Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Hey look, Ma! I'm all gradumacated! Part 3

So, how many of you got that Dr. Seuss book Oh, The Places You'll Go as a graduation present? Everyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

Well, I did. It was great. It was awfully generic, though, and I was more in need of something like, "Hey, TAB! Don't worry about this! Focus on that! Don't apply to this internship, apply for that one instead!" You know, the specifics. In an effort to give you n00bz some of what I lacked, this is my attempt to impart the tiny bit of wisdom I possess to you in the easiest way possible.

Wait, what? Graduation advice? How did this all start?

Oh, I get it. So... then what happened?

Okay! Now that you're caught up, let's move on.

Part 3 of this ridiculous series is going to cover something that I am often asked about but probably should be giving advice on: resumes and cover letters.

Here's the thing: because I'm a writerly-type, friends, family, disaffected youths and the like often come to me asking for help, advice, and/or edits to their resumes and cover letters before they send them out to apply to jobs. Now, I am always happy to help a friend in need, but I feel rather unqualified to do so because of the fact that my resumes (yes, plural, more about that later...) and cover letters have failed to net me a whole lot of amazing jobs... or interviews, for that matter. Thus, I feel as though I am the *wrong* person to ask and frequently vocalize this, but still, they press on. I could be missing something intrinsically important or leaving something in that I should have taken out, and of course, every industry is looking for something different. I have, however, done some extensive research on the matter and have compiled a few points that everyone really *should* know about applying for jobs. With the above disclaimer, if you're not at all interested in my advice and you think I'm full of wrongness, don't pay any attention to the following and instead go watch the cutest puppy in the entire world.


DO NOT APPLY TO ANYTHING WITH A 'FORM' COVER LETTER! I cannot stress the importance of this one. We've all been there... you've been applying to jobs for hours and you're mentally exhausted and it's just so easy to cut out "Dear Company A" and replace it with "Dear Company B," but unless you want your job application to go directly into the trash bin, stop for a second. Put yourself in the shoes of the person receiving your cover letter. Instead of addressing it "To Whom It May Concern:" take the extra five minutes to search the company's website for a name, preferably in the HR department. Depending on the job posting, you might be able to call the company directly and ask to whom you should address your resume.

Additionally, stick to the form of a formal cover letter, BUT make sure you tailor each letter to each company. Companies want to know *why* you would be a perfect fit for the position with their company, so instead of just listing your skills, concisely explain how your skills could benefit their company. Specificity is key! For example, let's say you're applying to be Bruce Campbell's chainsaw technician and you spent years operating chainsaws as a rogue lumberjack. Instead of: "I am a very punctual and hard-working individual who can demonstrate a degree of expertise with chainsaws," use something like, "As a seasoned lumberjack who learned safe and efficient chainsaw operation at age 8, I've demonstrated my expertise with chainsaws year after year by cutting down over 400 trees annually, with absolutely no loss of appendages. Furthermore, last year I was nearly mauled by a rabid grizzly bear, but lived through the attack because I was able to think on my feet and improvise, using my chainsaw as a weapon. These skills can readily be applied to any type of adversary, as I understand your need to use your chainsaw against zombies."

Also important: remember how I told you to tailor your letter to the job/company? Hiring folks want to know that you're familiar with their company and the specific needs of that job. Wording your letters to show that you know something about them is vitally important, hence how we ended our letter: "These skills can readily be applied to any type of adversary, as I understand your need to use your chainsaw against zombies." DEFINITELY REMEMBER: to check ALL spelling and grammar, have another person read your cover letter to catch mistakes that you missed, double check your contact information (there should be AT LEAST TWO WAYS TO CONTACT YOU! Email and phone number work just fine), if you're enclosing your resume and clips/samples of your work, be sure to add an "Enc. 1 Resume, 3 Clips" line after you sign your letter.


Okay, one time after I graduated college, my dad was like, "you need more than 1 resume!" and I was all, "sure I do, Dad... ::rolls eyes in that obnoxious know-it-all way::" and then I started broadening my job hunt (re: I couldn't get a job so I had to expand my search) and I started not only applying to writing jobs, but editing jobs, publishing jobs, coffee making jobs, book selling jobs, etc. Every time I did, I sent out the same resume and cover letter and guess what? No one called me back. Then, I was complaining to my dad again about how I was a useless, unhireable sack of meat and waste of space and my dad asked me once more, "well, which resumes are you sending out?" and I was all, "uh."

So I revamped my resume! I started with 3, but I have more versions now. I made one for writing jobs, one for editing jobs, and a general one for retail/coffee/bitch jobs. Each resume specifically focuses my skills into what I think the Hiring Gods would want. Granted, fresh out of college, I didn't have a lot of experience to put on said resumes, so I had to get creative. With the exception of things I had published in high school and college, most of my "real" job experience was working in the kitchens on my college campus and some retail during summers. So... how did that all work for me? Well, I listed it on all 3 of my resumes under OTHER WORK EXPERIENCE and described how it demonstrated my leadership skills (I was promoted very quickly) and how I learned important lessons about management and employee relationships, customer service and patience, and the value of working efficiently.

Yep. I translated working behind the counter of a cafe into understanding how it's important to work quickly and meet the demands of a rushed customer, which, in my line of work, means I understand tight deadlines. You feel me?

As I was later able to add internships, experience and other crap to my resumes, more appropriate and relevant career moves slowly pushed my dining/cafe jobs off the page. You have to start somewhere, though, and you can definitely make those jobs work in your favor.

And speaking of pushing things off the page... keep the thing to one page. Put on the most important stuff. Also, depending on how conservative your industry is, you might want to leave off the "OBJECTIVE:" statement. Honestly, I've never had one on there and everything I've heard and/or read from hiring staff is that it's pretty damn useless. Obviously, everyone's objective is to get the job, have the job, succeed in the job, so unless you're delivering new information like "OBJECTIVE: to obtain teh skillz to rule the world" I'd say save the space for something that highlights your real skills and experience.


- keep it a legibly-sized font. Don't make anyone squint or struggle to read it, otherwise they won't.


- be creative with the descriptions of your skills, but don't lie. Saying you speak fluent Klingon and can demonstrate formidable origami skills on command will not help you, especially if you really don't know Klingon or origami. (But I might want the job that required them! Cool...)

- don't be afraid to talk yourself up, but don't be a dbag, either. Find the balance between explaining your skills, awards and accomplishments and telling people you're the greatest thing since sliced bread.

- did I mention double checking all spelling and punctuation?

There's really so much more, but I think this covers all the basics. I heartily wish you all the best of luck in your job hunt and hope my advice has been helpful. If not, definitely go check out that puppy link. Seriously, so cute.

Also, I'd be more than happy to offer up any additional advice to anyone interested. You can post questions in the comment section with your email address and I'll be thrilled to respond.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Hey Ma, look! I'm all gradumacated! Part 2

In case you missed part 1 of my new advice series for grads, take a minute to catch yourself up and click here.

Ready? Swell. Let's continue.

(That's right, little guy! Hooray for cake time!)
1. Everyone you know will get married. Seriously. I don't know what it is, but something happens to people when they graduate and all of a sudden, everyone you know is either getting married or having babies. I think it has to do with some kind of hormone release or maybe people think they're done maturing and growing up and can now settle down or maybe they're terrified because they just graduated and NOW WHAT?! I'm definitely not saying it's a bad thing, married people, I'm just warning you grads out there... it happens pretty quickly and even if you don't want to get married or you're happily single or whatever, you'll get what they call "wedding bell blues" which actually is a real thing! Diagnosed! (Maybe!) But only for girls, I think. I don't know if guys get it. (Guys: to clarify, girls with "wedding bell blues" is the emotional equivalent to "blue balls". You've been warned.)
2. Everyone you know will move away from you. This is probably the worst thing about graduating. All of your friends will move away and either go to grad school, Married-People-Land, or relocate for a job. The good thing about this nowadays is that with Facebook, iPhones (but seriously not one of the greatest 100 inventions) and Twitter, it's really easy to keep in touch with everyone. Just don't let social networking suck up all your time - remember it's equally important for you to get out there and make new friends; meeting new people in your new area will help you adjust. Trust me. I speak from experience when I tell you that sitting in your room alone with that bottle of Jack and pining for days past does NOT help in the long run. Now is the time to reinvent yourself! Be daring, and not a dbag.
3. For whatever reason, you will not party like you did in college. Maybe it's because your alcoholic friends live far away and partying via webcam is oddly creepy and unsettling, maybe you can't afford booze on your Starbucks salary, maybe because it feels different (and it will) but partying like you did in college loses its charm and feels... sad. Because it is. Learning how to have fun and socialize in new ways is just as important as finding a job, because crazy drunken behavior has consequences now. Welcome to responsibility! It blows! But you get used to it, and you learn to make it work for you. In short: don't get wasted at office happy hour... inevitably, someone senior to you will be sober and take note and then you might go from office to cubicle the next Monday.
4. Good news! You will begin to understand and appreciate the important things! It's not all bad news, dude. Really, I promise. Everyone talks about the transition from high school to college being a big one, but I think the transition years right after college are some of the hardest that you'll go through. With difficulties and trials, however, come experience and wisdom. Remarkably, you'll become much more aware of things that are important to you. Toxic friendships and mediocre relationships will fall away, and you'll be left with true friends and relationships worth maintaining. Maybe you'll reconnect with siblings or parents or friends from years ago, maybe you'll realize that person you were dating really *wasn't* right for you... whatever. Stepping out on your own is liberating because you have the opportunity to cut a lot of the bullshit out of your life and spend more time with the people and things that matter. It's so worth it.
5. You will suddenly care about really lame things. Such as: does your new job offer dental insurance as well as health? Did you budget enough money for gas and car insurance this month? Is it smarter to get a Costco card or clip coupons from the Sunday paper? What kind of vitamins should you be taking? Is there nutritional value in anything from Taco Bell? What kind of taxes does your company take out on your overtime pay? What kind of commute would you have if you got that apartment across town? Maybe you were concerned about these things before you graduated, maybe not. You will soon enough. It's like, "adulthood" or something.
Don't worry, though. It just means you don't have to worry about things like homework, finals and class projects anymore... if you ever worried about that to begin with. Probably not, but you get where I'm going. Now, take a deep breath and have a beer. We've done some important work here today.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Hey Ma, look! I'm all gradumacated! Part 1

It seems to be that time of year again when hapless college (and high school, I guess) students end one chapter of their lives and get ready to begin another. Final exams have been taken and passed by a marginal curve, spring beer pong tourneys have been had in celebration, and thousands of family members have been forced to sit through possibly the worst experience in all 4 years combined: the commencement ceremonies. Listen, you can jazz it up with Obama and Alec Baldwin speeches all you want, but that doesn't change the fact that you have to sit there through the tedious name-list-reading of your 8 billion classmates. I mean, maybe if Bruce Campbell was there with his chainsaw arm as an Honorary Professor of Asskicking and straight brutalized that podium after his inspirational speech of "My name is Bruce... stay away from zombies, kids," maybe THEN I could sit through 5 or 6 hours of graduation, but given the likelihood of Bruce Campbell speeches, the outlook is grim.

I digress. As a college graduate who has suffered through all of this before, I would like to offer up my advice to those of you tassel-wearers (but not like, the stripper-burlesque dancer kind, unless you ladies really need advice or something...which, if you're a stripper, maybe you do. I don't know.) because you are in for the absolute RUDEST AWAKENING OF YOUR LIVES and while I was utterly unprepared, I want to give you all every opportunity to meet the real world head-on and without dread. (...in a series of emails entitled, "Hey Ma, look! I'm all gradumacated!") Colleges will teach you all the book learnin' that you pay for, but every institution of higher learning I am aware of lacks the basic "be an adult" lessons that your parents have probably been trying to teach you for 8 or so years already. If you're just not ready to heed their advice, take it from me, The Average Broad, a.k.a. One Who Knows.

1. Unless you are some kind of freaky genius, recruiters will NOT be beating a path to your door to offer you the job/salary/benefits of a lifetime. This is a big one. I started job hunting my senior year of college, and with clips already published in print magazines and a title as a staff writer for my college newspaper, I figured (at the very least) a great paid internship or entry-level job was waiting for me to get my foot in the door and catapult me into a wheeling arc of success. All I had to do was send out a few resumes and cover letters and wait!

...and wait.

...'did I send it to the right email address?'

...wait some more.

...take a break from checking email and voicemail every two hours and read a book.

...resist sending another follow-up email making sure the pdf's of your clips went through.

...wait a bit more.

...hey, you know what would be a great idea? Waiting!

..."oh, yeah, I'm working now. I'm a professional wait-for-a-job-er."

You get the idea. Granted, I chose a tough and declining industry, but I've found that this is true of many other industries as well, especially if you happen to be in a graduating class filing into a recently-recessed economy. This doesn't mean that you are a dumbass (I actually don't know if you're a dumbass) necessarily, or a poor job candidate, or that your parents were wrong in telling you that "you can do/be anything, if you work hard and put your mind to it!" It's increasingly difficult to get an edge over your competition these days, because so many people are graduating from college, so many people have degrees, so many people have already done internships and extra-curriculars, so many people have friends/cousins/parents/friends of parents/mafia-connected-family members who have networked and already guaranteed your competition that internship... all those things that we have been raised to believe would get US the job is just common knowledge and not the "industry secret" that we all hoped it would be.

Here's where my failings can help you, dear reader! I was grossly misinformed about how quickly I would achieve success and fame and wheelbarrows full of money and diamonds and puppies, so to you I say: it will be a while before you get a job, and when you do, it will be exactly 0.01% of what you were hoping and expecting. More importantly, it's okay! Transition jobs, retail work, temp work, etc. are all perfectly good jobs. Well, not really, they actually suck sweaty balls, but never underestimate the self-worth you will feel when you go from not-getting-paid to getting-paid. It does not mean you're a failure if you can't get that unpaid internship ("wow, they don't even want me to work for FREE!" sob sob sob) but it is okay to cry about it for a minute. Hey dude, it's hard. Just keep your chin up and don't be defeated. You've got a long way to go! And you can drink legally now, so that'll make things way easier!

"Great, TAB," you're thinking. "So your advice to me is that I'm going to be poor and jobless and that I'm not that special and there's nothing I can do about it and that I just have to accept it and WHY ARE YOU RUINING MY LIFE?!"

Yes and no. Here's the place that I was trying to take you: expect the worst, hope for the best. Try really hard not to get discouraged when you're shocked with the too-cold-water of the real world. Learn how to have a great resume and cover letter (that will be covered in a later post) and to apply to jobs that you want, but learn to accept that you'll need to apply to jobs that you might not have wanted originally. It's okay to be sad or frustrated or anxious or drunk, but know that it's not the end of the world - you're just beginning something new, and that's never easy. Be tenacious. Learn from your mistakes. Always, always have someone else proofread your resume/cover letters/job applications. Take breaks and get away from your computer. Keep in touch with your college friends - they're going through it, too.

Take a minute to pat yourself on the back, because dude! You just graduated! Hell yes! Have some cake! Man, that's some good cake, huh?! Great. Save me some frosting. Now, sit down, put your feet up, and start making a list of jobs that you want. It helps, I promise. Wanna know what's on my list aside from staff writer, associate editor and editor-in-chief of my own magazine? Bruce Campbell's chainsaw tech and professional Slurpee tester - because it's important to have dreams.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

I really love famous people. Mostly.

Last night, J.R. and I met up with another friend of ours from our internship days at this really pretentious, but reeeally delicious burger joint downtown. J.R. and I showed up at about the same time, but because said burger joint is on the small side, we had to wait outside for our fellow ex-intern to arrive. While I was regaling J.R. with my theories about Hot Musician and how I'm pretty sure he's annoyed with me, I watched a random white minivan pull up to the valet. A good-looking, slender hipster type got out of the driver's side and walked around to open the passenger door for: Molly Shannon.

They walked up to where J.R. and I were standing (well, I was more like, gawking) and proceeded to wait for their own table. I tried repeatedly to mouth "Oh my God, J.R.! Molly Shannon!" and give the big dude-look-behind-you-right-now! eyes, but J.R. just thought I was being crazy and mouthing something about Chinese people.

You may think that it's not a big deal, but I happen to love Molly Shannon. I think she's hilarious and has an awesome, unique smile. She's all teeth! I love it. Anyway, I was desperately trying to think of something mind-blowing to say to her so that I could say, "I talked to Molly Shannon one time!" but all I could do was stare at her shoes because she was wearing these insane platform stilettos that I fell in love with and by the time I thought about asking her where she got them, she and her dining partner had already been seated. Damn. I was *thisclose* to having some substance to this story.

I know a lot of people in L.A. that are totally unimpressed with the idea of the celebrity. They're everywhere! Truthfully, I still get excited when I see them out and about acting like real people - yep, I'll admit it. I haven't yet lived in Los Angeles so long as to become jaded when someone from "the teevee!" or "the movies!" ends up standing next to me by a valet. Unless, of course, they're some d-list dbag who wants to talk to you about all the accomplishments that you've never heard of and all you can do is just stand there staring at them thinking, "dude, why are you wearing so much foundation?"

:: Shrugs ::. It happens.

And that's how I almost met Molly Shannon.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Not-So-Smooooooth Operator

It's been a while since I've written anything, mainly because I've been busy doing other writing gigs. One of these involved paparazzi-style press coverage of a charity event in Beverly Hills, complete with red carpet and a d-list celeb parade. One of these celebs, though, was yet another crush of mine: the Old Spice guy. You know, "The Man Your Man Can Smell Like," who rides a horse backwards and holds in his hand a clam shell full of diamonds and "tickets to that thing you love". Yeah. That guy.

Imagine my giddy surprise in the photo pit across the red carpet when said studmuffin stepped up and started grinning for the blinding flashes from the other, more legit press honeys. Throughout the night, I edged closer and closer to him, trying to work up the nerve to get a quote about the event, stopped every few feet by other useless d-listers trying to convince me that they were important enough to be interviewed.

"Hi, I'm SoandSo D-lister. I'm on that one show that you've never heard of, and I do important things for this charity, like attend fundraisers with free food and booze. My life is hard. Interview me! Is that recorder on?"

"Sure it is..."

"But the light isn't on."

"The light only turns on when the recorder is off."

"Oh. Blah blah blah dumb quote."

The night started to wind down and my feet started to hate me more and more for wearing platform stilettos to a long standing-only event, and as I milled about outside taking gratuitous party shots, I sensed a roaming hotness behind me. Lo and behold, it was hot Old Spice guy!

"Excuse me! I'm covering this event for Random Fashion Website, could I get a couple quotes from you about this event? What kind of involvement do you have with Random Charity?"

"Random Fashion Website? You're not going to ask me if I prefer stilettos or mary janes?" Hot Old Spice guy joked.

"No," I said matter-of-factly. "Because there's only one answer to that question."

"I prefer mary janes," he said.

"Well, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and yours is wrong. Stilettos would impale mary janes. Are you working on any other projects right now besides the awesome and hilarious Old Spice commercials? Did Old Spice give you a lifetime supply of Old Spice and horses for doing those commercials?"

Old Spice guy laughed at me and said something about some other movie that he was doing. The friend that he was with (clearly a fame-leeching tool because he was wearing sunglasses at 10pm and was NOT - I repeat, NOT - a Blues Brother) made some kind of impatient noise and Hot Old Spice guy made like he was ready to leave, so I said:

"Well thank you very much, I appreciate you stopping for a minute to answer my questions. And hey, give me a call if you ever get those tickets to that thing I love!"

Old Spice guy chuckled and walked off with his fame-leech. I'm pretty sure it's against the rules somewhere for paparazzi to hit on famous people, but hey, Rule Book, I'm a woman first.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Weekend Text Progressions

TAB: "But what does the party bus go somewhere? To a club?"

Billie: "The party bus IS the club."'

TAB: "Does it go anywhere though?"

Billie: "It's a bus. It drives around."

TAB: "Is that it? Where though? I don't get it."

Billie: "Just show up and be pretty."


"Chasing whiskey with champagne is a very party bus thing to do. The French are here. Mon Dieu!"


"Let's make out and I want a cheeseburger."


"Idk. I passed out at 4am on my couch with my heels on and a burger in my hand."


"Awesome. Hungover and bruised on my feet (yeah idk.). So much hangover. Beer pong at Billie's later??"


"Do you remember how I bruised my hand? Hurts like a mofo and makes me look like I have an abusive husband."


"Dude, I have stories to tell you but it's too much to txt. Emailing now."