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Professional & Technical Communication

Compiling a résumé can feel like a daunting task. Just like essay writing, résumé creation works well as a process. Before worrying about the format of the résumé and where to place everything in a document, consider beginning by compiling an informal list of past and present work experience and education. Once you have a first draft, look at résumés in the field you are applying to, since every field has different standards and preferences. Remember: there are no one-size-fits all résumés. The key to constructing a polished résumé is tailoring your experience to the job to which you’re applying.

When applying for jobs, a well-written cover letter is just as important as a well-written resume. While the resume is designed to provide an overview of your relevant skills and qualifications, the cover letter is your opportunity to discuss relevant experiences, connect those experience to qualities and qualifications from the job ad, and to display your personality to your reader. In other words, the cover letter is your chance to humanize yourself to your reader and to give the reader a sense of who you are and why you’re uniquely qualified for a particular position.

On Wooing Your Audience (Or Not)

Imagine for a moment that you’re in the market for a new significant other. Well, good news: your friend, Imma MutualFriend, claims that she knows your perfect match and tells you all about this person. From what you’re told about this match, you’re interested too. Imma promises to connect you two soon.

Flash forward, and the time comes for you to meet this supposed match. At a party, Imma points you in their direction. With the goal of wooing this person with all of your wonderful qualifications, you approach your match.

Getting a job is hard work. Higher than normal unemployment and significant increases in the number of college graduates mean that even well-qualified applicants may find it challenging to land the position they want. This chapter endeavors to help you set yourself apart – in a positive way – by improving the one part of the job search you can control: your application materials.

The sections that follow will help you create and improve your job materials by connecting information gleaned from job ads and corporate websites to experience you already have so that you can position yourself as uniquely qualified for the position you want.

Writing the Conventional Résumé

I learned about résumé writing from my students. The students with the best résumés, I found, were those who understood that a résumé is principally an objective summary of your skills and achievements, secondly a subtly clever argument that you are worth hiring, and finally a reflection of your individuality. The key is to work within the conventions while building a résumé that only you could have written. The best way to begin is to study the conventions, then mimic the qualities of a good model, with an eye for places where your individuality can emerge.

Quality Checking Your Résumé

Once your résumé is composed, it must be quality checked. Three prominent issues that arise in a quality check are content, format, and computer-related problems.

Reconsidering Content

  • Look over the résumé and be certain you have considered effective wording and strong candidate material within each category, as detailed in the previous page of this manual.

Computer Scanning of Résumés     

One of comic Steven Wright’s jokes provides a nice little lesson in irony: “I used to work in a fire hydrant factory. You couldn’t park anywhere near the place.” Similarly, our work lives are rich in irony: Just as technology has enabled any one of us to build a résumé that is stunning in appearance, blaring bells and whistles, the irony is that technology now also sometimes requires us to create résumés virtually stripped of form and dazzle. Companies, especially large ones, occasionally require job candidates to submit a “scannable résumé”—that is, a résumé written so that a scanner, using optical character recognition software, can code your résumé into a database.

When reading cover letters, the key benchmark I use is simple: Do I get to know both the person and the professional? As we read a cover letter, we should have a sense that no other candidate could have written this particular document in this particular way. Hence, we respect and honor the individual.

In conversation, the term “cover letter” is used loosely to mean any professional letter that you write in an attempt to get a job, with the term “cover” denoting that the letter is usually a “cover piece” designed to introduce and accompany your resume. Thus, too many writers think of the cover letter as mere mechanical introductory fluff—disposable goods—when in fact it can be more important than your resume.

The Graduate Student and Post-Graduate Résumé

Undergraduates often tell me they are amazed at how long it takes to compose a résumé (part of this is mere perception, I think, due to the weighty nature of the document’s importance). I tell them they should plan to spend between a few hours and a day every year revising their résumé for the rest of their professional lives, and that an undergraduate résumé with a strong foundation is their best preparation. Obviously, post-graduate and graduate student résumés are grounded in the same principles as undergraduate résumés, but new rules emerge with the new circumstances.

More Advanced, More Daring Résumés

Even though technical fields favor conventional and old-school rules, many students, particularly those with extensive experience or a diverse background, stretch the limits slightly—and smartly—when creating their résumés. Creative format and content choices on your résumé certainly are permitted, as long as they enhance rather than detract from utility and appearance.

Creative Format Choices

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Functions and Audience

Short for “memorandum,” a memo is a type of document used to communicate with others in the same organization. Memos (or memoranda) are typically used for fairly short messages of one page or less, but informal reports of several pages may also employ memo format.

Format

Memos are distinguished by a header that includes DATE, TO, FROM, and SUBJECT lines. Other lines, such as CC or BCC, may be added as needed. An RE (“Reference”) line may be used instead of SUBJECT, but this use is becoming rarer as “RE” is often mistaken as “Reply” because of its use in email.

Learning Outcomes

  • Apply and adapt professional and technical writing conventions, including genre, tone, and style for particular writing situations.
  • Identify professional and technical genres, organization strategies, and appropriate tone and style
  • Analyze audience while creating various professional/technical documents with a sophisticated awareness of audience as a reader and writer
  • Identify some habits of successful proposal writers
  • Analyze how and why audience awareness is a key component for successful writers

Learn how to improve your problem-solving and persuasive skills. Employ your writing and reasoning skills to make a difference in the world. View samples and write a proposal to conduct research, develop a Web site, solve a problem, or provide a service. Proposals are persuasive texts that articulate ways to solve a problem, conduct needed research, or provide a service.

Proposals may attempt to persuade readers to act or they may seek funding. Writers of proposals support claims with reasoning, library and Internet research, and original research, including questionnaires, interviews, and ethnographers.

You may wish to review the other parts of this webtext including:

Title Page

The title page provides the audience with the:

  • Name of the report

You may wish to review the other parts of this webtext including:

Introduction

The body of a formal report begins with an introduction. The introduction sets the stage for the report, clarifies what need(s) motivated it, and orients the reader to its structure.

You may wish to review the other parts of this webtext including:

Conclusions and Recommendations

The conclusions and recommendations section conveys the key results from the analysis in the discussion of findings section. Up to this point, readers have carefully reviewed the data in the report; they are now logically prepared to read the report’s conclusions and recommendations.

Functions and Audience

Short for “memorandum,” a memo is a type of document used to communicate with others in the same organization.  Memos (or memoranda) are typically used for fairly short messages of one page or less, but informal reports of several pages may also employ memo format.

Format

Memos are distinguished by a header that includes DATE, TO, FROM, and SUBJECT lines.  Other lines, such as CC or BCC, may be added as needed.  An RE (“Reference”) line may be used instead of SUBJECT, but this use is becoming rarer as “RE” is often mistaken as “Reply” because of its use in email.

Learning Objectives

  1. Understand the importance of feedback, even if it is negative.
  2. Describe and demonstrate the effective use of open- and closed-ended questions.

How do you know when you are doing a good job? How do you know when, where, and how you could do a better job? What makes the difference between business or organization that is stagnant and one that is dynamic? Often the response to all these questions involves one key, but often overlooked, company resource: feedback. Feedback is the verbal and/or nonverbal response to a message, and that message may involve a company product or service.

Learning Objective

  • Understand how to prepare a crisis communication plan.

A rumor that the CEO is ill pulls down the stock price. A plant explosion kills several workers and requires evacuating residents on several surrounding city blocks. Risk management seeks to address these many risks, including prevention as well as liability, but emergency and crisis situations happen nevertheless. In addition, people make errors in judgment that can damage the public perception of a company.

  1. List and discuss seven goals of a negative news message.
  2. Write an effective negative news message.

The negative news message delivers news that the audience does not want to hear, read, or receive. Delivering negative news is never easy. Whether you are informing someone they are being laid off or providing constructive criticism on their job performance, how you choose to deliver the message can influence its response. Some people prefer their bad news to be direct and concise. Others may prefer a less direct approach.