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. 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. Or that you might be crazy.
Ultimately, you need to remember to keep it simple. Use impressive verbs strategically to showcase your skills, but don't muddle 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 firstname.lastname@example.org), 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
These days, there are more and more positions opening up that allow you to work from home, either full-time or as part of your benefits package. Working remotely can be a real treat (who likes to wear pants with real waistbands, anyway?), but it’s also a lot more difficult to prove your worth to your boss and colleagues when you lose that valuable face time, which makes getting a raise or promotion that much harder. But have no fear! Here are four tried and true strategies that can help you excel at your job when your office is less of an office and more of a Starbucks.
1. Communicate regularly.
Just because you’re out of sight doesn’t mean you have to be out of mind. Make sure you communicate with your supervisor regularly, especially if you work remotely full-time. You don’t want to send an email every time you complete a task, but you can send daily or weekly recap emails depending on your supervisor’s preference. These emails should include a very general overview of your day and any exciting highlights. If you’re working from home for the day or for a week when you’re traveling, you don’t need to send a recap, but it’s a good idea to check in once or twice so your boss knows you’re actually working. Make sure you reply to any emails that are sent your way in a timely manner and feel free to ping your boss when you complete a big project.
2. Meet all deadlines...early.
When you work remotely, it’s critical that you deliver all of your work on time. Meeting a deadline is the sign of a diligent employee. But if you truly want to impress your boss, do your best to turn big projects in ahead of schedule. Without the distractions of officemates, it should be easier to focus -- and there are some household chores like cooking and laundry that you can do while you work, so you'll have more time in the evenings to dedicate to a major project. Since you can't pop into your boss's office and let her know your ETA for a deliverable, turning work in early will ensure she never even suspects you may be late. Of course, some assignments take the full amount of time allotted (and some deadlines are unreasonable), so you won’t always be able to turn your work in early. Don’t worry -- just shoot your boss an email along the way confirming you’re on the right track so she doesn’t get nervous, especially if she’s a micro-manager.
3. Don't ghost your boss.
This one seems obvious, but trust us: It’s not obvious to everyone. Remote freelancers sometimes move on to new projects and assume no one will notice that they’ve stopped turning in work. Well, your boss does notice, and if you ever want to resume freelancing at that company -- or if a future employer calls for a recommendation -- your ghosting will come back to haunt you. It’s totally okay to quit a job, but you should do so courteously. Email or call your boss and give your notice. You may not need to give a full two weeks if your position was on a rolling basis or freelance, but you should still give your boss a heads-up and offer to finish up any outstanding work. Make sure your boss knows exactly what you’ve completed and what you haven’t, and turn in any documents, data, or login credentials that your replacement might need.
4. Keep to a schedule.
This tip is more for your mental health than your work output -- but a happy employee is a good employee! It’s easy to let your time slip away from you when you work remotely full-time, and you may find yourself lazing around for longer than you should be or overbooking yourself because you have the freedom to make appointments whenever you want -- suddenly, it’ll be 9:00pm on Thursday, and you won’t have started on the big project you promised to turn in by the end of the week! To avoid this pitfall, make a schedule and establish a dedicated workspace. Maybe you’ll feel most comfortable working from a co-working space from 9-5. And maybe not -- there’s nothing wrong with embracing your flexible work life! If you can get all of your work done in five hours a day, there’s no need to work for eight, and as long as you’re available during normal business hours for emergencies, you can build whatever schedule suits you best. The important thing is to block off work hours in your calendar and find a place to do your work that’s free of non-work distractions -- whether it’s a different coffee shop each day or your kitchen table. Bake some exercise into your day too -- it’s easy to be completely dormant when there’s no real reason to go anywhere, and your mental health will suffer if you don’t move around. You don’t need to join a gym if that’s not your thing, but you should at least let yourself outside for a walk like you would a golden retriever.
Working remotely is a great privilege and, as the saying goes, it comes with great responsibility. Remember to be professional, diligent, and visible and you’ll succeed in and out of the office!
--Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan