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Resume workshop more popular in sour economy

By Staff | Apr 3, 2009

Betsy Sheets, director of the Shepherd University Career Development Center, presents a cover letter and resume writing workshop Tuesday, March 31, in the Rams Den's Rumsey Room.

Betsy Sheets is flying through her presentation. It’s Tuesday afternoon, March 31, and Sheets, director of the Shepherd University Career Development Center, has only one hour to communicate the fundamentals of crafting a quality cover letter and resume to a rapt and packed audience of Shepherd University seniors preparing to walk across a stage into the real world. The last time she held a similar event there were only five students in attendance, today there are 19, filling almost every seat in the Rumsey Room of the Ram’s Den.

In a high pitched voice with a hint of a Southern accent she rattles off advice on the entire job hunting process, offering tips which may not be so obvious to these seniors on the rise: Men, wear an undershirt with your button-up, ladies, don’t wear perfume to your interview (some people have allergies), don’t be afraid to pause before responding to an interviewers questions, be polite to the janitor in the office building, develop a 30 second “elevator spiel”.

That last bit of advice underscores a common theme to her presentation: everything about you is judged within 30 seconds of seeing it. Resume’s, cover letters, personal appearance, business cards, everything, has only 30 seconds before the person reading it, the person in the position to hire you, has passed a value judgement on it.

The elephant in the room, of course, is the sour economy. These seniors are entering a turbulent job market, and for those who have never sought a full time job, all the news about historic unemployment levels, mass layoffs, and hiring freezes are enough to make even the most confident students second guess their chances at landing that dream job right out of college. This class also faces issues unique to their generation in the form of Myspace and Facebook. Sheets recommends that job seekers make absolutely certain that their digital social networking pages show a range of activities outside of drinking and partying.

The students have questions, too, which Sheets answers as concisely as possible. When you go to your interview, do you take your cover letter with you? Not necessary. What about the resume? Yes, bring multiple copies. Can I use a family member as a reference if I’ve worked for that family member? Yes … or no, if you do, make sure it’s clear that you were employed by them.

Attending the seminar was Callie Poole, a senior mass communication major aspiring to find a job in broadcast journalism. She said the resume workshop was a good primer for her impending job search, but she still hears the economic news on a daily basis, and it’s disconcerting.

“I think I’m ahead of the curve, now.” Said Poole. “I had not considered the implications of my Facebook profile. But I’m still nervous about job hunting in this economy.”

Sheets hears this a lot. She advises students to not worry about the larger economy, as it is an element which they cannot control, and focus instead on communicating value to potential employers.

“You can’t let that get into your head,” said Sheets. “There are still people, industries, out there that are hiring, no matter what the economy.”

Then, 5 p.m. arrives, the scheduled conclusion of the hour long workshop. Sheets still has two more topics to present: Networking and Interviewing. She promises that it won’t take long to go through them, but pauses to allow the time crunched students to leave. The pause is a short one. Not a single student moves from their seat, and just like that she launches back into her rapid-fire presentation.