Resumé Appendix

re·su·mé (rěz'-mā', rěz'-mā') n. 1. A brief account of one's professional or work experience and qualifications, often submitted with an employment application. Now, let's go the the unabridged version . . .

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Lessons Learned

Sometimes the truth hurts—especially when it hits you right between the eyes. I'm referring to those times when someone makes a comment intended to either help or insult, and you know that what the person is saying is the truth. It hurts!

Trenchdoc, an emergency medicine physician in South Carolina, writes about such a time when he describes an incident that occurred during his first year of residency ten years ago:

A 4 month old child had been vomiting for days and then became listless. . . . Making things worse, the staff could not get anything right. No one could get an IV and after the seizure they gave the wrong dose of medicine that I ordered and when I wanted to get set up to place the child on a vent it was a bloody nightmare;wrong tube size, wrong laryngoscope, no suction, no monitor leads. The last straw was when I wanted to move the child to the OR quickly. I couldn’t get anyone to help. Clearly this was the most critically ill patient in the ER and everyone seemed to be just sitting on their hands.”

“I cannot candy-coat in hindsight my reaction to the events; I flew into a chart throwing, nurse berating, cursing like a LPGA pro, rage.”

He goes on in “part two” to tell how a kind security guard shared a meal with him, and explained that the nurses hated to work with the young doctor because of his poor attitude:

“[But] ya know Doc, I hate to be the one to tell ya, but ya were a real jackass down there in the ER. . . . Down in the ER with that sick baby, ya made a total jackass out of yasself…. and I know you don’t want to hear it anymore than I feel like tellin ya… but the fact is that the nurses complain about ya being a real jackass to deal with all the time. Hell, I get tired a hearin it.”

Although we hate to admit it, this happens to everyone at one time or another. The question is, do we listen and try to learn and change, or do we become angry and attempt to make excuses to justify our behavior? Even comments made clearly out of malice often have a thread of truth in them; if we don’t take them personally, we can learn valuable lessons.

“Doc, listen… I know how things work around here. I been here a looong time. It is not about the patient, it is about YOU. If they hate YOU then your patient is going to suffer and honestly, I like ya Doc, that is why I am telling you this… ya need to straighten your ass out or they will eat ya alive.”

Trenchdoc listened to the security guard and changed his behavior in the emergency department:

“’I’m sorry if I had to be so honest with ya… but I know ya have come along way working your way through school and all and I know that ya didn’t walk away from the cotton mill just to be some jackass intern, did ya?’

“I was finally able to utter a word, ‘no sir, I sure didn’t’.”

“‘Good, you need to try them maters, put some salt on ‘em.’, and then he quickly turned the conversation to fishing or something, at this point it is difficult to recall exactly.”

“Good tomatoes, but after 10 years I mainly try to remember the crow.”

When was the last time someone criticized your behavior? Was it justified? How did you respond to the criticism?

[Photo credit]

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Between Employers

Years ago, a friend of mine was working for a medium-sized company managing its human resources department. When the company downsized, she was laid-off with a nice severance package which enabled her to take a two year break from employment before earning another paycheck. Because my friend chose not to work for two years, she encountered difficulties while attempting to explain the two year break when she began interviewing with prospective employers. Further, her management experience and other skills were no longer current. My friend had to “prove herself” once again before she could resume her climb up the career ladder.

Is there anything wrong with taking a break after being laid-off? Yes and no, depending on the reasoning behind the break and what a person is doing during the break. Is there anything wrong with employers viewing the “break” negatively? No, the employer is simply trying to find the best person to fill the position.

Unfortunately for her, my friend chose to do nothing to keep her skills current during her break from work, and she failed to provide a compelling reason for taking the break. While taking some time to heal after a lay-off is normal, most employers expect folks to enter into employment again in short order, or have a reasonable explanation for not doing so. Here are some reasonable explanations:

  • Using the time to return to school full-time
  • Taking the break as an opportunity for volunteering and giving back to the community
  • Extensive travel

After an extended break in employment, employers want to know that your skills are current and that you have the ability to maintain a schedule. One of the problems people face when they aren’t employed is the “lack of schedule,” and it can be hard to adapt to a schedule after being away from work. Remember how hard it was to go back to work after your last two week vacation? Imagine trying to adapt after months or years of lacking a schedule! Also, unemployment can lead to depression if one isn't actively engaged in some productive activity. “Recent studies indicate a high percentage of individuals will develop a depressive illness within six months of becoming unemployed. In fact, after relationship difficulties, unemployment is the most likely thing to push someone into a bad depression(Credit).

On the other hand, it is wise to take adequate time to find the “best fit” when seeking a new job. In the past, I have made the mistake of accepting my first employment offer because I felt the need to find a job as quickly as possible. After all, it is hard to take care of a family without a paycheck and/or benefits—even unemployment benefits have an ending point!

I have chosen to take my time in my current search for employment—I want to find the perfect fit for both myself and my future employer. To that end, I have already turned down one offer for employment. So how am I “making ends meet” and eluding depression while I take my time searching? Because I have a background in education, I have chosen substitute teaching as a temporary “career.” Substitute teaching gives me the flexibility to schedule a job interview whenever I have the need and the means to pay the bills when they are due! It also gives me the added satisfaction of touching people’s lives.

You may not have the background necessary to teach, but there are other ways to earn a paycheck during your search for full-time, permanent employment. Available options include contract or “free-lance” employment and temporary employment. IT professionals, health care workers, and writers often prefer to work as contractors. Temporary agencies offer temporary employment opportunities for a range of positions including administrative assistants, accountants, and attorneys. If you are interested in working as a “temp,” check with an agency—this may be just your niche!

Finally, whatever you decide to do while between jobs, do something! Be ready to explain your break from employment and how you spent your time.

How are you keeping busy during your break from employment?

[Photo credits: classifieds]

Sunday, January 7, 2007

The Stress Interview

Doesn't this woman look nice in her red suit with her back pack? I sure hope she isn't on her way to an interview. Further, if she is going to be interviewed, I hope it isn't a "stress interview."

As a senior in college, I applied for a position with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA field operations--sounds cool, doesn't it?). First, I was interviewed locally. Next, I took a lengthy exam (incidentally, ETS, the same company that writes the GMAT, also wrtes this exam). Months later, I was invited to interview in the Washington, D.C. area.

I was excited, ecstatic even. But I was clueless regarding interviewing techniques. Clueless. The three-day session of interviews included the aforementioned "stress interview," and I did indeed wear the "red suit."

So what is a stress interview?

"The stress interview intentionally creates and promotes discomfort. The interviewer may have an abrupt or brash attitude. Alternately, the interviewer may stare, be silent, and spend time taking notes. The purpose of this type of interview is to test the candidate's ability to be assertive and handle difficult situations" (View Credit). My "stress interview" was the textbook version. Not only did the interviewer make obnoxious statements like "I don't think you can handle this position," but he also continually shifted his position--he wouldn't sit still! Even though I hadn't yet heard of the "stress interview" technique, it was clear to me that he was doing this to see how I would respond. Unfortunately, I didn't have a proper response prepared in advance. Although I wasn't defensive, I know that my responses were not "up to par." And I'm sure the red suit didn't help!

What did I learn from this?

Although I haven't encountered this type of interview since my senior year of college, I am prepared for the types of questions asked in one--just in case! In fact, before applying to any position, I ask myself the following questions:
  • Can I handle this position?
  • What are my transferable skills for this position, and how are they transferable?
  • Who is the most obnoxious person I know, and how would I respond if he/she were my interviewer?
  • Why should this employer hire me over all the other qualified people out there? Seriously!
If you suspect you are heading in to a "stress interview," here are some great tips from
  • Remember that this is a game. It is not personal. View it as the surreal interaction that it is.
  • Prepare and memorize your main message before walking through the door. If you are flustered, you will better maintain clarity of mind if you do not have to wing your responses.
  • Even if the interviewer is rude, remain calm and tactful.
  • Go into the interview relaxed and rested. If you go into it feeling stressed, you will have a more difficult time keeping a cool perspective.
Before an interview, I remind myself of the different types of interviews, including "stress interviews," so that I can be mentally prepared for whatever comes my way!

And no, I didn't get the job with the CIA--perhaps the fact that I thought the job "sounded cool" was an indicator that I really couldn't handle the position . . .

To read:
Best Answers to the 201 Most Frequently Asked Interview Questions
201 Best Questions To Ask On Your Interview
101 Great Answers to the Toughest Interview Questions
How to Interview Like a Top MBA: Job-Winning Strategies From Headhunters, Fortune 100 Recruiters, and Career Counselors

[Photo credits: Red Suit (yes, inside that backpack is a breast pump!), Stress Interview ]

Monday, January 1, 2007

The Great Job Hunt

It doesn't really matter at which stage you are in your career, looking for a job stinks. Seriously. I should know--I'm looking for one right now. I've spent so much time tweaking my resume, perusing job search sites, and emailing potential employers that my eyes are crossing! And the interviews, that's another story altogether.

In between the searches and the "tweaking," I take mini-breaks and read various blogs. This is how I discovered a dating blog titled "Adventures in Dating After 40: the Dating Goddess's Lessons, Stories, and Advice" by the Dating Goddess, of course. As the title states, Dating Goddess (DG) describes her dates with "potential suitors" and the lessons learned from each one. Although I disagree with many of her opinions (her advice really is just an opinion--as far as I know her only training stems from her own dating experiences), I think she is onto something. By sharing her experiences and opinions, she adds humor to what can be a "trying" experience for someone entering the dating scene after years of being away from it. Whether one agrees or disagrees is irrelevant--there is something to be learned from each entry/experience.

Reading DG's blog gave me an idea. Although I could never blog about my own dating experiences, I have no problem blogging about my "job search" experiences. The process is alarmingly similar--it's all just a game. Like in any game, there are rules. Some folks play by the rules, while others don't. Personally, I play by the rules in both games, but I digress.

One of the things that I hate about the "job search game" is that the rules don't necessarily reward fair play. A resume is a summary of professional experiences to aid an employer in choosing the best new hire. Unfortunately, it excludes many skills that are obtained outside the work environment. This can truly hinder educated women who have chosen to stay home to raise a family but have a need to re-enter the work force at a later date. Interviews fare better than resumes, but you have to get to the interview before you can shine. The biggest problem with the interview is that the persona presented in an interview isn't always the persona who will show up for work each day.

Of course, just like dating, there are many guides out there offering to aid people in creating the perfect resume and honing interview skills. The guides even coach people on all the right "buzz" words to use in each setting. It's one big psychological game.

This blog isn't about coaching. It really is an appendix to a resume--my resume, and possibly yours. It contains my "adventures in job seeking after 40" (thank you, DG). Like the Dating Goddess, I will share my lessons and stories. I may even throw in a little advice . . .

Let the games begin . . .

[Photo credit]