If you’ve had a lot of similar jobs that required similar skills, your resume might feel redundant. There really aren't that many ways to say “read scripts and wrote coverage” after all. Usually, we advise clients with repetitive work experience to divide the bullet points between similar jobs and only list them once or twice. Still, sometimes it’s inevitable that you’ll repeat skills, and in that case, you should find ways to vary up your wording, especially your action verbs. A thesaurus can be a helpful tool here.
If you're stuck on a specific word, it's a great idea to consult a thesaurus. Maybe the synonym for “liaise” is on the tip of your tongue, and you just can’t recall it -- definitely turn to the thesaurus to find the word you’re looking for (hint: communicate and interface work well). But be careful not to overdo it -- remember that Friends episode where Joey uses a thesaurus to try and sound smart? Not the best strategy.
If you’re trying to use a thesaurus to make your menial tasks sound impressive, tread carefully. While we encourage you to find the skill behind the actual task and tout that in your bullets (for example, “filed papers” becomes “handled office organization, including preparing production paperwork and maintaining company logs”), you shouldn't use words you don't know or that you’d never say in the course of conversation. “Getting lunch for producers” should not become “regale executives with refreshments and sustenance.” That doesn’t sound like you did something impressive -- it sounds like you did something so insignificant that you’re embarrassed to call it like it is.
On the flip side, you don't want to muddle those higher level tasks with so much jargon that they become meaningless. For instance, "Analyzed KPIs to generate strategic business solutions for expansion of industry-based utilization of franchise model" could be ... well, we don't know what that could be, because it doesn't make sense! Keep it simple -- remember, hiring managers are only giving your resume a quick skim, so go easy on them with your vocabulary.
Ultimately, you need to remember to be as clear and concise as possible. Use impressive verbs strategically to showcase your skills, but don't clutter your bullet points with overly complicated wording.
--Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
An internship at a small company has certain advantages over one at a big company -- what you may sacrifice in name recognition, you’ll make up for in access to executives and potentially more interesting assignments. But there are some common pitfalls you may encounter when you intern at a small company or for a small team, and it’s important to know how to navigate them, or you’ll risk losing the otherwise valuable connections you’d make. Here are a few problems you may have to contend with:
1. You don't understand your assignments.
It’s likely that employees at a small company hired an intern because their plates are already pretty full, which means your supervisors may not have much time to dedicate to introducing you to their processes. You might get a brief orientation on your first day and a quick explanation of any new projects, but you’ll likely spend a lot of time working independently. If this is your first professional experience, it could be overwhelming -- and even if you’re more seasoned, you may still have a lot of questions about the work you’re doing. The first thing you should remember is that your supervisors hired you to make their lives easier, so they expect you to do projects correctly -- they don't want to redo your work. To that end, don’t feel bad asking questions, especially if the information you need isn’t readily available to you elsewhere -- you should never submit incomplete work or miss a deadline because you're feeling stuck. At the same time, you need to be resourceful. Don’t ask questions you could easily figure out on your own.
2. Your supervisor doesn't pay attention to you.
Sometimes it might seem like your supervisor doesn't even notice you, and that's definitely not the best feeling. Don't take it personally -- she's busy, and your happiness and wellbeing isn't always going to be her top priority. But the truth is, even if your supervisor comes across as unavailable, she knows that hiring an intern means providing a certain amount of education. Take initiative and ask if you can set a time to sit down one-on-one and ask any larger questions you have about the company and possible career trajectories. That’s the best way to build a strong relationship and secure a useful contact that will help you down the line. She’ll likely appreciate you for showing an interest and enjoy the opportunity to share her wisdom. Just make sure you're respectful of her schedule.
3. You're all alone.
At a small company, you might be the only intern, which can make fitting in hard. If there’s an assistant around your age, you can try to build a rapport and friendship with him, but it might be daunting to approach mid-level or high-level executives. Even if you’re lonely, don’t let it show. Try not to keep earbuds in at all times -- it makes you seem unapproachable and will shut out any potential office conversations you could otherwise join. Keep a professional demeanor and get your work done well, even if the social vibes of the company leave a little to be desired. You can always exercise your mojo on nights and weekends.
4. There's no one to model behavior.
If the company is so small that there are no entry-level employees, it may be hard to figure out who to take your cues from. Assistants make great role models, since they are still paying their dues and are actively focused on maintaining a professional image 100% of the time. But mid-level and high-level executives may have a more relaxed attitude that they’ve earned over the years, especially given that at a small company, they're often the ones making the rules. They have the freedom to dress casually, work remotely on occasion, or take long lunches. Sometimes, they may afford those luxuries to you as well, but even so, you should make sure to prove your professionalism. Internships are the best time to learn how to conduct yourself in an office, and there are different expectations for entry-level employees with an unproven work ethic and mid-level employees with a track record of excellent deliverables. Act one level more professional and poised than the least casual person in the office, and you’ll stand out as someone who's reliable and worthy of a recommendation down the line. Or maybe you'll even get hired as an assistant, since there’s an opening anyway!
Despite these potential pitfalls, interning at a small company can be a valuable experience -- you get to see how the entire machine works, instead of just one piece of a larger corporate puzzle. And if you spend your time wisely and dedicate yourself wholeheartedly, you’ll find yourself on a path toward success!
--Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
Have you ever sent a direct message to someone you don’t know on LinkedIn and never received a response? Or, have you ever seen a news article quoting an executive at a company you’re interested in and wondered how you could get in contact with him? Cold emails can be a good tool for getting in touch with contacts that are too far removed from your network to get introduced via a referral. But there's one problem -- how are you supposed to find the person's email address? It’s not like people’s email addresses are published all over the internet!
Actually, a simple Google search will often do the trick, as long as you use the correct search terms. Try searching “[company name] press release” and see what comes up. Very often, a PR rep from the company will have a direct email address listed at the bottom of the article. From there, you should be able to figure out the company’s email format and will be able to make an educated guess at the email address of the contact you’re hoping to reach. In some press releases, you may find a more generic address (like email@example.com), and in that case, go one step further and google “@companyname.com” (including quotes) to see if any employee email addresses pop up. You can also try googling the person's name in various common email formats until you find one that yields multiple results.
Unfortunately, sometimes these strategies won’t work. If the contact you’re hoping to reach has a hyphenated name, a multi-word name, or the same name as someone else at the company, you may not be able to figure it out. And of course, some people simply won’t respond to a cold email. If that happens, don’t get discouraged -- you’ll just have to find another way in!
--Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
When hiring managers first look at your resume, they scan it in a few seconds to a) see if you've been employed recently, and b) get a sense of your career trajectory. And the best way to get this information across is by structuring your resume in reverse chronological order.
First off, a hiring manager wants to know what you're doing right now -- it will help her assess whether you have the right skills to succeed in the new role. Hopefully, your most recent position is a natural lead-in to the job you’re applying for, but even if it’s not, it’s still important for hiring managers to know what you’ve been doing most recently. Think of skills like a muscle -- the ones you exercised at your latest position are the ones in the best shape. If the job you’re applying for is in a different field than your most recent job, choose transferable skills to highlight.
If your resume lists jobs in a random order (or divides experience into two buckets, “relevant” and “other”), you’ll confuse hiring managers and tell an incoherent story. Even if you think you’re showcasing why you’re right for the job by listing what you deem your best experience first and burying the odd-jobs that helped you pay the bills, you’re actually forcing the hiring manager to think harder than she’d like to while she puts together a puzzle of your work timeline. Imagine a tired hiring manager reading your resume and thinking, “Ok, Jane Doe’s last job was in 2013 in LA...but then in 2016 she also had a job working remotely for a company in London? Hmm, from 2014 to 2016 she lived in Toledo…where is she now?” Does this person want to do the mental gymnastics to figure out who you are and what you’re doing? No. She wants to move on to a candidate whose resume is clear, and she's got hundreds of applicants to choose from.
If you do need to explain any gaps, inconsistencies, or extenuating circumstances in your resume, do so in your cover letter. When you have full sentences and paragraphs at your disposal, it’s easier to weave together your story in the chronology you’d like. But a resume story is supposed to be clear, concise, and chronological.
--Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan