What When Where Why How did you teach? (How many students did you have? Who designed the materials? How often did class meet? etc. etc. etc.) Also, do not forget to put your SOQs on – support every claim you make!
Referring Expressions (how the speaker chooses to refer to the other people and things in the story world), can reveal information about the speaker’s attitude toward these referents. So you can choose to go out of your way to explain terms that might be opaque like “intertextuality,” making an effort on behalf of reader, or you may choose to not define the term or use more descriptive language like “the relationships among texts” you may wish to show that you assume your reader to be familiar with this concept and you might do that for strategic identity construction purposes for the both of you.
Lists – once referring expressions are chosen, how and where they get presented on the page in relation to other terms will construct meaning. For example, given three terms like: reading, writing, editing. These may be ordered or reordered to give meanings such as:
the sequence in which these important work processes occur
the ways in which concepts are related
(i.e. none must be neglected in the process of writing any grant proposal)
or to highlight the primacy of one skill over others
(i.e. positioning editing and reading as comprising the writing process).
The reason this becomes so important is that with a list, something has to come first. And the lists within lists on resumes come together to tell a story.
Space is precious on a resume precisely because it is limited and all of the choices made carry meaning. The items that you include, the order in which you present them. Unlike an academic CV where you list each and every talk given, each and every paper published, each and every student mentored, on a resume, deciding to talk about one competency means not describing another. But it is precisely for this reason that the skills of linguistics uniquely prepare us for this task. We know that every linguistic choice carries meaning because to say anything means not saying a variety of things. I return to my linguist’s poem:
A linguist is interested in:
what was said
what you could have said but didn’t
This applies no less to a resume than to any other contextualized use of language. And I am certainly not saying that I pack perfectly every time, but I do know the goal now: I know what a well packed suitcase looks and feels like. The goal is to have a similarly pared down resume, where it is not a question of what to leave out, but of what to leave IN.