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Archive for the month “August, 2016”

Rules for Revisiting and Revising Your Resume

Having to revise your resume and writing cover letters for jobs is stressful. Especially if your savings are running low and the phone’s just not ringing. It’s easy to start getting down on yourself and letting negative thoughts take over.

But you know you can’t quit. You got bills. However, you probably need to take a break and allow yourself to do something fun, so you’ll have a clearer head to get back out there. So quit applying from jobs from a place of fear, anxiety and disbelief.

Trust me, you have to feel good about yourself and your abilities in order to convince someone to pay you to do stuff.

Whether you’ve had a steady job for 12 years and looking for a change, or you’ve been out of work for a few weeks or a few months, taking the time to revisit your work history can feel like it’s painful as spring cleaning, or as anxiety-inducing as being asked to jot down how many sexual partners you’ve had on a health form.

Sometimes, you just don’t want to go back. But in all of those scenarios, in order to move forward, you have to face it.

Working on your resume and cover letters is time-consuming. It just is. It’s a necessary evil. But instead of being filled with fear and anxiety, be comforted that in the age of technology, you can get a lot of help and find free resources to help you polish things up a bit.

Rule number one: Just because you snagged a job with your old resume doesn’t mean sticking with what you’ve got will continue to work.

I like to use my job-winning resume format as a foundation, but I continue to tweak.

Rule number two: Work on your resume while you have a job and can readily think of accomplishments and achievements and your duties while you are actually doing them.

Rule number three: Tailor, tailor, tailor. I write different cover letters for every position. Why? Practice makes perfect and I challenge myself to say what I have to say with fewer words. I think I hit a new record when I got my cover letter down to about 380 words. This means you are getting closer to matching your written elevator pitch and effectively getting to the point, which is an attractive attribute for any kind of candidate. This also saves the recruiter and hiring managers some time, which they appreciate. This is not to say that I don’t have a base letter that reminds me of my accomplishments or uses good phrases that describe my experience level and background, but I try to change it up. Besides, you don’t want the mistake of copying and pasting an entire letter with the wrong position title, or worse yet, wrong company. This is why no matter how tired you are, you have to review your work, and always run it through spell check. I also like the other features like word count, and the passive voice percentage checker. Web writers, you want to have 0% passive sentences.

Rule number four: Government jobs are a different beast. As with all applications, READ THE DIRECTIONS CAREFULLY. Usajobs.gov actually has tips and videos that go along with their job descriptions and applications to help you bone up on what they expect and how your resume should be presented. If they took the time to do this, take the time to watch. It actually means qualified folks probably got tossed because they didn’t follow the rules, so this time, the government is trying to do us a solid here. Doing this may separate you from the folks who blindly upload resumes that get tossed immediately and may give you a few more points to compete with the veterans who get special preference.

Rule number five: Actually follow the directions as given. This applies to all applications, but the government in particular is rather fond of eliminating people for not doing things exactly as they asked. Just ask anyone who’s applied for a grant. Folks who approve grants are always trying to catch folks slipping. It’s not because they are mean, it’s just that there are strict rules when it comes to handing out government funds. They can get in a lot of trouble if they skip steps or let sloppy paperwork slide. It’s a picky, picky process. Details do matter. “Slay, trick or get eliminated.”

Rule number six: Imagine your resume is a contestant on “The Voice.” No one knows what you look like. Your resume has to sing and capture the attention of the hiring manager in less than a minute. Like the judges, they know what to listen for. Is this person confident? Can they even sing? Are they breathing right? Are they on key? Do they have a unique voice they haven’t heard before? Can they take songs people have heard millions of times and make it stand out? Same rules apply to your resume.

Are you on key? Does the tone of your resume and cover letter fit the description? Do you meet all of the requirements? Do you have examples?

Do you have a unique voice? What do you bring to the table that your other competitors don’t?

Can you take songs people have heard millions of times and make it stand out? There are millions of lawyers and accountants and teachers and nurses, but if you are in any of those fields there’s still only one you. You specialize in something, you may have come from another field that makes you have a different perspective on how you’re doing what you do now. You may have volunteered in another country, or had to use your skills in other ways. Play that up.

Rule number seven: Did you really read the job description? Use similar terminology the job description uses in your resume and cover letter so the machines can pick up the terms and match them. Say exactly how you meet each requirement and give an example.

Rule number nine: Don’t waste your time on long shots. Don’t apply to positions that are way out of your league and don’t apply to junior positions if you have a lot of experience. You have to strike the right balance.  Conserve your energy so you can concentrate on researching the company, rereading the job description so you can write an amazing cover letter and resume for jobs you have a real shot at getting.

Rule number nine: Don’t lie. This should be obvious, but do not lie or over embellish. There have been instances where people lied about credentials and were exposed several years later having to step down or being fired in shame. It’s never worth it. People also tend to lie about salary in hopes of getting a bump. It’s not worth it either. Report the truth, and ask for what you’re worth when it’s time to discuss the offer. If you can back it up, you’ll be surprised when companies step up.

Rule number 10: Say thank you.This goes back to kindergarten, but thank folks for their time and consideration. Don’t forget to include your contact information so someone can get back to you!

Bonus Rule: Have someone else look at your resume and give feedback. If you know someone who is an HR professional, that’s even better! Do you know writers or copy editors? Let them have a look too. They can provide some insight on things you should put more emphasis on, and things you can leave out.

Good luck!

 

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Lunch Time Walks: Good for the Heart and Soul

It’s no secret that taking a walk is good for you. Being situated in the heart of D.C. makes it even more enticing to take the long way back from grabbing a bite to eat. It also makes you feel better about the french fries you ordered.

Anyway, as of late, as my contract winds down over the next two weeks, I’ve been taking walks at lunchtime to help clear my head. I like people watching and making up stories in my head about where they are going, the kinds of jobs they have, if they are in love or if they feel a little lost like me, wondering what’s next.

I like to look at the kinds of outfits women are wearing, and I smile if I see a woman rocking huge naturally coily hair, with confidence. I notice tourists and families trying to navigate their way through the Nation’s Capital, visibly patriotic and in awe that they are steps away from the President’s house. I totally get it.

Folks walk down the street with a sense of purpose, but unlike New York, it doesn’t have the same wild, aggressive energy, where you hardly even have to walk; the crowd will just push you along the packed sidewalks.

Sometimes, I recognize a pace or even the look in the eyes of the professional bureaucrats I see on the streets, and it looks like they are looking for a few moments of peace and escape too.

And so, we walk. And so, you may see people heading back out for coffee or an iced tea around 2 or 3, just to take a break from it all. That has to be the reason why I can literally walk out of one Starbucks and see another in my line of vision only one foot out the door another block up.

There’s nothing wrong with taking a break to escape. To think about things that make you smile, or consider what your next move is. I’ve been appreciating these moments to take a walk and take in a city that’s been good to me for quite some time now.

Oddly enough, while I take my walks, I hear Carrie Bradshaw’s monologues in my head as she speaks of New York. I switch out her voice with mine, and I wax on about the District, the buildings and the people I see. I walk taller and let the breeze flow through my dress. I allow myself to imagine and slow up the pace. I’ll be back to work soon enough.

Why Anyone Wanting a Serious Relationship Needs to REALLY Listen to Kindred the Family Soul

I had the pleasure of watching “Kindred The Family Soul” do their thing at the Summer Spirit Music Festival this weekend in Maryland. And while they weren’t the headliners like Erykah Badu and Jill Scott who closed the two day festival respectively, Aja Graydon and Fantin Dantzler’s performance really stuck with me long after they took their bows and floated off the stage together.

I was introduced to Kindred in college (early 2000s) and they came out around the same time Jill Scott and India Aire did. These artists were a breath of fresh air as I was growing and learning how to be more mature. Listening to these kinds of artists was a gateway to shaping my evolving taste in music. There was something old school about them, yet fresh and relatable to me. You couldn’t ass shake all the time, and you couldn’t scream out loud aggressive raps either. At that time, me and my friends were falling in and out of love and even wondering if the relationships we were building were among the ones that would lead to marriage. It was college after all.

I was immediately drawn to Kindred’s first album, which I think hands down is their best and untouchable, “Surrender to Love.” The classics on that joint still stand the test of time, as evidenced by the reaction from the crowd when they sang a good amount of those songs in their set some 16 years later.

After to Surrender to Love, I kept my eye out for some other songs, only really connecting with a single or two here and there over the last few years. They announced they are releasing their 6th studio album, and I’m just so stuck on their first. I’m sure they wouldn’t be happy with my steadfast devotion to only Surrender to Love and neglecting their other albums, because as artists they need to and have to grow.

I was standing still and my relationships weren’t really evolving to the level of the things they were talking about.

Which is why I’m revisiting Kindred now as a 30-something who has had a few relationships under her belt, including a broken engagement and six long years of being single and now entering something new and serious and very mature.

My ears are starting to perk up to some of the other songs on their other albums and I’m hearing them with completely new ears, because I’m eager to make this thing work, and I’m finding out that deciding to really open yourself up and join with someone else and not be long distance can reveal somethings about yourself in the process. How guarded you really are, and how it takes a lot of trust to undo those protective actions you’ve been crafting so carefully over the years to protect your feelings.

One of the things I appreciate about Aja and Fantin is the very obvious love, respect and genuine affection they have for one another. They are married with six children and that bond as artists, business partners, husband and wife and parents is strong and battle-tested, but their love is genuine and you can still feel them flirting with each other during songs, and even looking on with pride when the other person hits their solo part of the show.

Through their music they lay out the good, bad, ugly and mundane but always bring it back to not wanting to do the ups and downs of life with anyone else but each other.

There have been several times as a black woman, exasperated I’ve asked my friends over drinks and brunches and dinners and international vacations, “Where is black love? What happened to it?”

Aja and Fantin were holding up the banner last night and every night they perform. And their light attracts other couples who are holding on and holding on to each other, and I saw them last night in the audience dancing, singing along, or leading each other through the crowds and keeping each other cool in the heat.

Their lyrics are loving and honest. From day one in their classic hit “Far Away” they lamented working 9-5s and wanting to hold on to that loving feeling, but having to sneak in sexy time while their baby naps.

In other songs, they discuss doing the work to stay together and grow together and that deciding to stay with someone for decades and for the rest of your life is magical, but like a great magic trick– there’s a whole lot going on that the audience will never see, to create the illusion. They ask each other to hang in and to not give up, they remind each other that it’s worth it.

And boy do we need more music like that.
There is a validity that Aja and Fantin bring to their performances that only comes from having a front row seat to each other’s lives. I’m glad they share vulnerability in their songs and remind people of their own vulnerabilities and that loving another person is indeed a risk, but one worth taking each day. One that is necessary if we are to ever truly enjoy the sweetness of life.

It’s often impolite to ask probing questions of the couples we know in real life. Most couples won’t pull back the curtain on their relationship, because it’s not always what we are seeing when folks post those “couples’ challenge” social media posts. And while most couples would be afraid to be so transparent, at least we have Aja and Fantin giving us the real and sharing their journey with us so we can all grow. They are the type of couple who seem like they’d be at the BBQ giving the younger couples the truth about love, and reminding them that it’s worth fighting for and to above all choose wisely.

The gems in Kindred’s body of work aren’t hidden. They lay it all bare. But like love, it’s all about an individual’s willingness and readiness to accept all that comes with it.

And that BBQ advice session was exactly the vibe I felt with my larger “family” of music lovers all day yesterday. Aja and Fantin held court, while I hung on to every note, listening carefully to every word.

Yup, I’m going to take a closer listen to the subsequent albums after “Surrender to Love.” Because you can’t stay in one place. You have to grow, you have to be open, you have to listen and you have to learn.

And growth certainly looks good on Aja and Fantin, and that’s worth emulating.

 

Afternoon Tea Is a Sweet Indulgence

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of tea.

I blame my mother. She’s always good for making the perfect cup and she’s passed down that preference to me.

I pride myself on the fact that I can make a great cup of tea for my guests, and I love watching their faces when they take that first sip.

I also love how having a cup of tea with someone opens the door to wonderful conversations in a relaxed environment. Time and time again, I’ve put on a pot of tea, or introduced someone to some of my fancier loose leaf teas and hours later, we’re still sitting there talking and having cup after cup.

To me, having a cup of tea is just like lighting a candle, burning incense ,or playing music. It sets a tone for relaxation and comfort. It’s something you can enjoy alone while you collect your thoughts, or do something creative, or get to work. It’s something you can share with others. My teas are not just an indulgence, it’s an act of self-care and it’s an opportunity I use to love on the people in my life.

Well, when a former co-worker of mine wanted to hang in downtown Annapolis this weekend to catch up, among the very nice places she recommended for us to have brunch, she also offered up Reynold’s Tavern, a very lovely tea house.

Since I had never had formal tea at a tea house and my collection of loose leaf teas is growing faster than I can drink it, I jumped at the chance.

I have to say, we really enjoyed ourselves and had a great conversation about the writing process and the emotional journey it takes to write, secure an editor and go into the publishing process. I haven’t gotten as far as her, (she is a brilliant historical fiction novelist) but I do know what it’s like to start a novel or a book and be parts obsessed with it and also feel completely insecure about the whole thing.

There was an extensive tea menu, we both had teas that were based on Jane Austen characters, and they were sooooo good.

There’s something extra special about drinking from a tea-cup and resting it gently on a saucer or taking the infuser out of the pot and just letting the tea rest.

In between all of these actions, there’s discussion and there’s nibbling from the three-tiered serving set.

The tea was delicious, so much so, we each purchased some to take home. I was in love with my crab and shrimp Quiche and light salad and really enjoyed the small desserts.

As I get older, I appreciate these kind of old school ways of gathering and socializing. This goes right up there with meeting with my book club and sharing ideas and feelings with other brainy people who are passionate about books, and what’s going on in the world.

In a time where it seems the ratchet is revered, it’s nice to dip away to another place in time and visit a place like Reynold’s Tavern in the heart of a historic city, and be ladies and gentlemen of leisure.

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