It’s a Process

The Resume and Cover Letter Workshop series is open to all Information Science job seekers willing to share their resume and cover letter to serve as examples to others. Everyone has their own opinions on how a resume should look and sound and while there is no right answer, there are many elements to include in a resume. 

On the other hand, cover letters are unique as the writer. Again, as there are elements to include and the purpose of a cover letter is the same, it should always reflect the applicants personality.

If you are interested in sharing your resume and cover letter in this series, please fill out the form.

The first of this series comes from the editor of The Tipsy Librarian, Renae Rapp. Renae graduated with her MSIS in 2017 and immediately hit the job market. Since 2017, her resume and cover letters have evolved from a freshly minted grad student to a new professional. Renae writes about how her resume changed over the years and the best advice she has gotten from professionals during the process.

I had to go digging for my earliest resume which I wrote in 2015 pre-grad school. I remember the only person I asked for help was my mother. At the time, she was the only person I trusted with writing a professional resume (it helped that she is an amazing writer and editor). The basic organization of this resume and my current resume remains the same; Education, Experience, and Service. 

I like to start my resume with a list of my educational credentials. While I do not believe where the degree was earned is important,  I do believe every resume should start with the basics. During a resume workshop in grad school, one professional librarian suggested that education should go at the end because she assumes everyone applying for the position has that requirement. First off, you should never assume anything (period). I cannot tell you how many people make it through HR’s stupid checklist without the required education. And second, I worked really fucking hard for those degrees, you bet your ass it is the first thing on my resume!

The Old

One of the best pieces of advice my mom gave me as she edited my first resume was to not sell myself short. Looking at that first resume, I sound like the size of a hobbit. For example, my position at the Vietnam Archive and Center was a “Volunteer to Professional Archivist”. When in reality I was more of a processing archivist. I had archival experience prior and wanted to keep my skills sharp. So I volunteered and was trusted enough to process collections solely on my own. Wearing my editing hat, it should read “Processing Archivist” or at least “Volunteer Processing Archivist”.

However, if you can, try to avoid using the term “intern” and “volunteer” because it doesn’t sound professional on paper. Even if you built an entire website from scratch or processed a huge collection. While I think the value of internships and volunteering is much greater than others believe, the simple fact is, sadly, they are not. I like to believe those roles will one day be valued. For more on this mini-rant, read “Going Beyond the Internship”. 

Another way to be honest about your previous work experience is the art of being specific (but not too specific- that is for your cover letter). If you look under the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum, the first bullet point is pretty vague, “helped organize two significant gallery exhibits”. That is so vague even I don’t know what it means and I was there! To rewrite that statement I would answer a few questions; What were the titles of those exhibits, what types of items were displayed, what was my role in the exhibit? If those exhibits were online, I would also include a link or mention that in the bullet point.

The New

My last semester of grad school, I consulted a professional I had worked with on projects and knew from previous resume workshops to help me rewrite my crummy resume. She was stellar and really made my resume shine. During our sessions, she taught me how to make things I did sound professional because she believed they were. Honestly, believing your own worth was the biggest lesson she taught me. 

For example, a couple of times a week I would sit at a registration desk to sign in patrons to use the reading room, point out the lockers and bathrooms, and prepare them for their visit. Sounds pretty boring, right? Well, on my current resume, it says I “managed” the desk. “Managed” sounds way better and a little more accurate than “sat at” or “oversaw”.

She also encouraged me to include the non-archival and non-librarian tasks I’ve done, especially outreach. Having those little extra tasks sprinkled throughout your resume shows reviewers that you’ve done the “other duties as assigned” that they don’t teach you in grad school. For the interview of my current position, I was asked about my experience with outreach using social media and other platforms. They clearly read about my outreach experience in my resume. 

The Big Take Aways

Sell [clap] Your [clap] Self [clap] If you can’t do that, have someone else look at your resume (a professional, a friend, or your mom). They will ask you to explain your past positions which will make you realize your worth. 

Organization. Comparing my earliest and latest resumes, I immediately notice the difference in organization. During one of many rewrites, I noticed some sections seemed longer than others and it made my resume unbalanced. A simple solution was to create more sections of the resume. Having clear sections to your resume helps reviewers notice you and find what they are looking for quicker (speed reading is the key). 

K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid). Save the long winded examples of your work for the cover letter. The resume is meant to be quickly read and evaluated. Remember, you are competing with other resumes so the best way to stand out is with clear and strong language. Bring in those details for the most important information like software, standards, and other skills utilized in a project or position. 

I hope this helps you rewrite your resume! It is not an easy or quick process, so take your time!

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