Getting Ready for the Portland Paddle: Episode 1 – The Resume

A paddle (or paddling): group of ducks.
Portland Paddle: a group of PR Ducks who travel to Portland for informational/mock interviews with professionals in agency, corporate and nonprofit public relations work.

In the spirit of preparing for Portland Paddle, this is the first in a series of posts to help my students, specifically, prepare for the Portland Paddle. But to provide tips for anyone getting ready for a job search.
First up… the resume. Five tips:

1. Start with the basics. There are basic rules that everyone needs to follow. Former Slacker offers these mind blowing tips like: proof-read and follow basic resume formatting guidelines. Some of the author’s tips are personal preference (for example, some firewalls will block unsolicited attachments), but the point is really that you need to know what your resume-receiver prefers.

The Washington Post also had a great article this week, specifically for communication jobs. Maryann Haggarty offers tips like editing (sensing a theme, here?) and watching your verbs. Don’t use gerunds – remember those? tricky little nouns that look like verbs. Rather use the verb form. Ex: rather than “providing,” say “provided.” And don’t be wordy! Phrases like, “I was also responsible for…” take up valuable resume real estate. Using “power words” gets the reader’s attention and help you make your point.

Need more basic tips? Try here, here or here.

2. Organizing your resume. Be strategic about what to include in your resume. For example, according to the ResumePower Blog, if you want to highlight your education, put it before your experience. My personal biases on this topics are many. Yes, you should be proud of your degree, but everyone has a degree. I mean really. A unique double-major might help you stand out. But I still think that unless you really have NO professional experience (shame on you!), there’s no reason put your education at the top. I’m also not a fan of the objective. Duh… of course you want “an entry-level job in public relations that utilizes your education and … blah, blah, blah.”
I do however, like a skills summary section. Highlighting the tangible skills that the employer is looking for in a few bullet points (4 – 6 maximum) at the very top of your resume is very user friendly. The hiring manager can glance at your resume and, in a few seconds, and decide if you deserve further consideration for the job. Back to ResumePower Blog – this is author Kim Isaacs suggestion:

Include an “Expertise” or “Key Skills” section in your resume, and add skills that would be important in the new position. A brief, keyword-rich list of your related skills will help the hiring manager see that you have the skills to do the job.

2. Include all your work experience. Your resume is a snapshot of all your work experience; not just related work experience. I cannot think of a single part-time, hospitality, retail, construction or summer job that would not be appropriate to include. Why on earth would you include that you worked at JCPenney’s, or as a banquet server, a drywall framer or even bucking hay while you went to school? Think about it. As an employer, I’d be interested that you were able to hold a job, show up on time and do a good job. As a side effect, your work history might also tell me that you work well under pressure, are customer (aka client) focused and have the ability to multi-task.

If you’re a recent (or soon-to-be) grad, include your work history during college. As you add public relations experience to the top line, the seemingly unrelated experience will drop off the other end.

3. Be results-oriented. What does that mean? Companies are results-oriented. Showing that you understand the business environment shows that you’re more likely to be a good fit in an organization.

BEFORE – “Wrote, edit and distributed media kit material”
AFTER – “Created media kit material for event and pitched story to local media, resulting in coverage on all local network television stations”

Sometimes it’s difficult to focus on results. But think about how to position your responsibilities as accomplishments and your tasks as results. Use verbs to convey the quality and quantity of your work. How many people attended the event? What was the quality of news coverage? How many speakers bureau presentations did you arrange?

4. What to do about your GPA. If you don’t have over a 3.0, don’t put it on your resume. End of tip. Move along.

5. Does size matter? So the rule of thumb is that your resume should be no more than one page. I think that the quantity and quality of internships and “pre-professional” experiences that students get can mean that you need a two-pager to include everything that’s relevant. As an undergrad, I held six different internships and each was in a different industry. All were short-term, so in addition to my “relevant” experience, I included my other work history – two long-term retail management positions (thank you VoiceStream and Sam Goody).

I always say it’s more important that your resume is easy to read than it is for it to be just one page. I’ll take a 12-point font, clean bulleted listed, plenty of white space resume over a 1/2″ margin, 10-point font version anyday.

So, I think, like most answers in public relations… it depends. It depends on your experiences, it depends on the type of job you’re applying for.

What is the best tip you’ve heard?

Next up, episode 2 – the portfolio.

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