Originally Published: Saturday, 22 January 2000 Author: Kristina Pfaff-Harris
Published to: interact_articles_jobs_djn/Dream Jobs Now! Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

Job experience: Yet Another List to Make

There are several kinds of people in computer-related jobs. Some people started out with punch cards and mainframes and have years of experience. Their main problem is often going to be that they're seen as "over qualified," and we'll deal with that specifically in another article...

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There are several kinds of people in computer-related jobs. Some people started out with punch cards and mainframes and have years of experience. Their main problem is often going to be that they're seen as "over qualified," and we'll deal with that specifically in another article. Others went to college and studied computer science or engineering. Their main problem is going to be that they'll have to take "entry level" jobs, but even those can be quite well-paying and stable. The third group has no "formal" education or job experience, and this can be a difficult situation when it comes down to resume-writing. In this article, we'll concentrate on that group with our examples, so if you have quite a bit of formal job experience, you may want to skim everything past the third paragraph.

Time to start another list, I'm afraid.

Many employers, for various reasons, want you to account for every year of your life since you entered the job market. This is not to say that your resume should just be a strictly chronological list of jobs, necessarily, but that you should probably at least be able to provide that accounting if necessary. Another aspect of resume writing that many people don't take advantage of is the opportunity to not simply write down a list of your "duties and responsibilites" on the job, but to focus on what made you outstanding.

Let me put it this way: If your job title was "Unix Systems Administrator," the employer already knows what your duties and responsibilities probably included. You administrated Unix-based systems. If your job title was "C Programmer," you wrote programs in C. We want to tell them not just what you were supposed to do, but how well you did it. Did you go "the extra mile?" Rather than just doing what was required, did you think up new ways to keep a system more secure? Did you write a program that pushed the envelope? Did you take on extra responsibilities that weren't in your original job description? Why should this employer hire you, over all the other people whose resumes say "Unix Systems Administrator," "C Programmer," "Project Manager," "Web Developer," "Graphic Designer," and so forth?

These are the things that you should be focusing on when you make this list. Sure, you'll want to list duties and responsibilities, since different jobs with the same title may differ. Even more important, however, is to answer the question, "What made me so good that this employer will want to interview me over the other candidates?"

I've found that setting this list up in a format similar to a resume is usually best, so we'll do it something like this:

   Company Name, City Start date - end date    Position You Held

   Duties and Responsibilities (Stuff you were supposed to do)

   Accomplishments (Stuff you did that was cool, exciting, or outstanding)

Well, DUHHHH, you might say! Looks pretty common-sensical, doesn't it? There's not much difference between the way we're laying out this list and a real resume. One difference, however, is that this list is going to allow you to pick and choose what eventually goes on the real resume, as well as give you a reference for that chronology that some employers may want.

Now, the above is great if you've been from paying job to paying job with no breaks in between. Well, what about the times you weren't working on a paying job? What about times when you were sick, injured, pregnant or giving birth (Yes, it happens!), going to school, etc.-- what do you put there?

Remember, just like the skills list, this is not going to be a resume. It's just intended to get all your ducks in a row, so to speak, so that you can build a resume. Think of it as a CHANGELOG for your life: "Me v0.01 alpha: Messed around with Linux on my PC in high school." "Me v0.01 beta: Did some work for my Mom's website." "Me v3.0: Became CTO of a multi-billion dollar corporation." Remember, this is for your purposes, so anything that you did or are doing that may relate to the jobs you want to apply for is relevant. If you have to put down work for your Mom's website like so:

   MomsQuilts.com, MyTown, Ontario 1998 - Present    Webmaster

    Designed and built website using pico and the GIMP.    Installed various freeware Perl cgi's and wrote a    MySQL/PHP-based inventory catalog for Mom's Quilts.

or playing around with Linux at home like this:

   My House, MyTown May 1998 - Oct 1999    Linux User/Administrator

   Setup RedHat, Slackware, and SuSe linux on a PC at home.    Played around with the startup scripts and set up a    website and ftp site with Apache. Added users for Mom and    Uncle Billy.

or like this:

   My House, MyTown June 1999 - Dec 1999    Linux/Windows Administrator

   Installed new video card in Mom's computer. Installed new    hard drive in Uncle Mike's computer. Replaced bad CD    drive in my computer and added more RAM. Fixed Mom's    printer problems temporarily by upgrading the drivers for    Windows 95 box. Installed Linux, and set it up for dual-    boot so that little Jimmy can still play his Windows games.

or any volunteer work for friends' websites or friends' and family's computers, community organizations, your school, or anything, that's fine. You may or may not use it later. While you're at it, feel free to put in stuff like this:

   Some School, MyCity 1996 - Present    Student

   Studied Political Science and History. Took Japanese and    Spanish for a year each. Took some business management    courses, and an art class because they made me do it.

The important thing is to get as much detail down about what you've done, what you know how to do, and how good you are at it. If you end up writing four pages about one job, that's wonderful! It means you'll have more material to select from when putting the actual resume together. Don't be afraid to put down what you might think is stupid or useless -- something that you might tend to disregard now might come in handy later.

The more information you have about yourself in black and white, the better you can explain to employers why they should hire you.

Obviously, whatever "real" jobs you've had during this time should be listed as well, whether you were working in fast food or as Chief Technical Officer of a major corporation. If you were off the job due to other reasons, the same applies.

Once you've got that and your skills list, you're almost ready to start looking for that dream job. Next, we'll talk about how to use some (gasp!) Marketing concepts to narrow down some of the types and levels of jobs that you may be suited for.

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