Growing up, my mother had a favorite phrase, “common sense ain’t so common.” What can I say, we are from Texas. After spending the past six months reviewing application packets for everything from leadership awards to full time positions, my mother’s little quip has never seemed truer.
While I love the opportunity to interact with so many hopeful and talented individuals, I have worked in career development for over 15 years and there is no way for me to overlook the common, but unfortunate, mistakes that people make.
Last week, when I could feel a rant coming on after receiving a generic resume that included a headshot, I decided to channel my frustration into something productive. I challenged myself to impart some common career sense by providing reality- based tips.
Let’s start at the beginning of the process: submitting your application. The majority of applications received are submitted digitally. There are pros for electronically submitting application packets including the ease of attaching and clicking submit. However this ease can cause people to overlook or neglect some very important factors.
Faux Pas: Being lazy with your submission
Common Career Sense Tip: If you are emailing your application materials, be sure to address your email/cover letter to a specific person. In many cases, it takes no time at all to visit the company or organization’s website and find out who will likely review your resume. Take the time to personalize the submission instead of using a generic and somewhat maddening salutation, such as “Dear Prospective Employer”. I promise you I’m looking at an email submission with this greeting right now and I’m not happy!
Faux Pas: Submitting your information in an unprofessional manner
Common Career Sense Tip: I’m still fuming after receiving an application packet from someone using an inappropriate email display name. If you are submitting career related information with an email address or display name that does not clearly identify who you are, change it now! Ideally, your display name should be your first and last name. Save the cutesy epithets for your personal email address.
At some point, whether it is program admission or a job application, you will have to provide a resume. My resume is probably one of the most personal documents I’ve ever created. It’s me on a page – everything I am proud of and a constant reminder of what I want to achieve in my career. With that said, resumes are personal, but they are developed for a public audience.
Faux Pas: Submitting your resume in a program specific format
Common Career Sense Tip: Submitting your resume as a Word document does not mean that every reviewer will have an easy time opening it or that it will be formatted correctly once it’s opened. A person using the Google Docs may not see the document and formatting you want them to see. If possible, always submit your resume and supporting documents as a PDF.
Faux Pas: Including unnecessary information on your resume
Common Career Sense Tip: Editing your resume does not solely apply to spelling and grammar mistakes. Resumes should be edited for content as well in order to ensure that information included is relevant to the position and company you are applying to. I don’t need to know everything you can do or have done in your past. If you include a skills section on your resume, make sure the skills are relevant to the position you are applying for.
Faux Pas: Selling yourself short on your resume
Common Career Sense Tip: There is no need to discount volunteer experience on your resume. I review resumes on a regular basis that relegate important, professional experience to a “Volunteer” category and use the “Work Experience” category for one or two temporary or low skilled positions simply because money was exchanged for the service provided. Create a broader heading (i.e. professional experience) and promote that “volunteer” experience to the top of the resume.