MICHAELA FENGSTAD

Writing about life as it happens, trends in career development and new inspiration

Category: Work (page 2 of 3)

Will Résumés Become Mini-Bilboards Any Time Soon?

It is no secret that these days, more and more,  we notice a clear transition to a new high tech era. It is hard to believe, for example that only a few years ago everybody was using a fax machine, from individuals to small businesses and large corporations. Today, I need a second to even remember how it looked like. All you need is internet connection (or a nice coffee shop with free wi-fi) and a laptop or tablet and you have your own office! Notice that I said a laptop because even the PC is fast becoming a thing of the past.

But where do we stand with our résumé in this new high tech era?  Well, a new type has emerged and despite of the controversy it has created, more and more visual résumés appear on the Internet. The question remains whether or not they are successful. It is still to be determined!

What is a resume? Why do we write resumes? According to Wikipedia, “A résumé […] is a document used by individuals to present their background and skillsets. Résumés can be used for a variety of reasons but most often to secure new employment.” This is the key we need to focus on when writing such a document: it helps secure employment! There are 3 conditions visual or not, to get us an interview:
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The Minimalist Approach in How to Chose a Font for Your Resume

Since Steve Job’s love for simple design I have been reevaluating  the minimalist theories; a minimalist life, minimalist principles, minimalist aesthetics are just a few topics I am following in various articles and blogs.

I should first say that I am not a big fan of the minimalist art. I can stare as long as I physically can into Malevich’ Black Square and there is no emotion or artistic vision revealed to me. I might as well stare at a painted wall. The idea that there should be no needless lines or strokes on a drawing is taken to the extreme where all the lines have been deemed unnecessary. I am therefore left with nothing to dream about, to be moved by or simply to smile at.

And yet I enjoy minimalist writing. Hemingway was the first such novelist I fell in love with. Maybe because it happened to discover him right after finishing Dickens’ The Bleak House or just because I fell in love with his direct, naked style: no fluff, no unnecessary adornments and some cussing here and there. Reading him I understood that the flowery Victorian style is not the only one that can move and inspire. But I digress when all I wanted was to write about the boring but so powerful resumes.

A well written resume should be the best minimalist work: few intentionally used words painting a lifetime. Something similar to what Hemingway created when challenged to write a story in 6 words: “For sale: baby shoes, never used.” With this in mind, I decided to apply the same concept: nothing should just land on a resume. From the fonts to the meanings should be thought about, and decided on only after thoughtful consideration.

How many times have you even considered what font to use? If you happened to give it a thought you probably chose it based on how appealing the font was to you. Surprise! The only opinion that matters is the one of the hiring manager. And out of experience, all they care about is how legible it is.

There are so many fonts available and it is quite easy to spend long minutes trying them all just to end up selecting one of the two most popular fonts: Arial and Times New Roman  because of their qualities:

  • Very easy to read
  • Don’t have any unnecessary swirls, windings and tails
  • The spacing between the letters in words and sentences is just right
  • When they are in bold or italics they preserve the same clean, easy to read characteristics even in a smaller font
  • They make the best use of the page space
  • They look best in both hard copy printing and on the Internet (with some preferring Arial over Times New Roman)

Their usability and friendliness have been proven over and over again but haven’t these two fonts lived their lives? Shouldn’t they retire and make room for newer, bolder fonts?  There is no simple answer but my choice in using them over and over again for resumes is that they remain the preferred font for the corporate world. Remember, their opinion matter when we are writing our resumes!

In choosing the right font for your resume,  keep in mind a few rules:
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Why I Say “No, Thank You” To a “Thank You Card”

One of the questions that keeps popping up lately is about Thank You Cards versus Thank You Notes (or emails). I have never sent a Thank You Card since email communication has taken the lead over snail mail. I don’t believe in cards anymore. Don’t get me wrong,  I encourage everybody to make sure and send a sincere, personalized thank you note after each interview. People like to be acknowledged, people like to feel good and valued. Your Thank You Note will do just that: it will bring a smile on a face or a minute of “feel good about myself” attitude and you will be remembered. I just don’t believe in traditional cards. And here is why:

There was a time when I would race my husband to collect the mail. The excitement of opening that small box and being the first one to touch the letter from my parents or the birthday cards from pretty much around the world was something I was looking forward to.  There was magic and excitement and surprise and yes, the occasional heartache when the taxman would send his bills in. But I enjoyed every bit of it. In time, the excitement has faded away. Now I get happy and excited every time I open the mailbox and it is empty! I gave up the daily trip to pick up my mail a while ago. I don’t get letters from my parents anymore. My dad has a laptop and an email account. We talk almost daily via Skype or iChat. I am exchanging recipes and having girls-talks with my mom any time I need to and they are not sleeping (considering we live on different continents). I laugh and share jokes and play the big sister in real time now, for my brother. So, I don’t check my mailbox anymore …
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Modern Toys and Their Use in Business or Put That Phone Away!

There is this unwritten rule when buying a new toy: you reach first for instructions. Regardless if it is a new coffee machine, a new stereo system, a new car or an Ikea piece of furniture, you first reach for the instructions or for the user manual. We might already know what to expect or how to put it together but we still look over the instructions. And, in most cases, the booklet will teach you how to assemble the new purchase and how to use it, maybe a trick or two or a couple of shortcuts. A few will tell you when to use it too but most will leave it to your discretion, the manufacturer trusting you, the consumer, with having common sense and a  bit of education in the field. Plus, let’s face it, what company in the right mind, will tell you when to use your coffee machine or car? But are we really up to speed with everything when we talk technology? Should we be trusted with using technology without any rules or guidelines at least? I truly believe that every smart phone or iPad should come with a Code of Manners for the User.

It amazes me that after 10 years since the first Smart Phone, we are as uneducated and clueless in when and how to use it as we were in the first year. There are thousands of articles and books written on this subject, there are Instagrams and PowerPoint presentations and all sorts of material on proper manners when using a smart phone and yet, we decide to ignore and use them as we like, when we like and how we like. So let me say it once again as loud as possible: the number one rule in business world: Put your phone away when you attend a meeting! I don’t care if there are 2, 3 or 100 people in that meeting, put your phone away! And this is why:
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One More Time: Target and Customize Your Job Search

Looking for a job is hard work and writing or updating the resume for most of us is a daunting task that overwhelms and frustrates even the best writers at times.

I believe in targeted resumes, and although you can find more comprehensive and complicated explanations of this term on the net, I always tell my clients that a resume is nothing else than a reply, an answer to a question or even better an offer to a demand. Let’s see the following example: it is winter time and it is not too late to go for your flu shot. You assume the pharmacy or the doctor’s office would have a stock of flu vaccines around this time of the year for obvious reasons. To your surprise, they don’t have the flu shots but they offer you a quite impressive assortment of vaccines for tropical diseases. Hmmm… You are impressed, all right, but they did not address or solve your issue in any way. This is when you go to the next pharmacy that will hopefully answer your demand. Now, replace your person with the business in need of a particular qualification and the pharmacies with the job seekers. The ones that will address the requirements in the particular job posting will get the recruiter’s attention while the others will definitely land into the “NO” pile.

It is easier to preach “targeting” than to put it in practice, especially when using popular sites like LinkedIn. I use LinkedIn and I think it adds value to other aspects of our professional life and even to some parts of a job search. Unfortunately it works against the concept of “targeted” anything. Let me explain. As you all know, on LinkedIn there is only one profile that you can show the world and attract potential employers with. The problem here is that even when you target one specific job with one specific job title, the job descriptions coming from different companies are extremely diverse. Each company has their unique needs, their own organization chart and their own interpretation of a position.
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Fibre, Style and Suits

As you have always been told, if you’re looking for a shortcut to the job or career wanted, dress smart! It is that simple!

A few days ago I read an article that reminded me of Lynda Goldman’s book You’re Hired… Now What?  I loved the book and I definitely recommend it to everybody in the Canadian business world: front line employee or executive, immigrant or  established Canadian. They (the book and the article) promoted the same concept: dress the best  you can afford. Goldman’s book is a great quick reference on how to choose outfits, from colours to style for a typical business day, cocktail event and specific social functions. I will not get into it, the book does a great job in giving you the essentials on the subject.

Every book or article  I have read on this subject, recommends the following order in choosing a suit: 1. colour; 2. style and 3. fabric. I think that the most important part of choosing your next suit should be the fabric.
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Shorts, Sweat and Office Environment

Vancouver is a city consumed with fitness and being fit and healthy. Lululemon is our Goddess and Manolo Blahnik has nothing over the $90.00/pair Saucony Peregrine. No, it is not  a wine as I first thought but apparently a highly praised pair of running shoes. You go shopping and want to be cool, put on your yoga pants, lulu lemon jacket and the running shoes… I am always jelous of these gorgeous girls I pass by. They all look as if they are going or coming from the gym yet, they all look and smell heavenly! It must be something wrong with me: when I have to deal with the gym, I tend to sweat and stink… a bit!

I very much admire and envy people who go for a run or use the gym at lunch time. They must have perfected the art of showering in a very short time! It will sound like an excuse but for my 30 minutes of running, jogging, exercising I will need an additional 1 hour to have a shower, style my hair, apply make up and make myself presentable  and appropriate in an office, up to my standards. I am a bit of a prude, it is true, but in the office I prefer to keep things professional.

Walking around downtown at lunchtime I always wonder how many of these runners have a shower before resuming their work. Unfortunately I have experienced the contrary and it is quite disturbing. I guess it is a matter of personal preference but in the office I  don’t want to see anybody’s toothpicky legs coming out of a pair of too large shorts, I don’t want to have to touch a door knob, a desk, a pen or anything else after a sweaty hand and surely I really don’t want to smell your body odour after a 20 minutes run. It makes me sick. I think it is rude, it shows really poor manners and low class. Please keep your athletic self in the gym, or on the track field and bring your professional one at work.

Running is a fountain of youth and anybody who is healthy enough, no matter of age should take up running.It keeps the pounds off and rejuvenates the whole body.  Just don’t bring it in the office, that is all I ask!

What happened to respect? It is sad to see that we are loosing not only the common sense but self respect as well. Would you find it normal to walk around the office sweaty and wearing jogging shorts?

 

Casual Friday – 3 Rules

How do you dress for a casual Friday in your workplace? I have been thinking about this for a while now and the only clear idea is there are no clear rules. Every company seems to have their own understanding of casual Fridays. The truth is though that, at least in Canada, and Vancouver specifically, the Fridays are not that much different than the rest of the week.

I am a believer in formal(ish) attire. It is a sign of respect and class. I really don’t care if your clothes come from the most expensive boutique in town. If they look frumpy on you or don’t cover all the essential parts of your body, please don’t wear them at work. Take Catherine Middleton’s example: on a moderate budget (for her rank and income), she manages to be classy, function appropriate and fashionable.

 


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Business Card Reader

We all have piles and piles of business cards all over the office. Personally, I hate seeing so much paper wasted away. Let’s face it: how many of you really take the time to organize the business cards? My husband is the worst of all: every day he comes back home with a pocket full of them and he drops them nonchalantly on the night stand or dresser.

Looking for a way to solve this problem I found a few great applications for the iPhone users. They are all easy to use and let me assure you that it takes a couple of minutes off your time but saves hours. You simply scan the business card, and they will import the card information directly to your address book.

There are a few applications of this kind in the App Store with prices raging from $0.00 to $6.50 or so. As they work on the same idea, I guess it is a matter of preference which one to choose. Word of advice: as they are all developed in the States, some of them have troubles with the Canadian addresses so before downloading one, make sure they can import the Canadian – or other than American address properly!

iPhone Screenshots

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Smart Business Cards

I found these funny but smart, bold and so very different business cards, courtesy of  The Fire Wire blog and thought I’d share:

For more ideas, visit The Fire Wire blog: http://larryfire.wordpress.com/2008/08/24/clever-business-cards/?blogsub=confirming#subscribe-blog

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