I can't tell you how many times a client has told me how surprised they are by the changes in what constitutes a good resume. In most cases they have not updated (or needed) a resume in 10, 15, even 20 years. Many have been at the same company the entire time.
In these challenging economic conditions, a strong resume is more important than ever. An average resume is not going to cut it. No matter how experienced you are, no matter what you have achieved, it will be added to a pile and never given a second glance.
Hiring Managers and Recruiters are only going to spend a few seconds looking over your resume. Their attention needs to be captured immediately. You need a document that is going to stand out from the rest and cause the reader to examine it closely.
There are numerous advantages to having your resume written by a professional. Here are a few key components of the services I provide highlighting why it is worth the investment:
1. Best Practices: They are constantly changing. How long should my resume be? Should education be on the first page? How far back in my career should I go? Does it need to be in chronological order? I can answer all your questions about how a resume should look and what it should say. To stay current on trends in resume writing, I attend the annual Career Thought Leaders conference hosted by Wendy Enelow and Louise Kursmark.
2. Internet Searches: Monster, Career Builder, LinkedIn. Today's job searches are being conducted with web-based sources. It is critically important to ensure that your resume is designed for those and other sites.
3. Keywords: Why are keywords important? What keywords should I have on my resume? Where should they be?
Numerous studies reinforce the importance of having a professionally written resume. According to a beSatisfied Resume Rewrite Impact Survey, job seekers who had a new resume created by a professional were 38% more likely to be contacted by a Recruiter, 31% more likely to get an interview, and 40% more likely to land a job.
The fact is, almost everyone could benefit from a new resume, even if you aren't currently searching for a new position. Having seen and written hundreds upon hundreds of resumes, chances are yours could use a fine tuning. Take a few minutes to review your resume and see if any of the following apply to you:
1. Career Summary Section: Does it have one? What information does it contain? A resume must have a career summary section.
2. Long Paragraphs: Does your resume contain long job description paragraphs? If there are paragraphs more than 4-5 sentences long, that is a problem.
3. Achievements: Are there specific achievements for each position? Are they easy to find? Are they an appropriate length?
4. Bullet Points: This is one I see all the time. Is your resume just a long list of bullet points? Or do you have 10 or more bullets within a single position? No one will read a resume like this.
5. Irrelevant Information: Hobbies? Church activities? Marital status? None should be on your resume, unless you are applying for positions with a religious organization.
Ankit Agarwal is a two-time finalist in the Wisconsin Governor's Business Plan Contest and a biochemical engineer whose work promises to help doctors treat patients with slow-to-heal skin wounds. He's even started a Madison-based company, Imbed Biosciences, to commercialize his discoveries.
Too bad Wisconsin – and the United States – nearly lost him over a protracted and largely senseless immigration problem.
Agarwal, a native of India, was a post-doctoral researcher at the UW-Madison when he developed a way to use silver nanoparticles to dramatically cut infection rates in skin wounds. His struggle to obtain a specialized visa was featured in a June 2012 report by the Partnership for a New American Economy, a bipartisan group that is sounding the alarm immigration laws that prevent the best and brightest foreign-born students from staying in the United States.
It's an issue that ties directly to workforce and economic development in Wisconsin and, especially, its largest cities.
While Agarwal eventually received an "extraordinary ability" visa from the federal government, which is a specialized green card, it was not before paying about $12,000 in application and legal fees. The wait itself threatened his ability to stay in Wisconsin and the United States, even though he's precisely the kind of immigrant the nation should want to attract.
Similar roadblocks are thrown up tens of thousands of times each year in the United States, which annually graduates nearly 40,000 foreign-born students with master's or doctoral degrees in science, technology, engineering and math.
Eric Schmidt, the former CEO and chairman of Google, summarized it best when he said: "Of all the crazy rules in our government, the craziest bar none is that we take the smartest people in the world, we bring them to America, we give then Ph.D.s in technical science, and we kick them out to go found great companies outside of America. This is madness."
It is madness that directly affects the American economy, which has historically depended on immigrants for labor – from manual to intellectual – and as a source of entrepreneurism. Immigrants founded Google, Intel, eBay, Sun Microsystems, Yahoo!, Hotmail, PayPal, U.S. Steel, Dow Chemical, DuPont, Pfizer and Procter and Gamble, to name a few examples. One quarter of American Nobel Prize winners since 1901 and 40 percent of the Ph.D scientists working today in the United States are foreign-born.
Three-quarters of all patents awarded to the nation's top 10 patent-producing universities in 2011 had at least one foreign inventor. During that same period, more than half of all patents (54 percent) were awarded to the group of foreign inventors most likely to face visa hurdles – students, postdoctoral fellows and staff researchers. Those findings were contained in "Patent pending: How immigrants are reinventing the American economy," which was published by The Partnership.
A July 18 report by the Brookings Institution showed employer requests for specialized visas for foreign-born technologists far exceeds the number of visas actually issued. More than 100 metropolitan areas, a list that included Milwaukee and Madison, accounted for 91 percent of the nation's employer requests in 2010-2011.
Aren't immigrants taking jobs from native-born citizens? Not in the case of scientists, engineers and technicians, who remain in short supply nationally due to decades of decline in the production of American-born students in those fields.
While American kids were majoring in finance or the social sciences, foreign-born students were competing to become scientists and engineers. Now that those foreign-born students are earning advanced degrees in U.S. universities, the immigration system is preventing most of them from staying – just as they're needed most.
The solutions include granting permanent residency ("green cards") to foreign students who earn graduate degrees in science and technical fields; creating a startup visa for foreign-born entrepreneurs who want to use their research to form companies; and remove caps on the H-1B temporary high-skilled visa. Also, cities such as Milwaukee can examine best practices in other metro areas that have attracted well-educated immigrants.
In Wisconsin, the Legislature could expand the existing Education Tax Credit so that employers could use it to hire people from outside Wisconsin – whether they're from Indiana or India – and help cover their education.
Other major countries have already eased their visa processes for foreign students and innovators. In a competitive economy that is increasingly global, it only makes sense for the United States and Wisconsin to do the same.
-- Still is president of the Wisconsin Technology Council. He is the former associate editor of the Wisconsin State Journal in Madison.
Jeff Helgesen, one of Rock County's largest developers, doesn't parse words when he's asked if the Janesville area is better off today than it was when General Motors Corp. was the 800-pound gorilla in town.
"No question about it: I think Janesville is much better off today," said Helgesen, president of Helgesen Development Corp. "We've shifted to a more technological type of business and to (computer-driven) manufacturing. We were forced to come to grips with our future."
There are still plenty of laid-off GM workers who would disagree, but the rebirth of a diverse economy in Janesville, Beloit and the rest of Rock County is a success story in the making. It bears watching by other communities in Wisconsin.
The closing of the Janesville GM assembly plant in late 2008 meant 5,000 jobs at GM and other auto-related firms were wiped out, sending Rock County into a tailspin just as the worst of the recession hit Wisconsin and the nation. The county's unemployment rate peaked around 13 percent.
Of late, however, the news out of Janesville and Beloit has been much better. Companies such as Kettle Foods, United Alloy, Universal Recycling Technologies, SSI Technologies and Kerry Ingredients have expanded.
Emerging tech companies such as NorthStar Medical Radioisotopes and SHINE Medical Technologies have announced plans to build production facilities. ANGI Energy Systems will keep its production local by moving from Milton to Janesville, and Data Dimensions, which produces business automation solutions, continued its growth by acquiring Data Exchange Center Inc. of Brown Deer.
The story may be best illustrated by the renaissance of a building that was once occupied by a succession of GM suppliers.
The 700,000-square-foot Helgesen Industrial Center was empty a few years ago but is now fully leased by companies such as John Deere Central Consolidated, Cummins Engine, Lowe's Millwork and Freedom Graphics. The latest to sign up is Miniature Precision Components, which will add about 90 jobs to its existing Wisconsin workforce of 1,000 people over the next three years.
Recalling the closing of Eau Claire's Uniroyal plant in the mid-1980s and how that facility was revamped, Helgesen decided to "subdivide and conquer." He carved the 700,000-square-foot building into smaller sections, adding the amenities and utility systems that would allow each unit to function independently. Leases were written to allow more flexibility for tenants, as well.
"Our absorption rate in the last year has been phenomenal," said Helgesen, noting the same is true for owners of many other once-empty sites in Janesville.
More than 1.2 million square feet of space in Janesville alone has been reoccupied in the past 18 months, according to Vic Grassman, economic development director for the City of Janesville. The city has a "shovel-ready" industrial park of 224 acres ready for expansion, he added, as well as a business incubator and some aggressive incentives.
"We're trying to fulfill all of the major legs of economic development – retention, expansion, attraction and entrepreneurship," Grassman said.
Other signs of progress in the area include a revival of plans to expand Interstate 90/39 between Madison and the Illinois border, as well as improvements to access roads in Rock County, which are now recording as much truck traffic as they did before GM shut down. Also, St. Mary's Hospital opened its new facilities in the last year and Janesville Mercy Hospital completed its expansion.
Communities that once feuded over development issues have also found common ground, as evidenced by joint city events such as Rock County Days in the State Capitol and a recent trade fair with more than 160 booths.
Not everything is wine and roses for Janesville and Rock County, of course. Unemployment remains well above the statewide average, one recruited firm chose not to relocate and many people are holding their breath over the drought's effects on the farm economy.
"Psychologically, however, we've turned the corner," Helgesen said. "We had to cope and we are."
The 800-pound gorilla is gone and the GM plant itself remains shuttered, but Janesville and Rock County are moving on. Crisis sometimes has a way of doing that.
-- Still is president of the Wisconsin Technology Council. He is the former associate editor of the Wisconsin State Journal.
Jane Smith* called my office as a last resort. She and her family were packing their belongings and preparing to move as the result of a foreclosure. For months, she had been trying unsuccessfully to persuade her bank to modify her loan so that she could make reasonable payments and keep the home. However, when a foreclosure judgment was entered and a sheriff’s sale scheduled, she almost gave up hope.
Then, Jane heard about the $25 billion mortgage foreclosure settlement between 49 states (including Wisconsin), and the five biggest banks in the nation. She called the Wisconsin Department of Justice, and we were able to “escalate” her complaint to the executive office of her bank. The sheriff’s sale was postponed while the bank approved a trial mortgage modification. Due to that modification, Jane and her family have been able to stay in their home of nearly ten years.
Since the mortgage foreclosure settlement was finalized in April, the DOJ has been active in helping to resolve mortgage-related issues between consumers and national banks. The settlement requires the settling banks, among other things, to work with eligible borrowers to restructure their loans to avoid foreclosures -- a result that benefits the homeowner, the bank and the community at large. Sometimes we are able to escalate complaints to the executive offices of various banks, resulting in loan modification agreements with the banks, forbearance agreements, delayed foreclosure actions and other options designed to benefit the homeowner.
Other times, we are able to direct homeowners to resources such as housing counselors, legal aid attorneys, or mediation services. For example, Roger George* realized that he could not avoid foreclosure but was worried that the bank would go after him for the “deficiency” – which is the difference between what he owed and the amount the house would bring at a sheriff’s sale. He called the DOJ, was directed to housing counselors, and ultimately found an attorney. His sale was postponed, giving him extra time to move out, and his deficiency balance was waived.
The DOJ also can help homeowners spot mortgage modification scams. Of course, not all of those who offer loan modification assistance take advantage of consumers. Some do, unfortunately, but there are red flags that serve as warnings that an offer of assistance may be a scam. As a rule of thumb, most legitimate entities do not charge an advance fee for help with a loan modification. Moreover, consumers should be wary if the company demands payment within a short timeframe, or demands payment by a cashier’s check or money order. To validate the legitimacy of a program purportedly affiliated with the Home Affordable Modification Program, or “HAMP,” call the Homeowner's HOPE Hotline at 1-888-995-HOPE (1-888-995-4673) or visit http://www.MakingHomeAffordable.gov. If you suspect a mortgage modification scam, contact the DOJ’s Consumer Protection hotline at (800) 998-0700 or (608) 266-1852. Or, email the DOJ at the following address: email@example.com.
In general, customers seeking a modification under the settlement should first attempt to work directly with their bank:
Bank of America: 877-488-7814 Citigroup: 866-272-4749 Chase: 866-372-6901 Ally/GMAC: 1-800-766-4622 Wells Fargo: 1-800-288-3212
However, consumers who encounter difficulties with their banks, or whose loans are with banks other than those listed above, should not hesitate to contact the Wisconsin DOJ Office of Consumer Protection. We have trained staff available, including a Special Assistant Attorney General for Mortgage Foreclosure Mitigation, to assist consumers and provide resources. You also can find resources on our website:
MADISON – The University of Wisconsin System was a bit late to the digital education party, but at least it's not a no-show.
The UW System is moving toward a "flexible degree" program built on flat-fee, at-your-own-pace online education, news that should be applauded by prospective students, business owners and state legislators. That's true even if some elements of the education community itself remain suspicious of how well it will work.
While the UW is a relative latecomer to granting flexible online degrees, it already offers 4,600 online courses. It also has a huge advantage not possessed by most of its competitors – a quality brand that can be marketed well beyond the state's borders.
UW System President Kevin Reilly and UW-Extension Chancellor Ray Cross were joined by Gov. Scott Walker last month in announcing the "flexible degree" program, which will be rolled out over the next year or so. Skeptics quickly asked if the program will undercut the UW's traditional campuses, how the tuition structure will work, whether quality can be upheld and how to guard against academic cyber-cheaters.
Legitimate questions, but here is why the flexible degree program will become an asset to the UW and the state:
It will create more degree-holders. Because the state has 13 four-year UW campuses and 21 private colleges and universities, one might think Wisconsin has an above-average share of adults with college degrees. Not so. Wisconsin ranks below the U.S. average of adults with four-year degrees, which has a direct effect on workforce diversity and income. At least 700,000 adults in Wisconsin have some college credits. If even one-third of them wrapped up a degree online, the percentage of adults with a degree would quickly climb to the U.S. average.
It's well-suited to older students. Few adults in their 30s and 40s want to be the Rodney Dangerfield character in "Back to School," rubbing elbows with much younger students on campus. Jobs, kids and life get in the way. Signing up for online classes that produce a degree is another matter, however. It's a movie with a happy ending for returning students.
It could give promising high-school students a head start. Given that "gifted and talented" programs in Wisconsin schools are under-funded and under-appreciated, how about giving some of the state's college-bound kids a head start online? They could earn credits before they ever set foot on campus.
It will help businesses train workers faster for key jobs. The online program will initially focus on some of Wisconsin's largest skills gaps – information technology, health care and business and management. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, those are three sectors with a growing demand for workers. Maybe the UW can even produce a few "virtual welders," if that's what it takes.
It will help the UW confront its budget problems. The program is less about creating new courses than repackaging and reformatting current offerings. It will also tap into courses outside the UW itself, when needed. If it is modeled after successful programs such as Western Governors University, it will begin with public and private pledges and become self-sustaining over time. Students who take courses through WGU are eligible for state financial aid in their home states. Budgets are forcing colleges and universities into larger classes, anyway. Why not use online classes to teach well in larger settings?
It will become an export industry. Nearly 10 years ago, the Wisconsin Technology Council identified "workforce education" as a cluster poised for growth. In its report, "Vision 2020: A Model Wisconsin Economy," the Tech Council urged making Wisconsin a center for workforce education and retraining, including content development, delivery and credentialing. One recommendation called for "shared plans and strategies to increase the export of high-technology workforce education products to foreign markets and the import of foreign customers for high-technology workforce education services."
Online education helps take geography out of that equation. It allows marketing of the UW brand to a world that already equates that brand to quality.
There will always be a demand for face-to-face education because so much of the educational experience is about the teacher-student relationship. However, in a world with more digital natives – people at ease with learning, communicating and much more online – the UW's flexible degree program offers yet another tool for the times.
-- Still is president of the Wisconsin Technology Council. He is the former associate editor of the Wisconsin State Journal in Madison.