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Archive for the month “October, 2014”

Resumes, Part II: Continuing to Set Yourself Apart

Mariah Douglas, Consultant

We did it, UofL! We’ve hit the double digits for the number of weeks we’ve been hard at work this fall semester. Unfortunately that means, if it hasn’t already started for you, crunch time is right around the corner (and sadly, I’m not referring to the leaves crunching underfoot, either). Assignments galore. Tests for days. Pages of papers (which the University Writing Center would love to help you with!). But before we start to coffee-guzzle, let’s take a happy minute to reflect on what we’ve already accomplished this fall. Better yet, let’s translate those accomplishments to our resumes!

Last year, Meagan Ray did an excellent piece on uncommon resume tips, which explained a few different tactics to give your resume an edge in the job market. Definitely give that a look-see, as those are some excellent ways to distinguish your resume. But make sure to come back here for Part II–just a few more suggestions that will take yours to the next level:

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1. Bullet points say whaaaat?—There are several layers to a resume: main headings of sections, individual items within each section, qualifiers for each item to further explain them (dates, location, what Meagan referred to in her short explanation of “Player” in her blog post, etc.), and I suggest adding one more layer–further expanding upon each item with bullet points.

But what to include in said bullet points, you ask? At the bare minimum, include your responsibility associated with that item (i.e., the responsibilities of that job position). However, to really make your resume stand out, include this responsibility and tack on what skill you gained/were able to demonstrate by carrying out that responsibility. For example, I worked as a sales associate at Gymboree, where my main responsibility was to sell children’s clothing, but my bullet point read like this: “sold children’s clothing, in order to perfect customer service skills and fund my study abroad experience.”

These bullet points are where your audience has the opportunity to really get to know you and how you have applied certain skills in a professional environment. Which leads me to my next point…

2. Now about that Skills section…— Unless you have a skill that is specifically beneficial to your field or really makes you stand out, like “CPR certified for the past 4 years,” employers may be likely to just skim this Skills section, as they see it time and time again. That’s some valuable space on your resume that could be used to really capture your audience!

My advice is to include these overused skills that are usually in that separate section in the bullet point explanations (explained above in Suggestion #1). It’s important to be aware of which skills are overused and to steer away from being a cliché applicant. For example, unless you’re looking to be congratulated for being born after 1985, don’t include “Microsoft Office proficiency.” It is a general skill that most people have acquired during our tech-savvy age, and unless your employer specifically wants this noted, it’s best to not include this skill and instead use this space to highlight a better aspect of you!

BUT, again, if you do have a skill that really distinguishes you in that field, keeping it in its own “Skills” section may benefit you by showcasing how unique and qualified you are as an applicant.

3. Gotta getcha some of that Skimmability—What are employers going to see first if they just skim over your resume (which unfortunately happens all the time)? Usually, the answer is whatever is closest to the top and furthest to the left. So with this knowledge, you can make your resume even more tailored to your audience.

Applying to a new school? Putting education as your first section may be a smart move. A managerial position? If you were a manager before, including that job title at the top of that specific item and closest to the left side of the page may be enough to catch that boss-person’s eye.

4. BOLD, italics, underlined, oh my!—These emphasizing typography methods are your friends. They can draw your reader to whichever part of your resume you choose to be most important.

For example, if you are applying to graduate school and are trying to focus your entire resume around what you have done as a student/responsible person, you may want to prioritize each item under your “Professional Experience” section by the title of the position you held, rather than the company it was under; by presenting your title first, perhaps in bold, with the company underneath in italics, it draws the reader to this block of emphasized text, while differentiating the two and still giving the bigger emphasis to your position within that company.

5. Consistency, consistency, consistency—Employers love when everything on your resume is clean-cut. Your resume is usually the company’s first impression of you, so by trimming everything up and making it all consistent, you show that you have an eye for detail and really care about putting your best foot forward, which translates to being able to positively represent their company, too!

For this step, you should come at your resume with fresh eyes. Set it down. Pick it back up. Go.

If you end your bullet points with periods, make sure to do this throughout. Are all of your bullet points lined up? Are all of your dates aligned on the page? Did you use an Oxford comma in one list but not another? Does your resume look succinct at first glance? Make notes and apply these changes.

6. Save every resume. Just do it. F’real.—If you haven’t done this yet, it’s okay. Just start now. As you gain more experience and participate in more things, the items you include on your resume are going to fluctuate. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve needed to go back and look at a position I held in an organization or at a job I had that is now more applicable to the position I’m currently applying for. The safest thing to do is save everything. And it’s really quite easy!

All you need to do is open your most recent resume and make the necessary changes, then select “Save As,” and rename this edited resume with the current date, such as “Resume 2014.10.26,” to be saved in the same folder as the other resumes. This will ensure that both your last resume and this most recent one are saved on your computer, and writing the date as year-month-day will prompt the folder to group these resumes first by year, then by month.

7. Brand-spankin’-new job? Awesome! Tell your resume all about it ASAP—That really is great! Just make sure to “Save As” that new file (see Suggestion #6) and add it all in. It’ll be easier now than trying to remember each position you held or volunteer work you did throughout the past semester.

But most importantly, just keep on keepin’ on. It’s go time.

The 5-Step Process for Writing a To-Do List

Kristin Hatten, Consultant

Alongside the crisp autumn air and the leaf mosaics covering the ground come final projects, long research papers, and tests galore. In short, it’s crunch time, y’all. So, you may ask, how do we manage our time so we can get our work done and maybe have a little itty bitty bit of fun, too? The answer is a to-do list! Some people may argue that writing a to-do list seems like an activity that only requires halfway conscious thought; I beg to differ. To-do lists not only keep you accountable, but they can actually do wonders for the confidence you have in the work you do.

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If you’re struggling to figure out where to begin, follow these 5 easy steps and you’ll be a to-do list making, reading, writing, studying machine!

1. Include Tasks You Have Already Completed

If you are feeling particularly overwhelmed, write down tasks you have already completed and go ahead and cross them off. Now, I know this may sound a little ridiculous—okay, maybe a lot ridiculous—but it will allow you the feeling of continuing rather than starting a list. Starting is often the hardest part of any project or goal. (Let’s be real, why would you start being productive when you can watch an entire season of Parks and Rec on Netflix in one sitting?) But alas! The future you calls and begs you to do your work, do it well, and do it without pulling all your hair out. If you frame your to-do list in a way that shows that you have already taken the first step towards being productive (even if it is hanging up all your clean laundry or scooping the kitty litter), continuing on to the next task will be just that…a continuation rather than a dreaded beginning. Also, when you’re stressed and you feel like you’re barely staying afloat, marking a task off your (seemingly never-ending) to-do list can be a serious cathartic experience.

2. Write Down the Items in the Order You Intend to Do Them

So, I know this seems like work before starting on the actual work, but you will thank yourself later. Assigning a logical order to your list gives you the opportunity to ease yourself into the work. There are many ways you can organize: start small and build from there, begin with your least favorite subject so you can get it out of the way first, or start with the larger project if you feel like you’ll be productive earlier in the day. Obviously, the way you tailor your to-do list is entirely up to you, but take the time to actually organize it into a logical set of tasks so you’ll be more likely to get into—and stay in—the groove of things.

3. Keep A Logical Scope in Mind

This is absolutely, entirely, so, so important. As a new grad student, I am quickly realizing that making a to-do list is a lot like designing a large research project in that you have to be realistic about what you—as a human being without superpowers or seventeen arms—can accomplish in the amount of time you have. Even if you are making a to-do list for the weekend—which seems like a lot of time—it is still important to think about what you can realistically get done. One, this will help you plan for and prioritize the following week (let’s be honest, chances are that every single thing will not get done on the weekend), and, two, this will keep you from getting discouraged when you check off three or four items, feel great about your progress, and then still have an unending list staring you in the face. Time management, stress management, and keeping yourself sane in the midst of the end of semester madness has a lot to do with being honest with yourself, setting realistic expectations, and feeling like you’ve accomplished something.

4. Be Detailed and Specific

I know this is another moment where you’re thinking, “how much work do I have to do before actually doing the work?”, but again, you will thank yourself later. By “detailed and specific,” I mean, instead of writing down “read for English class,” write down what the individual articles are so you don’t have to go back to your syllabus a hundred times to remind yourself what article from Blackboard applies to what day in class. Also, actually looking at the upcoming assignment will help you know how much you can logically get done in that day (re: step #3).

5. Indicate When the Task is Complete, and Do It Like You Mean It!

The final step is my favorite step. Once you have made your detailed, logical to-do list, get out a colorful pen and go to town marking off, checking off, scratching out, or x-ing through the tasks you have completed. Like I said earlier—for me at least—this is such a cathartic experience. As students, who happen to also do things in regular life, it is easy to feel that we are completely sacrificing one thing in order to pay attention to another. While this demand is part of being a student, creating a to-do list that is manageable and well organized, and scratching through the completed tasks with a vengeance, allows you a well-earned feeling of productivity and accomplishment. Plus, when you can look at all the aweseome things you accomplished that day, you can feel better about entering into a little bit of personal time. So, when you get to crossing off that last task, go treat yourself and celebrate a job well done!

Words on Cooking with Words

Chris Scheidler, Consultant

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Plato infamously likened rhetoric to cookery. Rhetoric is a tricky word to define, but for the sake of this blog post (which originates from a university writing center), I’ll posit: rhetoric is goal-directed writing; rhetorical techniques are strategies we employ that help to achieve our goal. Whew.

Plato meant to undermine writing when he called it cookery, but (value judgments on the worth of writing aside) composition and gastronomy have many useful similarities. Both require preparation. Both have a process. Both can be social. Both have misconceptions regarding style. So, I ask you, blog reader – humor this composing cook as I expand on the kitchen comparisons of writing and gastronomy.

Mise en Place

Mise en place” is a French term that means “putting in place.” When used in a kitchen, mise en place is a noun that roughly means: all the prep work you’ve done ahead of time. Good gastronomes don’t want to be stuck cutting their produce and measuring their spices while the meat is burning on the grill. Having your mise en place simplifies cooking. Writing has a mise en place, too. We can get our mise en place for writing by outlining our papers, doing our research, and preparing our citations ahead of time. When I don’t have my writing mise en place, just like an underprepared cook, I get anxious and I struggle to dish out a decent paper. For me, the end results are similar to the cook’s results: an underwhelming and difficult to swallow piece. In the words of Gordon Ramsey, “Not good enough.”

What’ s for dinner

Writing, like cooking, can be an experiment, exploration, or creative endeavor. Sometimes we keep the same ingredients and alter only the order (as in: “like cooking, writing can be…”). Other times we experiment with completely different ideas and change the dish entirely. Nevertheless, much of the writing we do in a university is ordered from a menu. If your professor orders up a 2-page analysis, then a 5-page summary won’t do. This doesn’t mean that every paper should be the same: you can deglaze a pan with brandy or broth – you can analyze with juxtaposition or deconstruction. Regardless, there are expectations to meet; I usually expect my burger to be on a bun. Unfamiliar with the type of writing you’re being asked to do? Thankfully, there are places like university writing centers that can help you navigate the recipes and techniques.

I’ll have what she’s having

You can eat alone or you can eat with company. What you’ve written can be shared – passed around the Burkean Parlor as an hors d’oeuvre, or as something more substantial. Even the act of writing can be a shared and social process. I often seek out peer reviewers to taste-test my writing. It can be a bit scary, I’m always afraid they’ll gag, but my peers have helpful advice and have yet to gag on anything I’ve written.

Gourmets

I suppose it would be easy to get wrapped up in the misconception that haute cuisine is in someway intrinsically better than everyday cooking. I believe the appeal to stylistic and “fanciness” of elevated grammars and gourmets is wrong. There is a place for the well-plated gourmet meals, but a well-executed burger is equally commendable.

So whether you’re looking for a taste-tester, a recipe translator, or a little help getting your mise en place – consider stopping by your University Writing Center.

How I Write: Tim Johnson – Professor of English

Our “How I Write” series asks writers from the University of Louisville community and beyond to respond to five questions that provide insight into their writing processes and offer advice to other writers. Through this series, we promote the idea that learning to write is an ongoing, life-long process and that all writers, from first-year students to career professionals, benefit from discussing and collaborating on their work with thoughtful and respectful readers. The series will be featured every other Wednesday.

Our featured writer this week is Professor Tim Johnson. Dr. Johnson is new to the University of Louisville’s English Department, having just finished his Doctorate in English-Rhetoric and Composition at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He teaches rhetoric and writing courses and researches the intersections of rhetoric, writing, and the economy.

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Location: Bingham Hall, Louisville, Kentucky

Current project: An article for the journal Rhetoric and Public Affairs concerned with Ford Motor Company’s films during and after World War II

Currently reading: Empire by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, March by Geraldine Brooks

1. What type(s) of writing do you regularly engage in?

I’ve been doing a lot of proposal writing lately: an abstract for an edited collection on technical writing, a presentation proposal for an upcoming conference. I like writing these brief statements because they force me to be brief and figure out the gist of what I’m working on. Beyond that, I work on a pretty steady queue of journal articles, potential book chapters, emails, and classroom materials.

Generally, I like to be in a few different “stages” of the writing process on a handful of projects all at one time—planning one, compiling research for another, doing the actual writing for a third, and revising a fourth. While this isn’t always the most efficient practice (I start more than I finish), I have found that it keeps me from getting so fixated on any one piece of writing that I become unproductive. This rotation also makes working on one project feel like taking a break from another and that mental shift can make all the difference; plus, I have found there is a certain degree of serendipity in having multiple projects (I’ll find a great source for one while researching for another, or the phrasing I spent an afternoon trying to get right comes to me when revising another project).

2. When/where/how do you write?

Right now my work consists of writing, teaching writing, and teaching the teaching of writing—so, essentially, most of my day is filled up with writing-related activity. I very much enjoy this…though it doesn’t make me much fun at dinner parties. When really getting down to the business of writing, though, I try to have at least an hour on my hands to devote to the project without an interruption.

In terms of place, I’ve been writing at my home desk or in my office on campus. Now that it has cooled off a bit, I take to my porch as well. I like to have a window to look out of and the occasional excuse to get up and take a stroll. I’m constantly trying to update and change my process, but lately it has been pretty uniform: I begin by reading something (usually from the same genre that I will be writing). I find that it helps to see another writer in action as this can spark ideas and cause my own writerly voice to come out. Once comfortable, I will start reading my work from the top. On a good day, I’ll get to the part of the work that I was planning to expand and proceed writing. More often than I’d like, though, somewhere along the way I’ll decide the order is wrong, change the organization, realize this wasn’t the problem, and then finally get to the writing I meant to start with.

3. What are your writing necessities—tools, accessories, music, spaces?

A computer and a pair of headphones. If I’m in the revision process, I rely a lot on my computer’s text-to-speech function. There’s something about a pseudo-mechanical voice reading my writing aloud that makes me more aware of what needs adjusting. At this point, it has become an essential part of my process.

4. What is your best tip for getting started and/or for revision?

Seek feedback, or just someone to talk to about what you’re up to. Do this during the process of writing, not just once the work is finished. I find that, when left to my own devices, getting a piece of writing to come out right can involve going around in circles. However, if I can get someone to read and talk with me about my work, something magical happens and I can suddenly write again. Apparently, there is some kind of Center that will do this for free on campus.

5. What is the best writing advice you’ve received?

Think in sections. Trying to wrestle with the entirety of a piece in any one sitting is not only exhausting, but largely inefficient. Learning to break a project into a set of shorter, more manageable tasks made both writing and revision easier.

“Let it go.” This came from a mentor who noticed my refusal to send anything to them unless it was just right. Again, sharing my work was a real breakthrough and sometimes my biggest challenge as a writer has been good, old-fashioned self-doubt.

The ePortfolio: Shaping Your Online Presence Through a Professional Medium

Haley Petcher, Consultant 

The weather is still pretty warm, but somehow it’s already October. October means that graduate school applications are beginning to be due, and for those of you graduating in December, the “real world” of jobs is right around the corner. You want to get into grad school and to get a job, but how will the committees and employers know the real you? How will the people writing your rec letters know details about what you did during your undergraduate career? The answer is what you would expect from a University Writing Center employee: by writing.

These days, though, everything is digital. With Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, etc., we have a large digital footprint with details about ourselves, but none of those footprints are professional. At my undergraduate institution, Auburn University, I learned about ePortfolios, which are basically personal websites that showcase your experiences and skills by contextualizing pictures, papers, and projects. I created one for an English class, but I have a confession: I didn’t finish one in time for applications. Guys, I regret that. However, I recently completed one that represents my experiences in undergrad, and I hope to complete another ePortfolio by the end of my MA program.

Before you say, “I don’t have papers to share,” I promise that ePortfolios aren’t just for English majors. I’ve seen examples of ePortfolios by by engineers, pharmacy studentsbusiness students, artists, nurses, and vet students. They pick some of their best projects and presentations to showcase and contextualize.

Creating an ePortfolio is like writing a paper with pictures. Here are a few quick tips to get you started:

  • First, think about your audience. Often it’s professionals, like a professor who is writing your rec letter or a graduate or hiring committee.
  • Next, write a “thesis” for your ePortfolio. That is, what do you want to prove to your audience? One of my friends, for example, majored in English and minored in business. He wanted to prove that his experiences in English, tutoring, hiring committees, and leadership meshed with his love for books. After getting his MBA, he hopes to find a job at a publishing company.
  • Consider how you want to organize your ePortfolio. Should each page have to do with a verb, like “research” or “teach,” or should each page relate to words like “teamwork” or “service”?
  • Pick the most important things you did that are connected to your “thesis” and organize them according to your pages. When you write about them, try to explain the project and to explain what you learned from it.
  • Pick an online venue, like wix.com or weebly.com. (They’re free!)
  • Start creating your ePortfolio! (Remember to use appropriate pictures. Pictures of you outside – by yourself – are often good.)

When you complete your ePortfolio, you can put the link on your resume or email signature. (If there’s something to click, people will probably click it. Take advantage of other people’s curiosity!)

You’re probably wondering what happens if your future employer or grad school doesn’t review your ePortfolio. The great thing is about creating an ePortfolio is that by analyzing and writing about your work, you will begin to better understand what you enjoy about your studies and experiences and how your time in undergrad will help you reach your goals. The ePortfolio shows that you can think critically about your interests and allows you to explain how volunteering at the animal shelter or starting a club for students who enjoy tap dancing makes you an attractive and unique candidate for the job.

If you want some more examples, try checking these out! Also, since an ePortfolio involves writing and is like a paper, you can always bring it to the University Writing Center for a writing consultation.

Note: I received most of this information from presentations I attended while working with Auburn University’s Office of University Writing (OUW). You can learn more about ePortfolios by reviewing the OUW’s website.

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