Jan's Blog
Be inspired. It's your career. It's your life.

June 2024
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Helping Millennials to Launch!
Filed under: General, Job Search, Resume
Posted by: site admin @ 12:21 pm

This past week, I co-presented the closing keynote address at the annual conference of the National Resume Writers’ Association in Charlotte, NC (Louise Kursmark was my co-presenter: We have been talking about career management and resume strategies across our industry and nation for more than 20 years).

While in the beautiful “Queen City” (and having an opportunity to see Vermont granite used at the Panthers’ lovely stadium), I took advantage of my week by spending time with some incredible career advisors on the campus of the University of North Carolina. A vibrant and active Career Services Center, these folks had lots of ideas to share and were equally interested in learning some of the best practices in networking, LinkedIn, and job search for new graduates and interns as they coach students in developing/polishing their resumes.

A few highlights of the take-aways (tips applicable to job seekers at nearly every level!):

• It’s all about differentiating candidacy in a way that can grab attention — in under 6 seconds!

• Articulating value proposition and drawing a match with the needs of the hiring manager = essential.

• Tell the right story — GPA (only those over 3.0 or, sometimes, over 3.5 should be listed … use GPA in major if its more favorable).

• Bridge gaps between interest and experience by showing transferable experiences, content from relevant coursework, and project highlights.

I’ll be providing many additional strategies as I continue research on my next book over the upcoming months (top job search strategies for new graduates and interns).

– Jan Melnik, M.A., MRW, CCM, CPRW | President, Absolute Advantage
Be inspired. It’s your career. It’s your life.

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Resume Techniques 101: Top Do’s and Don’ts
Filed under: Resume
Posted by: site admin @ 1:46 pm

Over the past three months, I have delivered four focused resume programs to fairly broad audiences ranging from new graduates and early-career professionals to rising stars and C-level folks. I’ve identified some common technical questions and a few oft-repeated “techniques” that might be standing in the way of a second glance - and preventing a critical opportunity from happening: to be selected among those candidates being vetted for a coveted position. Some pointers may sound pretty basic - but, time and again, I frequently see the do’s missing… and the don’ts still occurring. Keep in mind that these tips, for the most part, focus on the technical, the presentation (as opposed to content, which should always be customized, branded, value-driven, and unique to what differentiates you; that’s ‘a whole nother ball of wax’).

The Basics: Do’s and Don’ts for Technically Enhancing Your Resume

• Show (not tell) predictors of success, using action verbs and eliminating the articles. For the most part, you can drop nearly all uses of “a,” “an,” and “the” … one of the few cardinal rules: do NOT use the word “I” in your resume … but absolutely use it in your cover letter and LinkedIn profile, both of which are written in a far more personality-driven, engaging narrative.

• Present your community service, professional affiliations, volunteerism, and appointments (but, please, unless it’s for an audience outside the United States, and this will be country-/culture-dependent, do not list marital status, health condition, age, height, weight, social security number, or number/ages of children).

• Your resume should be a concise and succinct marketing document that demonstrates your capabilities — in one or two pages (no more - the few exceptions being in academia and with medical profession CVs)… consider using leadership addenda, project briefs, leave-behinds, and other peripheral documents to round out your portfolio.

• Ensure your design includes plenty of white space and creates a readable, skimmable presentation… no tiny, impossible-to-read fonts.

• Be sure you have a text version of your resume for email/Internet purposes; some audiences will want a PDF. These are both in addition to the gold standard: Your resume must be in Microsoft Word. And you’ll still want to have a quality paper for printouts that are brought to interviews, used in certain networking situations, and - sometimes (to great effect) - mailed with a targeted letter to a decision maker (my favorite is Crane’s Pearl White Kid - 32 lb. - crane.com; mailed flat in a 9×12 white catalog envelope through the good-old U.S. mail, you’ll definitely stand out, no one is doing this anymore! [except my clients!]. 

• Please don’t use a laundry list - avoid using too many bullets… and an obituary-style resume is dead ;) Forward-focus always: Demonstrate what you can deliver (support with quantified achievements and CAR [challenge-action-result-strategic impact] stories).

• Do not use words such as tasks, duties, responsibilities… instead, communicate with strong action verbs and be precise about the value you delivered (Spearheaded, championed, turned around, coalesced, engineered, etc.).

• Ensure paragraphs/blocks of text are no longer than 4-5 lines and, preferably, 3 at the most.

• Always proofread multiple times; spellcheck does not catch everything.

Remember: The sole purpose of a resume is to open doors to contacts/interviews where candidates can best sell themselves. I used to think of them as being the single most important tool you need when beginning a career search. Consider this: You reach out to network with someone and the first thing they say is, “Bob, email me your resume.” After that, there are a hundred more important steps you’ll take to get to the offer! Today, I am *nearly* ready to say that your resume and your LinkedIn profile are equally critical tools that must be complementary, co-branded, and consistent in their messaging of authenticity. I’ll share lots more success strategies in the months ahead. But these are some pretty often overlooked areas that folks can take quick steps to improve the quality of their career communications. Have at it!

– Jan Melnik, M.A., MRW, CCM, CPRW, President, Absolute Advantage … CMO Coach, C-SuiteCareerCatalysts.com
Be inspired. It’s your career. It’s your life.

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Find-A-Career & Networking Strategies
Filed under: Job Search, Networking, Resume
Posted by: site admin @ 2:30 pm

On Wednesday, Nov. 3, I’ll be presenting a highly
interactive workshop at the Schmoozers’ Job Network for today’s job seekers right here in Connecticut.
This free event will be held in Kessler Hall at Beth El Temple, 2626 Albany Avenue, West Hartford, and begins with registration, networking, and schmoozing — plus complimentary coffee — at 8 a.m. The program will start promptly at 9 a.m. Please enter through the double-glass door entrance.

In addition to strategies for working with recruiters, I’ll also share the most effective techniques for leveraging the power of the Internet, social media, and networking in a job search. These best-in-class strategies are designed to help job seekers open doors and focus on two key elements: presenting your distinctive brand and differentiating attributes in the “CAR” stories that appear on your resume and using expert strategies for networking, interviewing, and securing critical job connections.

Through its Jewish Employment Transition Services, the Jewish Family Services presents this free workshop to all members of the community searching for work. For reservations or additional information, contact Lynn Preminger, program manager, at jets@jfshartford.org or call 860-236-127, ext. 37; the program facilitator is Judy Rosenthal. For further details, visit http://tinyurl.com/3xzdcpu

–Jan Melnik, MRW, CCM, CPRW… President, Absolute Advantage

“Be Inspired. It’s your career. It’s your life.”

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It Ain’t Bragging… If You Did It
Filed under: Interviewing, Resume
Posted by: site admin @ 7:33 am

So said Walt Whitman… and my father… two gentlemen for whom I have the ultimate respect! How does this relate to job search and your resume? It’s essential to convey predictors of success by showing AND telling prospective employers what you can do, then demonstrating how you’ve done it–backed up with verifiable and quantifiable details. CAR stories remain the best way to achieve this goal.

C - Challenge… show a situation or challenge you faced, a problem you addressed.
A - Action… detail, specifically, the action YOU took (remember not to take sole credit for something for which you were a team member or instrumental–talk about exactly the role you did play to bring about the change, solution) or the initiative you drove.
R - Result… describe succinctly the results you achieved (or that your action produced). Again, quantify for maximum impact and then link to the impact on the organization (a good way to answer that portion of the question: What would have been the consequence had you NOT produced the result that you did?)

In the next few days, I’ll detail some very specific CAR story examples: Powerful resume material AND excellent preparation for effective interviewing!

Just remember: Toot your own horn (don’t blow it!).

– Jan Melnik, MRW, CCM, CPRW, President, Absolute Advantage … Don’t forget to check out careerhub.typepad.com for the best in career search advice from the career industry’s top experts

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You Are Invited to Job-Search Workshop
Filed under: Job Search, Employment, Resume
Posted by: site admin @ 11:40 am

If you are in the Connecticut area and actively job-seeking, join me as I facilitate a job-search workshop on
Thursday, November 20, at 10:00 a.m. at the Russell Library in Middletown, Connecticut. There’s no registration necessary and the workshop is free of charge, open to the public. We’ll cover the hot buttons: effective networking, strategies for a great resume, and key search techniques for the holiday season.

Here’s the link to the article about the workshop in the Hartford Courant:


– Jan Melnik, MRW, CCM, CPRW, President, Absolute Advantage

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VisualCV-A Different (Effective!) Internet Resume
Filed under: Resume
Posted by: site admin @ 10:43 am

Trends come and go in the resume world … but this is one to definitely check out. It’s called VisualCV — and that’s really what it is, a visual curriculum vitae (or resume) that prominently spotlights your achievements, background, predictors of success, brand, and testimonials on the Internet for prospective employers/hiring authorities/recruiters to see.

The VisualCV makes a traditional resume come alive with video, pictures, and a portfolio of your best work samples and other supporting documents. Informational pop-ups provide background data on the companies you’ve worked at and the colleges you’ve attended. You can securely share different versions with your own network of employers, colleagues and friends, and control who sees what.

In a practice that continues in some professions today, job candidates used to bring to a first interview a portfolio of compelling samples of their work, along with written references, college transcripts, and documents detailing things like personality tests, awards, and even salary details (e.g. a W-2 in the United States).

Employers typically screen candidates through phone and in-person first interviews. Often these interviews cover a standard set of questions, which today can easily be captured in a video or audio file housed on the Web.

VisualCV brings both the CV and the resume into the modern Web 2.0 world by transforming the way in which resume data is presented, accessed, and shared.

Furthermore, VisualCV cuts out time and expense for both candidates and employers by combining the resume, interview audio and video, and a digital career portfolio into a compelling package hosted on a single, easy-to-use Web page.

Simply put, the VisualCV is an Internet-based resume that allows
professionals to build and manage an online career portfolio that comes alive with informational keyword pop-ups, video, pictures, and social networking.

For the first time, the company that delivers VisualCV is hosting a series of seminars - free of charge - to show professionals how to create their own VisualCVs. It, of course, helps to have a super resume all-set-to-go before you try to build the visual version for the world to see on the Internet. But check out the nuts and bolts of what a VisualCV can do for you through http://www.visualcv.com/webinar. You’ll find details for registering for the Tuesday, November 18 (12 noon, Eastern), workshop at https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/975698286.

– Jan Melnik, MRW, CCM, CPRW, President, Absolute Advantage

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Optimizing Resume–and Job Search
Filed under: Resume
Posted by: site admin @ 5:12 pm

In the recent months, I’ve seen a marked increase–a return, if you will–to the once-standard resume starter: Use of an objective statement. My opinion–echoed by my top career-management peers as well as hiring authorities/recruiters–is that this is not a good trend. Yes, of course, as you conduct a job search, it should be all about pursuing opportunities where you can make a difference, bring about desired/necessary change, add value, grow! But it’s essential to pick-and-choose those salient points that have value to the hiring manager–and reserve for your own use in job search and ultimate decision making the characteristics of the right job.

Here’s why: Most objective statements focus entirely on the candidate and his/her desires, goals, needs. Little if any emphasis is  placed on what that candidate will do in their new position. In other words, it’s too self-absorbed an approach. We’ve all read the tired and overused "seek a challenging opportunity affording growth and advancement in which I can grow and thrive …" That introduces another problem: Use of the word "I" on the resume. That’s one of the few absolutes in resume-writing–it’s fine to use "I" liberally in a cover letter, but never in the resume.

So what to do in lieu of an objective statement? Communicate value through a qualifications profile section/summary that presents distinctive characteristics, unique strengths and attributes–effectively, your value proposition. Back it up with a few pristine examples that demonstrate what you can do. Support these claims with CAR story vignettes (concise stories illustrating challenge-action-result *and* resulting impact) throughout the resume. This is the best way to reflect your signature strengths and shine a positive light on your candidacy.

– Jan Melnik, MRW, CCM, CPRW, President, Absolute Advantage

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Boost the Power of Your Resume
Filed under: Resume
Posted by: site admin @ 7:48 am

If you’re readying your job-search materials (resume, bio, cover letter, critical leadership initiatives addendum, networking card, etc.) for an immediate launch after Labor Day, here’s a quick primer on enhancing the power of the linchpin in the career document lineup. More than anything else, two key things are essential in your resume: The Qualifications Profile (summary, career highlights, whatever you name it at the top of your resume, right below contact information) … and the "stories you tell" (vis a vis CAR-story format: Challenge - Action - Result … and, importantly, IMPACT!).

Here’s a brief look at what these two components do for you. Your Profile section should be as targeted as possible to the needs of the hiring organization (explicit - if you have an ad, a lead, info that tells you what they are actually seeking … or implicit - based on your due diligence, inside leads, industry intelligence) while communicating very clearly your distinctive brand, the value you offer. Most effective today is careful selection and placement of keywords describing the position by title/level that you are qualified to fill - matching how the organization titles folks holding the role(s) you want to fill backed up by key areas of expertise that align with, again, their needs. A few examples of what you do best should be integrated (and backed up elsewhere in the resume with the salient details) into the profile. Resist the urge to include an Objective - these are considered passe. Instead, with targeted keywords and a profile that hones in on exactly what you have/that they’re seeking plus a dynamic cover letter, you’ve communicated your objective.

Moving on to CAR stories: Describe the situation you faced or challenge presented to you … discuss the initiatives or actions you took to address the problem (briefly — each CAR story should take up no more than 3-4 lines of concisely written copy on your resume with some additional space devoted to 2-3 sub-bullet points) … present the results (quantified wherever possible using numbers, percentages, statistics) … and - lastly - detail the impact it had on the organization, overall success, positioning for future success. Strive to produce three or four CAR stories for each of your most recent positions. These are the key talking points on your resume and they should present a broad cross-section of your capabilities.

Now, does your resume past the test? Can you quickly see the brand you present in your profile section? Does each position listed on your resume brim with examples of leadership, success, and results — and, most importantly, compel the reader to contact you?

– Jan Melnik, MRW, CCM, CPRW, President, Absolute Advantage

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Connecticut Resume-Job Search Workshop
Filed under: Job Search, Resume
Posted by: site admin @ 6:32 pm

Executive's Pocket Guide to ROI Resumes and Job Search 

For those in Connecticut who’d like to attend a free resume-writing and job-search workshop, I’ll be facilitating this program at the brand-new Borders "Superstore" in Meriden, Connecticut. It is on Sunday, January 21, 2007, at 3:00 p.m. in the Borders at Westfield Shopping Center (470 Lewis Avenue, Meriden, CT 203-237-5510).

The program is ideal for those who made a resolution to (1) polish their resumes (2) change jobs and find more satisfying/better compensating work or (3) explore their career options. Bring along your questions for a lively, interactive session.

Since you are at my blog, you probably already know I’m an expert in helping people find rewarding work and optimizing the job-search process. I’ve been in the business of working effectively with clients one-to-one for the past 23 years. New Year’s represents a great time to "see what’s out there" and notch up the level of your presentation. I invite you to join me for this fun, informative workshop.

The workshop is in conjunction with the availability of my newest book, "Executive’s Pocket Guide to ROI Resumes and Job Search." Copies of the book will be available at the workshop.

– Jan Melnik, MRW, CCM, CPRW, President, Absolute Advantage … Don’t forget to check out http://careerhub.typepad.com for the best in career search advice from the career industry’s top experts and http://careers.beyond.com for valuable career management expertise

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Don\’t Just Tell It, Show It
Filed under: Resume
Posted by: site admin @ 8:40 am

Remember back in Kindergarten (yes, for some of us, that was more than a few decades ago!) … they called it "Show and Tell"?

Well, a resume does much the same thing, at least a good resume does. If your resume is only telling, that’s not a good thing. By showing, you are giving the reader (hiring manager? recruiter? decision-maker?) a reason to believe you can do the same for his or her organization. This leads to providing real value–clear proof that you can deliver.

Showing multiple examples (using the tried-and-true formula of CAR stories–Challenge, Action, Result) produces even greater benefits. This is known in the industry as giving the reader "predictors of success." Making the link in your cover letter (and through your profile) to how these predictors can be transferable to the target company’s challenges and opportunities is the final step for ensuring the connection.

Here’s an example: A perfectly ho-hum bullet point on a resume for a CFO might read:

* Responsible for managing $98MM operation, overseeing all finances and debt management.

Recast to illustrate the show and not just the tell:

* Managed $98MM operations. Sourced funding partners, successfully restructured finances, and renegotiated debt to secure company operations and position for future growth.

See what a big difference "showing" can make? Try taking the top five or six accomplishments in your career from your resume and boiling each down to its key elements–then be sure to show while you tell what a difference you made.

– Jan Melnik, MRW, CCM, CPRW, President, Absolute Advantage

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New Year\’s Resolution #4: Find a Rewarding New Job
Filed under: Resume
Posted by: site admin @ 10:01 am
After making new year’s resolutions to lose weight, become more fit, and get out of debt, many people vow to find a rewarding new job in the new year. To help keep this resolution, you’re going to need a top-notch resume.  

On a January 27, 2006, segment on NBC with Keisha Grant, I presented my top 10 resume "must-dos":

1.  Use a qualifications profile not an old-fashioned objective statement … the latter definitely dates a resume and is inappropriate – instead, use a targeted cover letter to match qualifications and experience to requirements of position and enthusiastically articulate goal.
2.  Present specific, quantifiable accomplishments (use the CAR approach – Challenge – Action – Results … to create “stories” used for both the resume and in interviewing). These must be accurate and sizzle!
3.  Frontload the resume with keywords – if replying to online or classified listings, cull keywords that match your skills and attributes. Couple keywords with accomplishments to drive home “signature strengths.” These should be predictors of what you’ll do in your next position. The resume has 20 seconds to command attention … and is designed only to open the door to the interview (where you can then sell yourself).
4.  Don’t create a tombstone or obituary-style resume … listing only what you’ve done in the past, “tasks, duties, and responsibilities” – in fact, avoid those words. Also, never use the words “I” or “my” in a resume … write in resume-ese, not complete sentences (drop articles of speech, the “the’s,” “an’s,” and “a’s”).
5.  One or two pages? Whatever is needed to best sell your story – succinctly and saliently!
6. Avoid over-using bullets (the “laundry list” look) but don’t be too text-heavy or “densely written” either … a mix of succinct narrative with selective bullets is the best way to go.
7.  Keep it professional! Don’t list health or marital status, number of kids, birth date or place, or social security number. But, civic-community involvement is important to demonstrate, however, particularly with leadership or elected positions.
8.  Good use of white space: visually appealing, clear and readable font no smaller than 10 or 11 point for content. Don’t mix too many typographical highlights – be selective when using bold, italics, and underscore features. Do adjust spacing (called leading) between lines and between paragraphs.
9.  Select a high quality cotton fiber watermarked resume paper – 32-pound weight is desirable – in an understated-but-elegant off-white. For posting your resume on the internet, create a text format of your resume as well as a Microsoft Word version.
10. Proofread and proofread again. Don’t rely on spell-check. Have a trusted friend (with good English skills) double-check your work.

– Jan Melnik, MRW, CCM, CPRW, President, Absolute Advantage

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