Turning Down the White Noise

*I wrote this while attending a small acoustic show at a bar down the street. Dean Johanesen was the artist.*

 

I cannot sleep without a white noise. Whether it is a fan, an air cleaner, an air conditioner, or anything else, I need something repetitive near my ears to tune out the silence.

This singer’s music is wonderful. This whole setting – the music, the people talking and laughing and enjoying themselves and paying attention to the show – is wonderful. But why do I find it so appealing? I’m not paying attention to the lyrics, and I’m not listening to any particular conversations. I only feel a beautiful rhythm. The music reverberates in my ears and throughout my body, and the chatter collectively coalesces into the loosely structured verses of a melody.

The music of life allows me to get lost; I don’t know how to act when it stops.

I see the words and actions of others, whether right or wrong, as real and true. I am standing on a crumbling rock, but what is real and true is built on a solid foundation. The noise, when combined, is peaceful to me because it is something I have not been able to create myself. I have no idea what is real and true.

The noise seemingly provides a semblance of meaning and a backdrop to the world that I cannot provide. It is structured and orderly. It shelters me from the silence, from my own thoughts, from some of life’s tribulations (if only for the night). The noise protects me from that which I am most afraid of.

Do I want the music to stop? Do I want to face the world without a soothing melody keeping me comfortable?

Underneath the stars, tranquil and serene, with only the sounds of nature whispering in my ears. Free from artificial meaning and at peace with the world, I should be more eager to face life’s challenges with an honest effort instead of hiding behind a wall. I need to learn to sleep without the aid of a white noise.

I need to face the silence.

I need to offer my own noise to the world.

Why I Passionately Love My Major

Rant number 1: Getting past security. Security being the forces between me and a job.

I’ve been struggling to find finance jobs. The only ones available are mislabeled accounting jobs and finance sales, which has been the case for years. There are a few other openings, but it seems only an exclusive list of guests are allowed even in the waiting area. A couple days ago, I received this email after I sent in a resume and made a brief phone call asking about the position:

 

 

“Thank you for your continued interest in the Investment Banking Analyst Intern position with XX Partners. At this time we will be moving forward with other candidates for this position.

We do believe, however, you are on the right track, but that you could benefit from more financial modeling experience. We would like to formally invite you to attend a free 4-hour online investment banking training session hosted by XX Edge.”

 

 

This did not settle well, and you’ll see why in the following response from a very ticked off Curtis:

 

 

“Sophomores, juniors, and recent graduates are considered for this position. I received a B.S. in finance in 2010, and I just received my M.S. in financial analysis. I don’t appreciate being told I need more financial modeling experience when 1) I have more schooling in finance than most people you are considering, and 2) you did not care at all to ask what modeling experience I have.

In no way, shape, or form was there any semblance of an inquiry into my financial modeling experience, and not once was it mentioned in the application process or the phone call I made.

Thank God the session you mention is free, though, and thank God it asks users to sign up for a paid service before the initial session begins! Thank you for the offer, but please do not insult my intelligence by using such an excuse to get me to consider spending even more on a major / career path that has proven to be a moneymaking machine for the involved beneficiaries (graduate school, the CFA program, licenses, finance journals, and training courses).

Bright young finance job hopefuls would rather be told the truth; we’re lied to enough in this profession. Please either put in the effort to look into something you require out of applicants, or do not tell them they are lacking in it as an excuse for your laziness and greed.

Thank you, and have a nice day.”

 

 

This might seem a little mean and unnecessary on my part, but if you knew the nature of my frustrating years of job searching – add to it the fact that this kind of impersonal drivel is the only thing I can seem to elicit from people in charge of hiring – you would understand.

And this is an unpaid position.

 

 

Rant number 2: Selling myself.

I did not sign up to be a salesman. I signed up to be me, Curtis, and the task of marketing myself is wearing on me.

LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, online resumes, and the like are ways for us to express ourselves to the world in a creative way. We can show who we are instead of being just a name. The problem is, we know potential employers are using social media more than ever to screen applicants. With the potential for these secret third-party views, we can’t simply be “ourselves.” At least for my generation, we must leave out certain details or glorify others. This has become a game of exaggeration and borderline lying. Character is who we are when others aren’t around. Character is what matters, not who we are when we know others are watching. I hate lying or exaggerating or leaving out parts of myself just to compete with others who are doing the same in hopes of being recognized.

Regardless of how effective resumes and job fairs and related social media can be, my hatred for the system might be a reason I haven’t found a job yet.

I don’t exaggerate about my abilities. I don’t have much job experience, and I don’t meet certain minimum requirements. This is not a lack of confidence on my part – I have been told these things on numerous occasions, plus I tend to be honest in describing myself to others.

Here is an email resume critique I just received:

 

 

“Dear Curtis,

I’m the ABC resume expert who was assigned to evaluate your resume. I reviewed your resume with the goal of giving you an honest, straightforward assessment of your current resume, and not a judgment of your skills and qualifications.

Having worked with many candidates at your career stage, I have some insight into what you are probably looking for in your next job. Most of my recent graduate clients have course work, internships, and real work experience that if positioned correctly, make them ideal candidates to skip over entry-level job openings. By targeting jobs which give opportunities to gain hands-on experience right away, you can fast track your career instead of starting at the bottom.

Ironically, most job seekers at your stage in their career write resumes that are targeted toward a job that is below their level of education and experience. Their resumes are full of the tasks they performed and responsibilities they had, but these do not tell the recruiter or hiring manager the impact that their recent degree can have for a company. They don’t highlight their areas of expertise and as a result they do not distinguish themselves from the hundreds of other applicants seeking the same job.

So, let’s get started with a review of your resume:

Here’s the good news: My first impression of you is that you have an impressive array of skills and experiences. You’re an up-and-coming Financial Analyst with a lot to offer an employer. Now, here’s the bad news: Your resume does not pass the 30-second test, and the content is not up to the standards expected from a candidate like you. Countless studies have proven that resume quality is the key determinant for interview selection of qualified candidates. Your resume needs a boost from a visual, content, and overall writing standpoint to engage the reader. It needs to make them want to meet you.

Curtis, your resume is missing key elements that we see on the best resumes at your level of experience. Here are the major issues I see on your resume:

YOUR RESUME’S VISUAL PRESENTATION

We’ve all been told that looks don’t matter as much as substance, but in the case of your resume this just isn’t true. I found your design to be visually uneven and crowded. The appearance is not polished, and it doesn’t say “up and coming Financial Analyst.” The ideal resume design is clean, and uncluttered, with effective and strategic use of white space. Remember your resume is your marketing tool and is the first impression a potential employer has of you. Now – think about how generic brands are marketed versus the name brand. Packaging, advertising and branding are all carefully selected to attract attention and convince you to buy. Your resume should do the same thing- you want to be the brand name product. I’m concerned that your resume is not selling your brand and does not stand out against other candidates.

THE CONTENT OF YOUR RESUME

While reading your resume, I imagined myself as a hiring executive, looking for that ideal Financial Analyst. I asked myself if I could easily pick out your key attributes, experience, skills and accomplishments. A recruiter will do this to quickly decide if you’ll be successful in the job role. Critical elements in your resume may be holding you back and I have listed a few observations here:

For someone in the early stages of their career, an objective statement at the top of your resume makes good sense. An objective statement tells a prospective employer what position you are seeking, and should also reflect what you can bring to the company. An objective statement should be concise and clear, but not limit your opportunities.

From the way the resume is worded, you come across as a “doer,” not an “achiever.” Too many of your job descriptions are task-based and not results-based. This means that they tell what you did, instead of what you achieved. This is a common mistake for non-professional resume writers. To be effective and create excitement, a great resume helps the hiring executive “envision” or “picture” you delivering similar achievements at his or her company. Here are some examples of task-based sentences in your resume:

  • Worked with company finances to develop a working model for the future
  • Performed research to find early adopters and potential investors

Employers want to know about your previous contributions and specifically how you’ve made a difference. More importantly, they want to know how you are going to make a significant difference at their company.

When I read your resume, I didn’t find compelling language that brings your work to life. I saw many passive words and non-action verbs. Phrases like “performed” and “worked with” are overused, monotonous, and add no value to your resume. Strong action verbs, used with compelling language to outline exemplary achievements, are essential parts of a well-constructed resume.

Now, let’s put it all together. Here’s a real life example taken from a former client’s resume. By changing the language, we helped improve the perception of the candidate.

  • Passive language/ Doing: Negotiated contracts with vendors
  • Action language/ Achieving: Slashed payroll/benefits administration costs 30% by negotiating pricing and fees, while ensuring the continuation and enhancements of services.

A change like this makes a dramatic improvement.

THE WRITING ON YOUR RESUME

It’s easy to overlook errors in your resume. They could be typographical errors, inconsistent verb tenses, grammatical errors, punctuation problems, or misspelled words. You’ve rewritten the resume and proofed it multiple times so you may not notice the issue. But errors can be the kiss of death for your resume. Recruiters are reading your resume with fresh eyes, and they’re experts at finding errors. A misspelled word or punctuation error may not seem like a big deal, but to an employer these errors demonstrate unprofessionalism and a lack of attention to detail. That’s not the impression you want to leave.

MY RECOMMENDATION

Your unique skills and experience are good. But your resume, as it’s currently written, is not likely to get you the attention you deserve. I understand it can be uncomfortable to hear, but if you want to get hired or further your career in today’s super competitive job market, you must nail that first impression. And your resume is the ticket you need to do it.

That’s why I recommend that you have your resume professionally rewritten.

Research, as well as feedback from thousands of our satisfied customers who’ve had their resume rewritten by one of our Certified Resume Writers, told us this: A professionally written resume results in two to three times more interviews. What’s more, job seekers who have their resumes rewritten by ABC feel dramatically more confident in interviews. It’s as if they have an extra skip in their step and they can’t wait to show it and upload it!

Why not have a friend or colleague help write your resume?

Many employers now use automated tracking systems to evaluate and screen their incoming resumes. To be “processed” properly by one of these systems, a resume must be built with the right structure, keywords, and format. This is known as keyword optimization, and most non-professionals are not well-versed in this technique.

However, our industry-best resume writers are continuously updated on the newest trends, keywords and phrases. They work directly with hiring managers, recruiters and HR personnel, so they know precisely what kind of resumes and cover letters get their attention. And ABC resume writers don’t use templates! Your resume is written to capture your distinctive skills, personality and industry.

Special Offer on a New Resume
If you purchase our resume service, you’ll pay only $349.00 with the option to spread out your payments in five (5) easy installments of just $75.00. Order today!”

 

 

Wow, five easy installments, you say? Good thing it shares that feature with ridiculous infomercial products. And it’s not like I have to spend an insane amount of money on other finance-related things.

I don’t think much commentary is necessary. I am not going to respond like I did with the other email, but this is ridiculous. I can’t stand this aspect of the business world or the job hunt. I don’t want to exaggerate or add action verbs for the sake of glorifying a piece of paper. Maybe I will change my resume a bit, but I will do it with the feeling that I’m selling my soul to the devil.

Sometimes I contemplate why I’m doing something 75% of which I despise, but maybe I’m just tired.

 

One of these days, this nonsense won’t be an issue. One of these days.