October brought together all the things I love - family, work, and friends. In addition to the usual teaching and meetings, many other things happened this month. As I write this post, I now understand why my office nook looks like it needs an overhaul, but I'm well into November, which is turning into an equally busy and great month.
Here's what happened in October beyond the usual:
At the beginning of the month, Mason turned 11.
We tried to have a family party Minecraft style, thanks to The Party Animal Blog.
Workshop time! Students who wanted to jump start their job searches prepped for the Engineering Job Fair
Students attended a workshop that I gave to jump start their job searches. This year, we talked about how students could use their college years to prepare for finding meaningful work after college.
The students studying professional writing at UMaine have developed a system that works. Every person who follows this system seems to find a job. Each attendee received the bones for creating a career management notebook as well as resume and cover letter writing tips.
I am thinking of writing an online course that would be an extended version of this workshop for anyone who is interested in how to prepare a resume and cover letter, how to use the last year or two of school effectively to prepare for the job market, and how to interview.
Many universities offer some version of a business & technical writing course that I teach. At my university, I am the coordinator of all sections of this course, as well as an engineering version of this course, and these courses serve approximately 1,250 students annually.
But more importantly than that, I work with a group of students who go onto the job market each year, and I watch them get jobs. I also participate in their college education when they are asking questions about resume writing (and paying attention to the answers this time). Instead of preparing a resume for class, they are preparing the one (or two) that matters.
Together, we discovered that the resume advice written 20 years ago may not apply right now. Or, the resume advice needed right now isn't located in any textbook. The problem is that textbooks and tradebooks have not updated resume guidelines.
For instance, we love to teach a section on the "scannable" resume, but who uses this kind of resume? As my son might say, "Who cares about it anyway?" Research shows that companies really don't, for the most part, and even if they do, no one knows when to send a scannable resume vs. a regular resume. Why not make one resume and stop talking about the "scannable" nonsense?
Second, resumes aren't sent to employers via mail much anymore, so how do employers receive them? Many resumes are read on-screen first, so shouldn't we write a resume that is screen friendly?
I decided to try to answer the question: What are best practices for resume writing in 2013?
For advice, I turned to research about how people read on screens as well as research about what employers want.
My findings are reported in an article, "Updating Best Practices: Applying On-Screen Reading Strategies to Résumé Writing,", which is now online and will be published in Business Communication Quarterly. I chose to send this article to BCQ because researchers in business communication and technical communication read this journal. I appreciate the reviewers and the editors at BCQ as well as the production team for working with me on this article.
During the final editing process, an editor—even after having read this article many times—made a change on one of my resume examples. I chuckled when I saw the suggested edit because it confirmed what I found when I started this project: What we believe to be true about resume writing is ingrained and automatic. I pointed out the error and I hope the editor chuckled, too. It’s difficult to change something we have believed for our entire professional careers.
One of my reviewers said I’m going to make some people in technical and business communication angry because I cite textbook pages and authors’ names. But I hope these authors think of this as a collective miss. All of us--faculty in technical communication, faculty in business communication, career centers, trade publishers offering books about resumes--we all teach resume writing as if we are on auto-pilot, and my point is that we need to re-evaluate the resume writing practices that have become outdated as technology changes.