The extracurricular resume

For those of you reading this who work in some type of professional position, how many of you have a resume? I’m guessing that at least 98% of you (if not more) would have your hands raised.

Now, for those of you who are very active in some extracurricular activity (just for context, that activity for me, personally, happens to be music) — and by “very,” I mean you dedicate large amounts of time, money, energy, and resources to it, as though it was another job (even if you’re not making money off of it) — how many of you maintain an extracurricular resume?

I didn’t think about this until recently. This past winter, I music-directed a local show production. One person I met in the production told me he was looking for a music director, and said he wanted me to do it. I hemmed and hawed about it a bit (and I still am — those of you who’ve done theater shows know that it sucks up ALL your free time). He did tell me that the board of directors asked for my resume so they could get a look at my background.

Until this came up, it never occurred to me that I should have a resume outside of my professional life. Immediately, I started coming up with questions. How would it differ from my professional resume? What should it look like? How should I organize it? What should I include?

In any case, I have an idea in the back of my head as to how I’m going to put it together (and I do intend to put one together). Music is an activity that I take very seriously, and I do look for opportunities to do something with it, even though I don’t do it for a living. So it makes sense for me to have one. Besides, if I do decide someday to leave my professional life behind and make music my career, who knows?

So if you have some activity outside your professional career that you pursue seriously, consider putting together an extracurricular resume. You never know what opportunities could come from it.

Business cards: the most important networking tool

At Albany SQL Saturday this year, I will be doing a lightning talk about what may very well be the most important item you could have for networking. This article outlines what I intend to discuss.

Why do I consider business cards — such innocuous little items — to be the most important item for networking? Let me lay out this scenario.

Let’s say you’re attending an event like, say, SQL Saturday. You manage to strike up a conversation with this person you happen to meet there. (S)he tells you that (s)he is a high-level executive for a company that hires people with the skill sets that you have. You tell him/her about yourself and what you do. (S)he becomes very intrigued. (S)he tells you, “let me get your name, number, and email, and we’ll talk!” You eagerly look for a pen and a piece of paper to write down your contact information, but you can’t find any readily available. (S)he says, “don’t worry about it. Track me down later when you have a chance to write it down.” Only that opportunity never happens. (S)he gets a call and needs to leave the conference before you have a chance to give him/her your contact info. A few days later, both you and (s)he have already forgotten each other’s names.

Opportunity knocked, but you didn’t answer the door. That could’ve been the job opportunity that kicked off your career — and you just let it slip through your fingers. If only you had a way to quickly and easily share your contact information — something that you can exchange instantly. Well, there is.

Business cards are small, simple, easy to carry, and easy to distribute. They’re much easier to carry than, say, copies of your resume. People don’t need to remember your name, email, or phone number. They also save the time of having to find a pen and paper or pulling out your smartphone and texting someone your contact info. Additionally, you cut out the extra step of having someone look up your contact info. The less you have to make someone work, the better.

Open up my business card, and you’ll see a little mini-resume!

Years ago, I decided to get creative with my business cards. One day, I came up with the idea of “baseball cards… business cards” and put the two concepts together. I had an old souvenir photo of myself in a baseball uniform that I used for the card photo. Flip the card over, and you’ll see my contact info (including my ‘blog, LinkedIn, email, and snail-mail addresses and phone numbers). Open it up (it’s a folded business card), and you’ll see my “career major league batting stats” — in actuality, a little mini-resume!

When I first designed and created these cards, I designed them in a MS Word template and printed them out onto business card stock. These days, I implement my design in a VistaPrint account and let them take care of the printing and card stock. I’ve found VistaPrint to be much more convenient than having to buy card stock and producing them myself.

To this day, I continually get rave reviews about my business cards, and I love the reactions I get when I pass them out. One recruiter told me that they have my card tacked on their “good ideas” bulletin board. A friend who was a (now-retired) career counselor asked me for a card so that he could show people, “if you’re looking for a job, this is the kind of thing you have to do.” Another person whom I met at a job fair told me, upon seeing my card: “I’m not in a position to hire, but if I was, I would hire you right now just because of this card!” Even Matt Cushing brings up my card whenever he does his networking presentation! My card is designed to do more than just provide my contact information — it shows off my creativity, that I can think out of the box, and it makes a good conversation piece. It makes me memorable, and ensures that I’ll be remembered in a good way!*

(*Well, unless you’re a Red Sox or Mets fan!)

Granted, you don’t have to create a baseball-business card (hey, my idea, darn it!), but don’t be afraid to get creative with your card design. You’ll more likely to be remembered. If you don’t feel like being creative with your cards, at the very least, have a basic card with your name and contact info on it that you can pass along.

A big part of networking is ensuring you can continue (or establish) a conversation at some point. Having business cards to distribute can ensure that the conversation — and possibly your big break — happens.

The importance of maintaining a LinkedIn account

My own presentation and a lightning talk by Paresh Motiwala from our SQL Saturday this past July got me thinking about my own LinkedIn account.  I’ve been going through the activities feed fairly regularly, making sure my ‘blog articles are posted, getting an idea of how many people see (much less, actually read) my articles, and to get occasional updates as to what my contacts are doing.  But it also occurred to me that it’s been a while since I did a full-fledged inventory of my own LinkedIn account.  I’ve written before about the importance of maintaining documentation, and my own LinkedIn profile is no exception.

Why inventory my LinkedIn account?  To answer this, I suppose I should explain why I have a LinkedIn account at all.

I’ll admit that I’m usually a lot more active on LinkedIn if I’m looking for a job.  I don’t know the statistics as to how people use LinkedIn, but it wouldn’t surprise me if job hunting is the number one reason.  Nevertheless, I try to check my LinkedIn fairly regularly, regardless of whether or not I’m looking for new employment.

I should note that, as of this article, I am not actively looking for employment.  That said, I still think it’s important to maintain my LinkedIn account.

Probably my biggest reason for maintaining a LinkedIn account is networking.  I’ve written before about the importance of networking in your professional lifetime.  I have an entire presentation about networking.  LinkedIn provides a tool for maintaining my networking contacts and staying in touch with them.  I’ve often said that one of my main reasons for maintaining my Facebook account is to keep in touch with family and friends, and to keep them up to date with whatever is happening in my life.  LinkedIn mostly serves the same purpose, with the primary difference being that the context is professional, not personal.

If you’re job hunting, a LinkedIn account is invaluable (I would even go as far as to say it’s necessary).  I came across an article (on LinkedIn, of course!) that stated about 85% of jobs were filled through networking.  I can personally attest to this; the person who hired me for my current job is connected to me through both Facebook and LinkedIn.

If you’re not convinced that LinkedIn is necessary for effective job hunting, imagine this scenario.  You’re a hiring manager who’s looking to fill one position, and is looking over two nearly identical resumes.  Both people are qualified for the position.  You decide that you want to know more about them.  You see that one has a LinkedIn profile.  The other does not.  Guess which one will have the advantage.

I’ve seen job applications that ask for your LinkedIn profile URL.  That tells me that employers take LinkedIn pretty seriously.

I said earlier that I am currently not actively seeking new employment.  However, I didn’t mention anything about passively looking.  Although I am content in my current position, I would be remiss if I didn’t keep my eyes and ears open for my next big thing, whether it’s a step up in my position or my salary.

I attended a SQL Saturday presentation by my friend, James Serra, about how to build your career.  One of the takeaways from his presentation was not to get comfortable if you want to get ahead — a point that prompted me to write about it in another ‘blog article.  Granted, I enjoy what I do, and I’m sure I could remain in my position for some time, but I’d be crazy to pass up an opportunity that represents a major step up and is right up my alley.

So, I started going through my own LinkedIn profile.  First, I went through my contacts to make sure it was up-to-date.  I started by going through the last SQL Saturday schedule, looking through the speaker profiles to see who else had LinkedIn accounts (those who have one are noted by a LinkedIn icon under their names), and checking to make sure I was connected to them.  I should note that I did not do this with all the speakers, but mainly the ones I know reasonably well and with whom I feel comfortable connecting.

Going through the “People you may know” feature, I was surprised to find a number of people whom I know but was not already connected on LinkedIn.  I sent them invitations to connect with me.  As of this article, about ten of them have accepted my invitation within the past week.  More will be coming, I’m sure.

I also looked at my own summary and realized that it’s not really a “summary” — that is, it should be a list of highlights and fairly easy to read.  I have some ideas in my head as to how to rewrite it; I have not yet done so as of this article.  Nevertheless, my personal professional summary will definitely get some tweaking sometime in the days ahead.

Whenever I assemble a new presentation, I make sure that it is listed under my Publications section.  It indicates that I am active with my presentations.  Demonstrating that you are doing something to enhance your background (in this case, staying active with my SQL Saturday presentations) is always a good thing.

I also solicit recommendations from people.  Maintaining recommendations on your LinkedIn enhances your profile.  And I make it a point to reciprocate when someone leaves me a recommendation.  This is a key point of networking; networking is a two-way street.  If someone does you a favor, make sure you do the same.

Maintaining LinkedIn is critical for your professional career.  I only talked about a few reasons for maintaining your account; there are many more that I didn’t mention.  (Out of curiosity, I Google-searched “reasons to maintain linkedin account” and a number of links showed up.)  In this day and age where maintaining an online presence is nearly expected, LinkedIn might make the difference in advancing your career.