Career Corner is a program produced by the Minnesota Radio Talking Book Network, part of State Services for the Blind. And it is recorded for people who are blind or have reading disabilities.
You can find complete programming of the Radio Talking Book at www.mnssb.org/rtb. And the password is R T B.
Your host for Career Corner is Anne Obst.
Today we'll begin with the "Working Strategies" column from the May 4 issue of the St. Paul Pioneer Press titled "Applications, Resumes, and Linked-In Profiles: Differences and Strategies. By Amy Lindgren.
In our current employment processes, three methods of information delivery dominate: applications, resumes and LinkedIn profiles. Other tools are not unimportant, but they currently carry less weight in most aspects of the search. These include cover letters, letters of recommendation, blogs, Twitter accounts and personal web sites.
Here's a quick primer on each of the top three tools and strategies to make them more effective.
One of the first things I tell clients is that applications are the employer's tool, used primarily for the purpose of sorting candidates into "maybe" and "definitely not" piles. The questions are organized not to bring out your best information, but to clarify points that make the sorting simpler, such as past salary, reasons for leaving the last job, and gaps between jobs.
Digital applications raise the stakes for candidates by not allowing one to skip answers or provide non-conforming data. For example, if you'd rather not provide your last salary for fear of looking too highly paid, you'll probably find that the system will not allow you to advance without giving a number.
While there are ideas floating around for gaming the application, I'm more interested in keeping applicants away from the process to begin with. I find that most people have too many "flaws" that are readily discernible on applications. That said, here are three of my best tips, meant to help you survive the process when it can't be avoided.
Number One: Describe your past jobs in ways that highlight skills needed in the next position. So, even if 80 percent of your last job had nothing to do with the next one, focus on the 20 percent that did.
Number Two: If you have had a number of similar but short-term positions, create a single job description. For example, Administrative Assistant, numerous law firms, Smalltown, Maine, 2008 to 2013. Then give an overview of the duties most relevant to the work you're going for.
Number Three: If you don't have very recent or very relevant work experience, but you do have unpaid experience that is recent and relevant, make a description for the unpaid work and place it first in your job history. Just be sure to indicate it was unpaid or part-time.
Unlike applications, resumes are very much the job seeker's tool. As long as everything on the resume is true, you can highlight whatever points you feel are most beneficial while ignoring the other points. There is no electronic warden insisting you provide information that you'd rather keep to yourself.
To make the best use of your resume, consider these tips:
Number One: Personalize your document by providing information that wouldn't be requested on an application. For example, have past supervisors praised your customer service or your ability to create efficient processes that save money? Say that, or better yet, quote the supervisor directly on your resume.
Number Two: Focus the resume toward your goal occupation by including a headline and a capabilities section highlighting strengths most needed by your target employers.
Number Three: Give extra attention to your achievements on the job. A separate section called "Notable Achievements," or an italicized achievement sentence inside each job description are two ways to do this.
LinkedIn profiles can be described as dynamic resumes. Here you provide a snapshot of yourself not just as a job candidate, but as a professional and a participant in the world at large. Best yet, employers can find you even when you're not aware of them looking. In this way, you can "apply" for an opening simply by being findable.
You'll find lots of good advice online and elsewhere for maximizing your LinkedIn profile; here are three tips to get you started.
Number One: Use a good photo, cropped closely to highlight your smiling face. This is your electronic stand-in; don't let the default silhouette be your greeting to future employers.
Number Two: Write your short summary in the first person, and include something personable. Rather than the resume-y "Directs projects efficiently," try "I delight in using my knack for project management to create efficient processes that save time and money."
Number Three: Don't suffer over this. It's better to launch a short profile now and improve it over time than to be offline for weeks while you perfect each sentence.
Now that you know about these three job search tools, here's my final tip: Once you have a working model for each of these, focus most of your attention on networking and other human interactions. People still prefer to hire people they know and like -- so concentrate on being known and liked by the most people possible.
I'm Anne Obst.