Tales of a Disgruntled Graduate: A View from the Front Lines of the Post-College Job Hunt

Resume Advice: From the Tedious to the Powerful

I was searching through online career advice recently, looking for tips for a friend of mine.  (No, really—I’m employed.  It’s for my friend.)  I am intrigued by articles geared toward college graduates, secretly hoping to stumble upon some miraculous answer to my employment problems—I mean, my friend’s problems.  I want someone to say, “This is it, folks! Following these three simple steps will guarantee you the job of your dreams.”

Without meaning to, one of these sites took their advice to another level in an article by Katharine Hansen, entitled, “Powerful New Grad Resumes and Cover Letters: 10 Things They Have in Common.”  Personally, I’ve never thought of resumes as “powerful” before.  Words like “tedious” or “chronological” seem more likely descriptors.  But Hansen obviously has something more in mind with her “10 Things.”

Predictably, Things 1-5 provide a typical outline of the purpose, perspective, and focus of resumes and cover letters, and advise how to apply your college experience to the job you want (a technique ordinary people call “BS-ing”).

Then comes Thing 6, where capital letters start peppering Hansen’s sentences. 

“Powerful resumes and cover letters focus on ACCOMPLISHMENTS,” she writes, “NOT job duties and responsibilities.”  (OK THEN.)  In this section we are told, “NEVER use expressions like ‘Duties included’ … or ‘Responsible for.’”  Instead, she suggests choosing words and descriptions that demonstrate how you did things “better than anyone else.”

You did do things better than anyone else, right?

Hansen seems to get pretty worked up about it, worried perhaps that college students—famous for their humility—would prefer to keep their accomplishments quiet, only offering information directly inquired after.  I have since advised my friend to start mentioning her “Most Likely to Fall into a Manhole” award; it’s sure to set her apart from other candidates.

Not only that, but Hansen offers a charming piece of advice I think I would like to cross-stitch on a pillow one day: “Start HAVING accomplishments NOW!”  (Learning how to cross-stitch better than anyone else is at the top of my list.)  Is there a better time to start “HAVING” accomplishments than right now?  My friend and I think not.  In fact, I think I’ll have a few this very moment.  It’s good advice for job-seekers of all ages or anyone who’s up for a bit of self-improvement.

And, if you read on you will learn the secret of having said accomplishments: “You may not think you can have accomplishments in your lowly restaurant server or pizza delivery job,” Hansen writes, “but try to.”  Well, that sounds easy enough: Don’t just putter around like an average employee—get out there and give accomplishments a try!  Hansen’s advice is the most delicate way I’ve ever heard of saying, “Quit lolly-gagging and get your rear in gear—a monkey could do your job!”

So for those of you who think it may be too late to have an impressive—nay, powerful—resume, take heart in Hansen’s belief that you, too, can have accomplishments, and you can have them right now.  With a renewed motivation to excel at your current job no matter how “lowly” it may be, and a little artful BS-ing of your past experience, you’re well on your way to the job of your dreams.

Just make sure to have better accomplishments than the monkey.

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