Résumé writing: professional reference list

I'll offer my tips on résumé writing in the future, but today I want to address an often-ignored and yet critical component--professional references.

When you're looking for a new job, you've become a sales person... of yourself. Every phone call made, every Monster.com update, and every résumé submitted is a reflection on you and your quality of work. By giving thought to the names included on your list of references as well as time and attention to the document itself, you can create another powerful tool that works to sell you.

The first step in developing a list of references is to decide who you should ask to serve as a reference (NEVER assume someone will be willing to serve as a reference). I recommend including 3-6 people on this list. Ideally you will include no more than 2 individuals at your same peer level with the others having more senior titles. People on this list need to have seen your accomplishments first-hand and should know you well.

Once you have your list, the next step is to reach out to those individuals and ask if they will serve as a reference. Your reference list should include an individual's name, title, company, address, phone number, and email address. While you're asking someone to serve as a reference, be sure and find out what contact information you may use since people often have multiple phone numbers and email addresses .

It is critical that your references take their responsibility of selling you seriously, so anything you can do to prepare them is recommended. During the recent job search, I asked those on my reference list to review my résumé with a critical eye and provide honest feedback. I then rewrote the résumé based on their feedback and sent them a copy. Following this process achieves two things: 1) it makes your résumé exponentially better, and 2) it's a great reminder to your references of your accomplishments.

The last step is to format your reference list. Here are some rules: use the same font as your résumé, keep it to one page, use the same "look and feel" as your résumé [example here], laser print it on high-quality paper, and proof-read and double-check the contact information several times. While I never recommend attaching your reference list to the résumé itself, be sure to have it available so that when a prospective employer asks, you'll have your professional reference list ready to work for you.


The yellow haze of spring

For someone with allergy-induced asthma, spring in Georgia requires two things to survive: plenty of inhaler refills and good prescription allergy meds. I had to laugh when I checked the pollen count this morning and saw that it was at 5,208, which is over 43 times a level considered "extremely high". Ironically, the yellow pollen from pine trees which covers metro Atlanta this time of year isn't considered allergenic.


Insecurity at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport

Last night I saw first-hand that the TSA has bigger things to worry about than my bottle of cologne. Yes, I happened to see this at the right moment, but prior to boarding a flight last night from gate D21 I could have picked up a tool bag complete with claw hammer, drywall saw, and utility knife. Sorry for the blurry picture, but the claw hammer is clearly visible and unattended.


My home, my castle: Living room renovation

This weekend another remodeling project started: the living room. The plan is to turn a former wet-bar into part of the room, remove and replace the brick hearth and wall around the fireplace with beige travertine tile, rip up the carpet and pad, wire the room for surround sound, texture and paint the walls, repair the subfloor, and then install bamboo flooring.

My wife has already ripped out the wet bar and removed the chair molding. I was able to remove the crown, base, window, and door trim/molding, and then the fun really started: trying to remove the brick hearth. I guessed the hearth would be brick over a plywood box, but I was wrong. The hearth is nothing but brick & mortar. The goal is to have everything done by this time next month, but it's not starting out well....


DIY iPod TV video cable

I received a 30gb video iPod last fall, and I've quickly filled it with hundreds of songs and dozens of videos. I knew it had the capability to send the video output to a TV, but I didn't want to spend $20 on Apple's proprietary cable.

I already had a cable that should work, but matching my cable colors to their corresponding RCA input jacks on the TV didn't produce a picture. I decided to try other combinations of the colors to see if that might work, and sure enough....

Below are the pairings of cable color with video/TV RCA input:
Yellow out --> White in
White out --> Red in
Red out --> Yellow in


FREE TaxCut Premium Federal + FREE DeductionPro

With apologies to my non-U.S. readers, through a promotion with travelocity, H&R Block is giving away its TaxCut Premium Federal along with DeductionPro software for free [all credit goes to slickdeals.net for identifying this offer].

Those readers living in Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming (all states with no state income tax) should have few reasons to buy tax software this year. The same goes for those in New Hampshire and Tennessee since you only pay state tax on dividend & interest income.


Visualizing data

Early in my professional life I recognized that the world is swimming in data (raw numbers) and that too little of it ever becomes information (actionable). A former boss was so passionate about this subject that he co-founded Statability to work on this full time. While I never see myself tackling this as my profession, it is one of the biggest challenges I face. And the best way I've found to turn data into information is by presenting the data in a graphical format which only then becomes relevant and actionable.

In 1983 Edward Tufte became every data-geek's hero when he wrote The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, which was revised in 2001. It's a fascinating book for those of us trying to turn data into information. And while you can even learn directly from this master, Tufte doesn't offer any web 2.0 tools to assist in this task. Fortunately others do.

Swivel is such a company. I've spent a good amount of time with this site, and it's definitely worth a look though the functionality is pretty basic.

After watching Hans Rosling's presentation at TED, I'm fascinated by the product behind his data and am anxiously awaiting Gapminder. The company is working with Google to enable people to use their own data with the product, but this feature is still in development.

And while it's beyond the scope of my limited needs, ILOG appears to have an interesting "experimental visualization tool for analyzing data sets intuitively" in its ILOG Discovery Preview application. Lastly, I Googled the topic and stumbled upon Data360, EditGrid, 1010Data, and many eyes, all of which I need to look into. Do any readers have recommendations for other web tools to turn data into information?


Keypad entry code for Ford Explorer

My weekend was spent trying to get some things done that had been on my to-do list for a while and that I planned to start working on after filing for unemployment on Monday. Plans changed for the better, though. I found myself reading and re-reading a Chilton's manual, learning from other in the ExplorerForum, running to the auto parts store, and working under my '96 Explorer replacing all four original shock absorbers (long past their useful life after 158,000 miles) and changing the transmission filter, also original. After owning it for 7 years, though, I was most happy to finally learn what the 5-digit keypad entry code is on my Ford Explorer.

My local Ford dealer had previously quoted a price of $70 to determine this code for my vehicle, but the knowledge wasn't worth the cost. Patience has saved me $70, as has the ExplorerForum [read the thread here]. You'll find the code printed on a sticker located on the gray GEM System control module tucked away in the rear compartment that houses the rear window washer reservoir, jack, and lug wrench.

My next project will be to change all 13.9 quarts of transmission fluid rather than just the 3 quarts you can easily change installing a new transmission filter.



The last several days have been surreal, but I'm now back among the employed and starting a new job on Monday.


First 10 things to do after being laid off

Fired? The news can be a shock, but by taking a systematic approach to this news you can reduce the financial stress and set yourself up to be re-employed in no time. Resist the urge to panic, drink, or grouse. Chin-up, develop a plan, and approach finding a job as your job. Below are my recommendations for the first 10 things to do after being laid off:

1. File for unemployment.
2. Update (or create) your resume.
3. Reach out to several individuals you respect who will review your resume with a critical eye and provide honest feedback... and then rewrite your resume based upon that feedback.
4. Check the job postings of companies you wish to work for and submit your resume for consideration. If you know of someone who works for one of these companies, try and submit your resume through that individual as referrals are often given preference, and the employee may receive a referral bonus if you are hired.
5. Post your resume on Monster.com, hotjobs, careerbuilder.com, and the new Hound.com.
6. Contact recruiters in your industry and submit your resume for consideration.
7. Eliminate the "want to have but don't need" expenses such as the local newspaper (it's probably available online), premium cable (just how often do you really watch HBO or Showtime?), and even NetFlix (my local library has hundreds of DVDs that can be checked out for free).
8. Go through your closets, attic, and basement to find unnecessary items to sell on eBay and/or Craigslist.
9. Consider refinancing your home or opening a home equity line of credit in the event you don't have a 3-month financial cushion or just want to have access to cash "just in case".
10. Do your taxes & file now if owed a refund; file on the due date if you owe taxes (which is April 17 this year).



Getting fired is never a pleasant experience, but I've learned from my wife that if you go into a meeting expecting the worst outcome, you're seldom disappointed. During my review today I wasn't surprised to hear that my position had been eliminated. Fortunately my resume is up to date because the severance package is insulting. Now I just need to decide what I want to be when I grow up!