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Looking Good on Paper

How do I measure up on paper? This is a question anyone who will be applying for a new job/internship/grad school position should ask themselves. Most of us aren’t fortunate to know someone who has the power right now to hire us for our dream job. (I’m still waiting for Shonda Rhimes to call haha.) So we’re resigned to the traditional resume to get our foot inside the interview door. The resume is a company’s first look at who we are, and it’s often what get a potential employee’s application discarded. (One mistake = trash can.) One graduate who had a position open at her place of business said they stopped accepting applications after the first 100 resumes came in. You can bet an error was just one of several criteria they looked at before conducting phone interviews.

Personally, I kind of like the idea of resumes because I’ve always been a strong writer. I’ve never been good at making a good first impression when I meet people because I’m introverted (and apparently have an “intense” and somewhat “mean” look on my face). So I like that people’s first judgment of me is on paper. That’s where I shine. I have to work harder on the interview side, but I’m generally confident that if I apply for a job, I’m most likely going to get an interview because I look good on paper. I simply don’t make spelling errors.

There are a million resources out there about resumes, and everyone has an opinion about them (I hate objective statements because they’re usually written using vague and unhelpful language that ultimately takes up valuable space — a well-written targeted cover letter accomplishes the same thing). So my advice to you is to talk to lots of people before you push send. Talk to the person you secure an informational interview with to see what they think about resumes. They may be able to help you include some industry-specific terms that your company scans for during their initial review. Research industry sources and read company/organization blogs for insight (a lot of PR firms will discuss how to break into their company in a blog post or two). I know we heard last week that it’s good to be a duck. Well, it’s also good to be a sponge and soak up all of the information that is out there. (Start at the UNCW Career Center, and I used VT’s Career Services a lot — you actually don’t have to be a student to use most of the resources on there). I see articles posted all the time with titles like, “Top 5 Things to Include on Your Resume,” and sometimes I agree with everything that is said, and other times I see stupid things, like “Be sure to include ‘References Available Upon Request’ at the bottom,” and it drives me crazy (Any company that is seriously interested in hiring you will ask you for a list, and if you have a list, it will take a good 1/2 to full page to list them, so don’t waste a line of your resume for that). If you see advice that seems unusual, then simply ask. I’m kind of set in my ways of how I like resumes to be, but I always have a reason for why I do things the way I do. Just ask.

Some tips to get you started:

1. Don’t use a template. We can spot them a mile away. Create your resume in Word and focus on making it easy to read at a glance.

2. Be consistent. Don’t use your resume as a chance to get cutesy with different fonts and sizes and strange bullets. If you put the dates on the right margin at the top of your resume, then put all of your dates on the right margin. Use the same symbol for all of your bullets. Use periods at the end of all of your bullets, or none of your bullets in the experience section. Use the same amount of spacing throughout in b/t each job, each section, etc.

3. Be selective. Don’t list everything you’ve ever done b/c you think a longer resume is better than a shorter one. Yes, your resume should be one page in length, but only list positions/activities that relate to the job you’re applying for. Cross-check it with the position requirements and responsibilities. Prioritize. What is MOST important to your getting selected to the next round.

4. Be prepared to be asked about anything you list on your resume. If you list it, they can ask about it. So either figure out a way to talk about the job you hated in a non-scary way (focus on what you learned from that experience), or don’t list it (that goes for positions that you held where you didn’t actually DO anything). And it goes without saying that you shouldn’t list anything that is false or a gross embellishment. There was an article that circulated on Twitter last week about a VP of Walmart that was having to resign over an “inaccuracy” in his resume. This isn’t the first (and probably won’t be the last) high profile resignation over similar circumstances.

5. Add numbers to quantify your experience. People love numbers. When you watch football on a Sunday, you hear things like, “Cam Newton is a great quarterback.” Sure he is. But then you hear how great he is when they say, “Cam Newton threw 24 touchdowns in 16 games in 2013.” That’s more impressive, and it clarifies what you mean when you say he’s great. Similarly, if you say that you have experience training employees, that’s not as impressive as saying, “trained 10 new hires in 6 months.” If you were responsible for fundraising, tell me how much you raised. If you were president of a club, tell me how many members were in the club when you led weekly meetings.

6. Proofread. Repeat. Proofread. Repeat.

This week, tell me about your previous sources of information about resumes prior to this class. What questions do you still have about resumes, and what are some of the mistakes/horror stories you have heard about resumes in the past?

Resistance to Change

I HATE change. I’m not afraid to say that, and I won’t pretend that I do like change. I’m someone who likes to figure out how things work/are, and then I’ll try to find out how to be the best at those things, but when the system changes, I don’t tend to respond well. I like knowing what to expect because I like to be prepared. Scratch that. I like to be better prepared than anyone else.

It’s difficult to exist in a world that is full of constant change. The students always change. By the time I feel like I get to know a lot of them, they leave and I get a new batch that need breaking in. People get new jobs, and move away, or have kids, and start going to bed at 9:00 pm. My nieces and nephew are growing up, and they’re changing, almost every minute it seems. One minute, I’m awesome “auntie” and the next, I’m replaced by Princess Elsa and Olaf.

Today I embraced my need to have a better attitude about change, and I purchased an LG G3 Android phone. The reason this is so out of the box for me is that EVERYTHING I own is Apple. Initially, I was an Apple skeptic. I was slow to adopt the technology. It started with the iPod (of course). Then I tried the phone (3G) with limited success (my students had to show me how to do basic things on it). That was followed by the iPhone 4, then a MacBook (which I’m STILL probably paying for after 4 years), a 4s, several versions of the iPod, and an Apple TV. So when I say that I really am immersed in the Apple ecosystem, I really am. So it’s kind of crazy that I would pick the G3 over the iPhone 6. I’ve done a lot of research, and if I’m ever going to like an Android phone, it’s going to be this one. (I have a plan–try this phone for 5 days, and if I don’t like it, I can return it for the iPhone 6, so I do have a back-up plan.) But I did this because I wanted to prove to myself that I’m not afraid of a little change. Has it been easy making this switch? Absolutely not. I spent 2 1/2 hours at the store trying to transfer my data to the new phone, only to have to pay another $3 on an app to restore my calendars (hadn’t thought of that). And I still can’t figure out how to get my music on this phone. But there was a lot I didn’t like about Apple’s “update” to the new phone. And I’m tired of settling for less than what I want or what I feel I deserve. I’m tired of taking the path of least resistance b/c I’m afraid of dealing with changes. So today, I did more than just purchase a phone; I had the courage to try something new, to do something “not me. “Who knows? It might not work out, but at least I can say I tried. At least I won’t always wonder about “those Androids.” Either way, it’s a learning experience, something that will help me take more chances that may make my life better.

This week, tell me about something that you’ve wanted to do or change about yourself, why you haven’t done it or changed it yet, and what you can realistically do to work on this.

These Dreams

There’s a sense of urgency about the Discipline Capstone. It forces you to set goals. Your time as a student at UNCW is coming to an end soon. You can only put your future off for so long because it’s coming, whether or not you want it to. Some of you may be goal-setters, and some of you may be dreamers.

There’s a difference between goals and dreams. A goal forces you into action because you set a time period for it. A dream is something that sounds good in theory, but you aren’t necessarily doing anything to try to achieve it without goals. We interchange the terms frequently because we are afraid to fail. We aren’t brave enough to work hard, to step outside of our comfort zone, and to risk what we have for the unknown. One of the worst things in life is to look back with regret because you didn’t try. I wrote last week that eventually we end up where we’re supposed to be. And I do believe that. But that doesn’t mean I don’t regret following some of my dreams when I was younger. Did I try really hard to actually become a film director? No. I waited until my last semester senior year to take Film Production, I picked an internship that taught me nothing because it was easy, and after I got into a graduate film school program, I deferred my admission twice before even Chapman University gave up on me and my will to do what I said I wanted to do. By the time I was 23, I had run out of excuses for deferring my dream. It was clear I didn’t want it as much as I was telling others I did, but I didn’t know why. I don’t know if it was because I was afraid to move out to LA or NY and fail, but I’ll never know because I didn’t try. And that will always haunt me.

The thing about goals and dreams is that they change over time. I no longer dream of becoming a film director. It was a neat idea when I was younger. Now, I dream of finding an internal peace that I haven’t had in some time. So this year, my goals include enjoy the little things again, like going to the beach once a week and going for an untimed run just because the weather’s nice and not because I have to because I’m training for a big race. I am going to unclutter my life this year, which means finally getting rid of things and people who weigh me down. I’ve been moving pedal to the metal, full-throttle since I got to UNCW 13 years ago, and I’m only now just realizing that it’s perfectly okay for me to slow down and appreciate what I’ve worked so hard for all of these years. It goes against my nature to think like this, but I need to do this.

In this week’s comments, I want you to tell me what your dream job is. Tell me why it’s your dream job. And tell me 2-3 goals that you are going to set (if you haven’t done so already) in order to help you make your dream job a reality.

Bless the Broken Road

Ellen Degeneres. Brad Pitt. Steve Jobs. Bill Gates. Mark Zuckerberg. Jennifer Chin. What do these people have in common? They all dropped out of college. Yes, your teacher is a college dropout. [Don't worry--I went back.]

I was watching an episode of Oprah’s Master Class the other day (which is really a great show), and the magnificent Susan Sarandon was the “master” for this particular episode. Usually when I watch this show, I sit there mesmerized by all of the profound things the masters have to say. She said two things that really resonated with me, “Nothing I did turned out the way I thought it would” and “In a way, I’m here because all of my plans failed.” (She went on to describe that she’s happy that she doesn’t know what’s coming next and that somehow she found herself owning a ping pong franchise, and she’s not even good at it, but she loves that about herself.) These statements surprised me because I’m a planner. I hate it when things don’t work out. I don’t know why I’m this way, but I am. But as I wrote this, I realized that I’m here because my plans failed too.

I’ve always been in love with TV. I love the escapism of it. I love critical darlings like “The Walking Dead,” “Breaking Bad,” and “The Good Wife.” I love the melodrama of shows like “Revenge,” “Scandal,” and “Nashville.” And currently I’m obsessed with “reality” home improvement shows like “Flipping the Block,” “Love it or List it,” and “Property Brothers.” As a kid, I used to watch shows way beyond my years, such as “L.A. Law,” “Life Goes On,” “Sisters,” and “thirty something.” Yes, as a teen, I used to watch “thirty something.” My first magazine subscription back in the early 1990s was to Entertainment Weekly (I am still a subscriber to this day). So, yes, you could say that I have a fascination with Hollywood. Originally, that fascination led me to pursue a career in the industry, so I took that into consideration when I applied to about 15 colleges in two years (including University of Southern California, UCLA, UVA, and UNC). I didn’t get into my first choice school, Berkeley, which crushed me. I couldn’t get past that for a long time, and that might have influenced my decision to ultimately enroll at Boston University without having even seen it in person. My revised plan was to go to BU, become the next Ron Howard, and move out to Hollywood. Seemed like a good plan. Until I made the most impulsive decision of my life, and I dropped out of college the night before classes started. One of the most liberating things about college is that you can make decisions without your parents’ approval, and once you make them, you can’t undo them. So I called my dad (I still hear him saying, “You did WHAT? Well, undo it!”) and told him he had to come and get me the next day because I was going to be kicked out of the dorm.

Ever since I became a college dropout, I’ve worn the black sheep label in the family. Asians don’t become Hollywood directors; they become doctors, lawyers, and pharmacists. Asians don’t drop out of college; they go on to become valedictorian. I like to think that my two younger sisters owe me a debt of gratitude because after I became “the black sheep,” nothing they would go on to do would ever be as bad as dropping out of college. It wasn’t just that my family would talk about “the dropout” behind my back…my failures, my pathetic salary, and what they refer to as my “glorified English degree” were constant topics of discussion at Thanksgiving and Christmas, too. So I finally just stopped going home for the holidays (I went a good 10 years or so between Thanksgivings).

Today when I think about all of the roads and struggles I went through to get to where I am right now, I am grateful. I could have easily ended up a drug addict or a miserable lawyer. I could have let my family’s negativity dictate how I live my life, and I could have let it prevent me from having a relationship with my 3 nieces and nephew. I never expected to become a teacher. I never expected to live in North Carolina, to plan a breast cancer rock concert benefit, or to plan fashion shows. I never thought I’d like working freshman orientation, wearing suits, running, or teaching the First-Year Seminar. I’ve learned so much about my inner strength and what I’m capable of that I wouldn’t have learned had things been handed to me. So I guess we all end up where we’re supposed to be…eventually.

Oprah begins each episode of Master Class by saying, “Use your life as a class. There is something to be learned from each experience.” Remember that as you tackle each challenge this semester. Use this week’s post to tell me about a challenge you have faced in your life and what you learned from it. (BTW this is a common interview question)

Alumni Guest Post — COM 400 – Ready or Not, Here You Are!

My name is Allison Day and I graduated from UNC Wilmington with a B.A. in Communication Studies in December 2011. Nowadays, I’m on the Marketing & Communications team for AmWINS Group, one of the nation’s largest wholesale insurance companies with more than 3,200 employees worldwide. I work in Corporate Communications and have a very dynamic role which encompasses social media, email marketing, employee communications, graphic design, collateral development, event coordination and more. However, landing this job was anything but easy.

A mere three years ago, I was in your exact same position, ready to graduate and thinking that through the work I’d done in college and during internships, I was guaranteed to get an awesome job. Well, as I found out quickly, that’s not the case. I knew COM 400 was going to be tough, based on what I’d heard from friends who had taken Professor Chin before, but it wasn’t until after I graduated that I understood how truly beneficial this course was to me finally landing a great job.

What to expect: resumes, interviews, portfolios, oh my!

This semester, you’ll talk to a professional in the field you want a career in (I found out that I did not want to go into Sports Marketing after this informational interview), build your cover letter and resume (which, if done properly, can get you an interview), create a professional portfolio (which will give examples to support what you say during your interview), write your elevator speech (which will make you sound kick-ass in your interview) and finally learn skills and practice questions to help you knock your interview out of the park and get the job, or at least a second interview.

This may sound intimidating, and at times it is. Professor Chin and COM 400 will challenge you and push you out of your comfort zone, but in the end you’ll be better for it. I promise that this is the most real world applicable class you’re going take during your time at UNC Wilmington, and Ms. Chin does know what she’s talking about!

Why it’s important: the end result

Starting your career is no easy feat in today’s job market, and if you don’t have connections or an “in” somewhere, pay extra attention in this course. If you’re like me and have to job hunt the old fashioned way (I actually found my job through LinkedIn), what you learn this semester will make you stand out from the sea of recent grad sameness. While job hunting, I went on several interviews and I can’t tell you how many times potential employers were impressed that I had done research on their company and came prepared with extra copies of my resume, let alone had a portfolio with examples of my work! You definitely get what you put into this class and if you’re not prepared come interview time, someone else will be.

My dad once told me, “No one is going to give you a job. You have to earn it.” This is so true.

My last piece of advice based on my experience is, do everything you can to be prepared, but if you don’t get a job you apply or interview for, don’t get discouraged. There were a few jobs I interviewed for which I was heartbroken when I wasn’t chosen, but looking back I’m glad I didn’t get them because the career I’m in now and the opportunities provided to me by AmWINS are so much better. It’s cheesy, but some doors do close so even better ones can open.

Work hard, play hard and good luck!

Allison

 

Get Ready

People are always surprised to learn how long I’ve been at UNCW (this is my 13th year). Throughout this semester, you will learn a lot about my story and how I ended up here, but before we dive in, I need you to understand a few things about my approach to this course. The Discipline Capstone is a required course (now required by ALL UNCW students), so I am not under any delusions that you are enrolled in this class voluntarily. However, I do know that there are several sections of this course, so some of you may be sitting in this section by choice (I thank you for that). Last year I began this course by making some promises to my students. I will promise you all the same things. (Read them here.)

This course is about to challenge you in ways that many of you are not prepared for. You will want to resist it. You may start to stress out just thinking about this class. But this class is a GIFT. Thirteen and a half years ago, I was very much like you. I was getting ready to enter the job market, and I had NO IDEA what challenges I was going to face. I had no idea because I refused to let myself think about life after graduation. I didn’t want to think about it because it scared the crap out of me. So one day I was graduated, and suddenly there were no more classes to go to, and I thought, “What now?” This class will help you be better prepared to answer and act when that thought comes to you. (And believe me, it will.) This class will frustrate you at times, it will scare you other times, but most of all, I hope it motivates you. It forces you to be honest about where you are in relation to where you want to be. It challenges you to step out of your comfort zone and to start taking chances. The COM Discipline Capstone is certainly what you make of it (more on that in a second), and I promise to help you make the most of it to get to where you want to be.

I could write a book of advice for students about how to succeed in COM 400. However, I know by now that it means more when it comes from your peers. Last fall, I asked my students to post comments with advice for future COM 400 students. I want you to read them here.

I LOVE hearing from our grads. As cheesy as it sounds, it can really make my day. One grad sent me this note recently,

“I started working at a company in May…I got this job through the person I interviewed from the first project you assigned in the beginning of my semester. I think it’s crazy how it all works out but as cheesy as it is, I wanted to thank you for everything you taught me and for pushing us to do things we would probably never do on our own…Everyone I speak to whether at different colleges or different majors at UNCW didn’t get any real preparations for the real world – where I felt I was thoroughly prepared through your class alone. You’re an awesome professor and I hope you keep inspiring students to work their asses off…thanks for everything…tell your students to not complain because every assignment really does count for something in the end!”

After you’re read about the five promises I will make to you this semester AND the advice from our grads, I want you to use your comment to post your promises to me (and to yourself). I look forward to our time together this semester. Get ready.

Closing Time

The end of fall semester is always rough because it comes straight off the heels of Thanksgiving Break. Everyone has a ton on their plate with holiday get-togethers, shopping for loved ones, finals, and motivation is at an all-time low. Some of you are ending your undergraduate career in a few short weeks, so you’re also juggling graduation, sending announcements, applying for jobs, and moving. It’s easy to get so caught up in everything that you let it all pass you by. It has taken me awhile to learn that moments and memories are precious, and I need to stop and slow down more often to appreciate them because they can be gone in a blink of an eye.

This is one of the final times I get to address you, so let me say this. Collectively, you have been one of the best groups I’ve ever had in 12 years of teaching this class (despite the fact that only half of you posted a comment last week).  I don’t take the responsibility of being your teacher lightly. This class is personal for me. I love learning about you and helping you realize that you have it in you to do the things you’ve always (or sometimes never even) dreamed of. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, strengths, failures, and goals with me (and each other). Thank you for motivating me to be a better teacher and communicator. Thank you for the privilege of being your teacher this semester. You are an amazing group of students, and I’m excited about all of the great things you will do when you leave here. When you move on to your next step, be sure to drop me (or someone in the department) a line from time to time to let us know what you’re up to. We always love hearing from our students. And who knows? Maybe one day soon, you’ll be writing the next alumni blog post!

For this final post, I want you to offer two pieces of advice for future Discipline Capstone students AND I want you to discuss what being a UNCW COM Studies major has taught you/meant to you. Think about your entire experience as a COM major–what have you learned that will stay with you forever? For those of you graduating next week (congrats!), what do you hope to accomplish within the next few years?  And for those of you not graduating this month, what goals do you have for the next semester?

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