The New Résumé: Dumb and Dumber – WSJ.com

The New Résumé: Dumb and Dumber – WSJ.com.

Kristin Konopka sent out nearly 100 copies of her résumé in January in search of receptionist work, but got only one callback. That’s when Ms. Konopka, a 29-year-old New York actress and yoga teacher, took her master’s degree and academic teaching experience off her résumé.

The calls started coming in. The slimmer version of her résumé landed in 30 in-boxes and earned her three callbacks and two interviews. “It definitely picked up the interest,” says Ms. Konopka, who realized quickly that people don’t “want to hire anyone who is overqualified.”

Securing work in a tight economy means more job seekers might find themselves applying for positions below their qualifications. Many unemployed professionals are willing to take paycuts for the promise of a paycheck. But to get a foot in the door, candidates are gearing down their résumés by hiding advanced degrees, changing too-lofty titles, shortening work experience descriptions, and removing awards and accolades.

In the past eight months, Jamaica Eilbes, an information-technology recruiter for Milwaukee employment agency Manpower, has had to weed out more overqualified résumés than usual from the stacks that cross her desk each day. “I’d never feel comfortable putting a really high-level candidate into a lower level position,” says Ms. Eilbes, who recruits for Manpower and other clients. “We don’t want to take you on if we think you are going to jump ship.”

[Dumb Resume] Matt Collins

But in recent months, Ms. Eilbes has seen more master’s and doctoral degrees at the bottom of résumés instead of at the top. She’s also seen candidates omitting or trimming job descriptions that showed they had substantial years of work experience. Résumés on which job descriptions taper off as they progress down the page raise Ms. Eilbes’s suspicions. “How do I know I can trust them later down the road if there’s something on their résumé they decided to take off so they could have a better chance at getting that job?” she says.

Still, for some professionals who find themselves constantly rejected despite decades of experience, scaling back the truth — or at the least, some of their experiences — can feel like the only chance at an interview.

Lenora Kaplan, 49, has 26 years of marketing experience but doesn’t want her résumé to show it. When she lost her job as vice president of public relations at a small Las Vegas marketing firm in January, Ms. Kaplan searched for work with little success. At an interview for a shopping-mall marketing-director position in February, she was told that the hiring budget had only enough for a junior-level employee and that her résumé showed she was overqualified.

Many of the jobs she comes across ask for far fewer years of experience than she has. “There is nothing to apply for” at my level, Ms. Kaplan says. She quickly realized her job experience was pricing her out of too many positions. Her solution: To try not to look as senior level as she really was. So she eliminated certain jobs and removed details about speaking engagements and board positions.

In some cases, job seekers are being told by hiring agencies to tone down their résumés if they want to get hired. When Bridget Lee, 29, moved to New York from Shanghai eight months ago and put her application in at three temporary agencies, she was told to play down her work experience before they would send her résumé to potential clients. The temp-agency version of her résumé changed titles like “manager” and “freelance trend researcher” to “staff” and “office support” and omitted entirely her title as partner of a small marketing agency. “It’s been a lesson for how I present myself,” Ms. Lee says.

Career counselors advise against making too many drastic changes. But they also say the demand for this kind of restructuring is on the rise. In the past three months, Tammy Kabell, a Kansas City, Mo., job-search coach, says more clients are requesting her help to “dumb down” their résumés, whether by changing job titles, playing down experience, or altogether omitting some impressive achievements. One recent client, a 61-year-old former chief learning officer at a tech company, insisted on omitting her C-level job title from her résumé. She was fearful her application would be weeded out by the Web search-optimization tools companies use to manage résumés.

Some résumé writers advise reworking a résumé into a functional one stressing transferable skills instead of past job titles and accomplishments. “Instead of focusing on the big achievements that might scare an employer away, you can spell out what you can bring to an employer in the next position,” Ms. Kabell says.

Of course, reducing your résumé to a skeleton of what it truly should be isn’t likely to land you the job you really want. While it took Ms. Lee eight months to get a call back for a job that matched her real experience, this month she landed a position as a temporary account manager — with potential for permanent work — at a New York design firm. The interview and job offer weren’t earned using her dumbed-down résumé, but rather with the original.

“You have to make those creative edits when it comes to short-term work, but in terms of long-term work, you have to stay true to your experience,” says Ms. Lee.

Dear recruiters, I think there is a (slight) misunderstanding…

Dear recruiter, headhunter, HR,

I’d like you to help me to understand how you work…

  • …as I don’t understand:  why, despite companies and clients say I’m very creative, I can’t manage to have any appointments in your offices and meet any clients?

  • Why when I finally got one that it’s only “one shot”? (means I was enough good for ONE company but not for any others?)
    Why sometimes the recruiter interviewing me doesn’t understand what exactly my job is? (“oh you are a multimedia designer?”)
  • I have some questions to ask you and it will be great if you could answer!

Please download and see the file here: PDF file .

Because, WE, candidates, (just) want to understand…

THANKS A LOT…

Talent isn't everything

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by Chanpory Rith on 2007/04/09 |

Here’s a common myth: To be a successful creative professional, all you need is talent. It’s a nice myth to believe in. “Talent” suggests a divine or evolutionary genetic gift, so if you’re blessed with the talent gene, you’re special and can be a cool creative person. If not, you’re destined to be an accountant.

”… this myth of talent has very little to do with the success of a designer.”

After working three years at MetaDesign and since starting my new position at Dubberly Design Office, I’ve noticed this myth of talent has very little to do with the success of a junior designer. Instead, I have found that those who survive and last more than six months practice these seven habits:

1. Work quickly. Produce a lot.

2. Attend to details.

3. Be versatile.

4. Make an effort to learn.

5. Anticipate problems.

6. Set goals.

7. Display a positive attitude.


1. Work quickly. Produce a lot.

In a design studio with large collaborative projects, time is money. Being fast is critical to your survival. The studio relies on your speed in two areas: Idea generation and production.

Idea generation

Being a junior designer often means your final work won’t be polished. Fortunately, design is not just about quality. It’s also about ideas and concepts. The more ideas you generate quickly, the more value you bring to the studio. Having many unrevised ideas, as opposed to one perfect concept, helps your creative director and design team to:

  • Envision the solution space, the set of possible solutions, for the project.
  • Evaluate what’s conservative, feasible, or ridiculous.
  • Create a pool of alternatives to choose from in case a client rejects the team’s initial recommendations.
  • Invite early client participation, by having more options to show and discuss.

Ideas shouldn’t remain in your head; you need to find ways to express them. Some ways to show ideas include brainstorming via outlines, concept maps, mood boards, and sketches. Also useful is rapid prototyping, the iterative process of creating rough and imperfect proof of concepts. Here are some ways you can present your ideas.

Outlines are lists organized hierarchically, much like the lecture notes you took in school. They’re a quick and familiar way to organize initial ideas without worrying about what the final design looks like.

Concept maps show relationships between concepts in the form of nodes and links. Each node represents an idea; each link represents a relationship. Both should be labeled. Their advantage is the ability to show one-to-many and many-to-many relationships.

Mood boards are collages that combine images, colors, and words to capture the general feeling of what a product or service might evoke. They’re useful for discussing general conceptual approaches without getting bogged down in details such as layout and typography. For examples of mood boards in all shapes and sizes, check out Flickr’s Inspiration Boards Pool

Sketches are drawings that approximations what a design might look like. They can be rough or detailed.

When generating ideas, keep in mind that in the early phases of a project, you should first try to generate a lot of ideas instead of having a few perfectly defined.

Second, you should create distinct ideas rather than variations or permutations of the same idea. (I still have a hard time with this one.)

Finally, don’t be afraid of dumb ideas.

Production

Even if your ideas don’t work out, you can help refine, improve, and implement the ideas of others on your team. Production—the execution stage of a design process—is a vital skill for every designer. This means you need to be well-versed in the most commonly-used software applications and prototyping methods in your studio. You don’t need to know them like the back of your hand; you just need to know enough to meet the possible demands of the studio. To become more proficient:

  • Seek help by asking another designer how to do something.
  • Search online for answers. Google, message boards, blogs, and wikis are your best friends.
  • Keep updated on product announcements, tutorials, and updates.
  • Try-out and adopt new software.
  • Practice your skills by experimenting on side projects, such as personal websites and designing for your friends and family.
  • Read sites like this one for tips and tricks.
  • Take classes on new or unfamiliar technologies. Your employer may even sponsor you.

Most major applications now come with a set of tutorials that demonstrate old and new features. As a daily or weekly exercise, choose and complete one tutorial on an unfamiliar part of the application.

2. Attend to details

Successful junior designers take great care in preparing files for others to use. They pay attention to pixels and picas, check spelling, remove unneeded files, and strive to make it easier for someone else to understand their work. Nothing will annoy your supervisor or creative director more than having to clean up sloppy work. Some tips:

In programs with layers, such as Photoshop and InDesign, name and order your layers with a logical naming convention. Delete any layers and ruler guides that are unnecessary.

Keep files managed with clear naming conventions and a logical hierarchy of folders. This makes it easier for your boss and other coworkers to find a file later.

If you have linked or placed images in a file, make sure they work when you package them for your creative director to review. Linked images should also be named according to a logical naming convention.

Make it easy for your manager to give you feedback by making a list of specific questions you need answered to take the project to the next step.

3. Be versatile

Versatile and flexible designers can weather the economic ups and downs of a design studio because they can be staffed to more types of projects. A sure-fire way to shoot yourself in the foot is saying “I don’t do web” or “I don’t do print.” You’ll be seen as a diva and won’t last long.

Effective designers instead say “I don’t know how yet, but I want to learn how to do it.” Eventually, you’ll learn new skills and—more importantly—ways to adapt these skills to new demands. Being well-rounded also gives you a wider range of experiences and skills to draw from when designing. This means more variety when generating ideas and a better understanding of how different disciplines can work together.

Hugh Dubberly, a design planner and educator, shared this anecdote:

“Herman Zapf, famous type designer, tells a story of his first job. He interviewed with a printer who asked if he knew how to use a process camera. Zapf said yes. He got the job and went straight to the library to read up on how to do it.”

Unlike what Zapf would say, I still hear many designers proclaim, “I don’t want to design websites. It’s too technical.” These designers close themselves off to the possibility of learning and growth as well as the reality of technology’s prevalence.

With the ubiquity of technology and the Internet, it’s impossible to avoid getting technical. I encourage every designer, whether print-based or software/web-based, to have some understanding of:

  • Basic programming concepts (functions, loops, conditionals, and variables)
  • Web development (XML, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AJAX, PHP/MySQL, Flash)
  • Social networking and collaborative authoring (blogs, wikis, message boards, MySpace)
  • Cybernetics (study of systems, goals, and feedback)
  • Search and search engine optimization (metadata, tags, page rank, contextual advertising, personalized search)
  • Version control and content management

4. Make an effort to learn

To be versatile, you must learn new skills all the time. Effective and successful designers are lifelong learners. They are curious, enthusiastic, and passionate about design and want to learn more. This passion translates to better job satisfaction and productivity. They also:

  • Seek out mentors, perhaps a teacher, manager, or industry expert they admire.
  • Choose jobs based on those that let them learn the most. When you’ve stopped learning, it’s probably time to leave.
  • Have projects outside of work (such as cute productivity blogs).
  • Participate in the design communities by attending lectures and other events.
  • Keep up with technology and become an early adopter.
  • Read books on unfamiliar topics.
  • Write about what they’ve learned and share it with others. It helps organize their thoughts.

5. Anticipate problems

Junior designers can make themselves indispensable by recognizing and anticipating potential problems for their managers. For example, you can:

  • Point out potential production issues that might delay the project.
  • Accurately estimate the amount of time you need to a task. Junior designers are notorious for underestimating the time it takes to do something, so give yourself some padding for anything that might go wrong.
  • If you need more time to do a task, tell your managers at least 24 hours ahead, so they can rearrange the schedule.
  • Alert managers when work falls out of the project scope.

6. Set goals

To be an effective designer, you must set goals for yourself. These goals can be skills you want to learn, responsibilities you want to have, and types of projects you want to work on.

Knowing and articulating these goals is especially important during performance reviews. Reviews should be more than just about discussing your past performance; use them as an opportunity to present your goals. This shows that you want to grow. It also allows both you and your manager to agree on a plan for achieving your goals.

For more about goals, check out Erin Malone’s article on the five-year-plan.

7. Display a positive attitude

Companies change. One day, your company is the leading design studio for non-profit corporate identities. The next day, it decides to specialize in websites for luxury European cars. As company vision shifts, so can the staff, location, and other resources. Amidst change and uncertainty, it’s important to remain positive. Nobody likes a grump.

Here are some ways to show a positive attitude:

  • No matter how junior you are, mentor others by sharing information you’ve learned.
  • Identify problems in the studio and find ways to make them go away.
  • Ask what you can do to help.
  • Avoid gossip and talking ill of fellow coworkers, clients, and competing studios.

Conclusion

Certainly, these habits apply to other fields as well as design. They also may be obvious to some. Nonetheless, it’s important to restate and articulate what we often forget. For junior designers who want to eventually become senior designers and managers, it’s vital to avoid believing that success depends on talent alone.

Success for a designer depends on how much value he or she brings to an employer or client. Quality and talent can be part of this value, but success requires more than that. Designers also bring value through speed, versatility, foresight, and other qualities that have little to do with talent. Talent, if it exists, is only a small part of success.

(Special thanks to Hugh Dubberly for his feedback on an earlier draft of this article.)

Recommended reading:

Learning How to Learn, by Joseph D. Novak and D. Bob Gowin

The Now Habit, by Neil Fiore

The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell

NOTE: This article is based an earlier blog post on LifeClever, published July 12, 2006.