Highlighting Your Work Experience

Chances are, every job you’ve had over the years hasn’t fit into a neat and perfectly descriptive slot. You might’ve held a job for positions like “Keyholder” or “Key Holder.” These are very different positions, but how will anyone who’s never held that exact job know the difference? Sometimes a resume just doesn’t have enough space. Sometimes certain things could be taken out of context.

I’ve held both positions during my working years. When I was a Keyholder, I worked at a bookstore in the mall. This position was one step below an assistant manager. Basically, I was an assistant manager who didn’t work 40 hours a week (because of school). A friend suggested I write “Shift Lead” on my resume instead to explain what the heck I did there. Even that doesn’t cover everything, though, and you can’t write an essay about each place you’ve worked. No one will read that!

Someone who’s been (or may have known) a Keyholder might assume that a Key Holder is the same thing. It’s totally not. A Key Holder is the position at a large home improvement store that refers to the person in charge of the key making service they offer. I didn’t oversee any other employees. I didn’t actually have my own set of keys to the store. What I did do, though, was a huge array of various duties in addition to making keys. People don’t line up in front of the key counter at all hours of the day and night. There’s downtime. Lots of it. So I would help out in any section that needed me for the sake of keeping myself sane. Can I list every little thing I did on my resume? No. That’s not what it’s for.

This is where you come in. As the only person in the interview room who was actually at all of these workplaces, doing these varied jobs and duties, it’s up to you to convey their importance and relevance to your prospective employer. You shouldn’t act as if your résumé is the end all, be all of who you are as an employee. There’s a lot more story to tell than the few little blurbs under each job heading on that one sheet of paper.

Think of your résumé as the outline you’d use to write a history paper in high school. Your outline just has bullet points for you to expand on in your paper. Your résumé serves the exact same purpose. The hiring manager you’re interviewing with has seen the résumé, and now it’s time for you to flesh it out, to give it life and description. Paint them a picture of who you are as an employee. Review your résumé and have notes in front of you with things you’d like to make sure they know more about from it.

For example, your résumé might say something like, “Assisted with departmental development statistics.”

That phrase doesn’t mean much to people who did not work with you, though it looks good on your résumé, it could still use some explanation.

Be sure to emphasize the specific parts of your old jobs that will help you do this one (creative tasks if your new position will deal with creating things, organizational tasks if the new job will include being in charge of others, etc.).

This is a simple step that can really make you a memorable candidate who knows what his strengths, and therefore his limitations, are in the workplace.


Tips for making a great first impression in the workplace

My husband and I ate lunch last Sunday with a small group of people we haven’t spent much time with. The setting was nice: an outdoor Chinese restaurant with delicious rice concoctions and fortune cookies for dessert. There was a slight breeze and the weather was in the 70s; life was good. However, there was one woman present who monopolized the entire conversation, and I found myself more and more eager for our outing to end. This particular incident helps highlight one of the key lessons in the art of first impressions: self-absorption is not an attractive quality.

Sure, we all enjoy talking about our life, our dreams, and our desires with someone. That’s a necessary part of life. We need to feel that someone gets us and cares about us, and we do that through communication. But the first time you meet someone is not the time to debrief them about your life—past, present and future.

First impressions happen everywhere, but one place where they are particularly important is the office. Let’s say you just landed your dream job and this morning is your first day. You’re probably nervous, maybe you didn’t sleep well last night, but take a deep breath and look at today as an opportunity—you get to start from fresh with your coworkers and boss. Here are three tips for making your debut in any office a hit.

1). As highlighted by my Chinese restaurant example, it’s not all about you. Of course, your coworkers are going to be curious about you. They’re going to ask questions, and you certainly don’t want to be evasive, but make it clear you are just as interested in getting to know them. When people learn you aren’t self-absorbed, they’re much more likely to view you positively and seek you out in the future.

2). Dress professionally. This shows your coworkers and boss that you care about your job, the company, and that you respect them enough to display a high level of professionalism.

3). Stay off your cell phone and no text messaging unless on lunch or break. Even if other coworkers are on their personal phones, it’s best to avoid such practices, especially in the beginning when you are still unsure of company policies.

So, savor the opportunity to create great first impressions: they are a powerful tool that will help you both professionally and personally.