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A Résumé for Our Times

Give employers the real scoop, not just the work history

Recessions tend to push hardworking people into two groups: the layoff survivor handling the load of multiple former employees and the hyperqualified job seeker who nevertheless remains overlooked. Both types of people often need to write a new résumé, and neither can afford to do it the same way they might have in the previous millennium. Here are some tips:

Laid off? Tell the truth. Otherwise you risk the job-hopper label. And in fact, there’s no shame in being laid off, especially during downturns in the economy. So include a one-liner that details the company’s cutbacks. That will keep the “blame” for your departure on your employer, not you. Give the percentage of people that were let go along with you; mention that your boss was laid off, too; brag about surviving previous rounds of downsizing. If appropriate, divulge that the company may have made a poor strategic decision.

Acquired? Clarify the gobbling order. It’s common nowadays for a company to have changed hands (and names) several times. For a single acquisition, state the current name of the organization with the name of the acquired firm in parentheses. This way, a potential employer can research your company without hitting dead-ends. For multiple acquisitions, lead in with a short paragraph that describes the evolution of the organization and how your position has fluctuated as a result. Remember, being retained through a series of restructurings implies that you’re deeply valued.

Overextended? Categorize your achievements. Hanging on after layoffs usually means that your workload has doubled or tripled—great for your career but often difficult to present on a résumé, because too many bullet points is the kiss of death. So include only the information that’s relevant to your career objective. Then, if necessary, use bold subheads under your official title to delineate the different genres of your accomplishments. These subheads will both inform the reader of your skill sets and serve as keywords likely to get picked up by résumé-scanning software. Consider alluding to increases in responsibility, noting when and why you were selected to handle mission-critical projects.

Savvy Car Shopping

Car buyers commonly compare vehicles based on the manufacturer’s suggested
retail price or advertised selling price. Instead, I recommend considering all the
costs of owning a particular car, including long-term costs. Often, a vehicle with a
high resale value and a strong finance or lease program will leave you with a lower monthly payment than a vehicle that has a lower price. Fuel efficiency, reliability, and maintenance expenses must be evaluated as well. The Internet has made it easy to take such factors into account. Websites such as edmunds.com and kbb.com (Kelley Blue Book) provide abundant free information, as well as user-friendly tools for comparing vehicles. Be sure to test-drive the vehicle you have chosen as well, and try to do business with a dealership that has a solid reputation.

Writing Your Own Recipes

Share your kitchen creativity with confidence

With the growing popularity of food blogs and forums, opportunities abound for creative home cooks to share their recipes online. These steps will ensure that readers can reliably reproduce your signature dishes in their own kitchens:

Prepare the dish yourself. Keep a pencil handy to list ingredients, record procedures, and note cooking times. Number the steps and indicate any that occur simultaneously. Don’t overlook preparatory steps like greasing cookie sheets; jot down a reminder to include these at the beginning of the recipe or during a waiting period while vegetables marinate or dough chills.

Make writerly decisions early on. Will your tone will be chatty or matter-of-fact? Will you spell out or abbreviate words like teaspoon and tablespoon? Be consistent. Use frequent paragraph breaks and numbered lists to help readers orient themselves in the text.

Be precise. There’s a difference between “2 cups of walnuts, chopped” and “2 cups of chopped walnuts.” Use specific measures, rather than “a pinch” or “a dash.” If your recipe calls for chopped, sliced, or minced ingredients, list the size and number of items to be used, not just the measured amounts needed—for example, “1 cup sliced carrots (2 large)”— so readers will know how much to buy.

Describe how the food should look, smell, and feel. Don’t just say “saute the onions.” Instead, say “saute the onions for 3-4 minutes over medium heat, until they become fragrant and turn golden.”

Go easy on the dishwasher. If groups of ingredients are to be prepared separately and later combined, avoid dirtying extra bowls and pots. If dry ingredients should be mixed in a large, deep bowl to allow room for liquid ingredients later, say so.

Prepare the dish yourself—again. Follow your own recipe step by step, and make corrections as needed.

Successful Sports Parenting

Playing sports can help a child become a successful adult, but only if parents adhere to two guiding principles:

On matters of ethics or injuries, jump in. If a coach is employing unethical practices to win, a parent has both the right and the obligation to speak up. The same is true if a child is injured.

On matters of playing time and strategy, stay out. Questions such as who gets to be team captain are for the coach to decide; the parents’ job is to counsel their child on how to keep disappointments in perspective. If that sounds like a challenge, look at the big picture. While writing The Encyclopedia of Sports Parenting, I surveyed five hundred high achievers, including a former U.S. Supreme Court Justice. Although 87 percent had played competitive sports until at least the tenth grade, only twenty-nine people had been high school team captains and only seven had been college team captains. Still, 98 percent of all sports participants said their experience had been positive, and helpful later in life. They learned to follow directions and learned leadership skills by observing coaches and captains.

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