Saturday, January 10, 2015

Things that do not help job searchers, part 1

One of the things I do a lot at work is help people who are trying to get their resumes together and apply for jobs. A lot of people aren't terribly computer-savvy, and maybe have been out of the workforce for a long time, or they're just starting out, or whatever, and it's stressful for them, so I spend a fair amount of time talking people through the basics of resume writing, cover letter writing, showing them how to apply for jobs online, etc. And one thing I've learned is that the people out there who teach classes on job-hunting and resume-writing give out a lot of really useless information that isn't helpful and just bogs their students down, and it drives me batshit, because job-hunting sucks enough all on its own! Don't add more stress to the process by telling them to worry about things that don't matter!

Today's example: a woman in her 20s, fresh out of one of the vocational schools, who was trying to get her resume and cover letter polished up to send out. She needed some help with the computer, just figuring out how to get the files from her email to the computer, then to save them to a Flash drive, so I walked her through that. Then she needed to tidy up her resume, and we hit a little snag when it came to the formatting: she was worried that the headings weren't fancy, and thought her resume looked bad because of it. I assured her that no, simpler is better, and as long as the different section of her resume were clear, she was good. Plain headings in the same font are fine, as long as you bold them. So, she finished the resume, and then needed to re-type her cover letter, and that's when we hit the major obstacle that she just couldn't get past.

The cover letter example she had from her school had been set up with a specific template -- just the basic business-letter style, but with weird spacing in the address sections and such. she wanted to know how to do that in Word... and really, I almost never get into messing with templates in Word with patrons, because Word sucks, is non-intuitive, and half the time the templates just completely screw up what you're trying to do. And frankly, when a patron has trouble just managing to get to their email, I'm not going to muddy the waters with advanced Word stuff. And you don't need a template, anyway! It doesn't have to be complicated! So I explained that she didn't need to worry about using a template, she could just type it up: She could put her name, and then Enter for a new line, then her address, etc.

"No, that's not right. Look at the space between the lines. It's too big, and that's wrong." So I went in and showed her that she was typing single-spaced, and it can't go any closer together, but her best bet was to just type up the letter and print a copy, so she could see what it would look like on paper, and it'd be fine. "No! My teacher said it has to look EXACTLY like this! If it's not exactly like this, they won't read it!" Which, no, that's not true! Employers do not care if the line spacing in your address is single-spaced or 1.15-spaced. Double-spaced would be weird, but they probably wouldn't give a shit about that either. They care that you spelled everything right, that your grammar is good, and that your letter sounds professional and clear. They aren't taking a ruler to the margins, and they aren't going to throw it away if you use the wrong font. (Well, okay, don't use, like, Papyrus. Or Comic Sans. They won't ding you if you use, say, Veranda instead of Times New Roman. Or vice versa.)

She would not be convinced. And since I have no earthly idea how her teacher set up the sample letter, I'm unable to exactly replicate it. I was only at work for a couple of hours today, and so she was still trying to wrangle it into looking the way she thought it absolutely had to on the screen when I left. I hope she figured it out! But mostly I wish they wouldn't teach this stuff. It doesn't matter! Hell, most of the time now you apply for jobs online anyway, and they have you copy and paste your resume and cover letter in, or upload them as attachments, and then all the fancy formatting gets stripped off on the employer's end. Telling people to worry about the tiny details doesn't help. It makes the already-daunting task of finding a job even scarier, because it adds the fear that you'll be rejected for some tiny mistake you didn't even know you made.

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