Apr 132011
 

My dream reply to an invitation to assist a chef in finding employment:

Dear Chef:

You write: “I am interviewing professionals to assist me in securing a position as a Chef or Manager in the restaurant industry.” Bing, wrong answer.

Why?

1)      You do not interview us. We interview you. The choice is not yours, it is ours.

2)      Unless we feel that you possess universally attractive qualities for our clients, we will put off interviewing you until we have a job available. Life is triage.

3)      We do not assist you in finding a job. We assist our clients in finding chefs. There’s more than a small difference between the two approaches. Let’s put it this way, we are not your advocate, unless we are absolutely convinced that you are in every way we value a righteous professional.

Why? Well, for one thing, you don’t pay us. Our clients do. We are a free service to you, and possibly a valuable one, as it is in our interest to hook you up with something that works, preferably for a long time, so we won’t send you to something for a quick fee. That’s the standpoint of most search firms, although there still a few rogues among us.

We would call you immediately, if you were a prime candidate, but you are not.

Why? : 1) you are currently not employed and have been for over half a year. We do represent people between jobs if we know them or if their background impresses us, but an unknown, unemployed candidate can be a bombshell. Being unemployed can indicate many possible problems, and at times we do not have the time or the desire to discover them.  2) We don’t know you and have never heard of you, and we have heard of many good culinarians.  3) you have had five jobs in the past four years, so we cannot really with a straight face suggest to our clients that they pay us on your good word that you are looking for something permanent. 5) You are arrogant. Really, you are. Life’s too short. 6) You think you are more important that we do. Don’t get us wrong. We want our candidates to have a strong sense of their value, but we don’t like the feeling that they are trying to manipulate us based on that sense. Trust us, your note says exactly that. So do all the applications telling to call ASAP or to look them up on Google and download their resumes. We have a small button which rates them. The title of the field is “No”. (we also have a “Yes” field). So we will just store this information in case we run across you again, so we will know not to reach out.

Finally, I do not have time to educate you. Your school should have explained the job search process to you and told you something about professional job search behavior. Maybe they did, but our job is not to provide refresher courses in the field.

The good – no –  great news, is that there are plenty of fish in the sea and someone will find you more attractive than we do. So, best of luck in your search. It might help, however, to brush up on recruiters, so have a look at what our business site writes.

Mar 312011
 

And don’t kid a kidder. Also: Stop kidding yourself.

Did I already say that? It bears repeating.

Like so many people in recruiting, both free lance like me or in restaurant groups, I’ve been around for a few years.  In that time I have learned what happens in various venues – clubs, hotels, tiny restaurants and hot spots – and I have a pretty good idea of and respect for what the people who have developed their careers have in their tool boxes – and a fair amount of disdain for those who convince me they have something else.

Applicants continue to surprise me by presenting me with statements of their qualifications which experience – it’s all in the mileage, son – shows cannot possibly be true, thus sending their resumes straight to the “We’ll call you when Hell freezes over” file.

What, for instance: A chef, really a kitchen manager, from a series of corporately held and managed family style restaurants or steakhouses like Olive Garden, Cheesecake Factory, TGI Friday’s maintains that he is an award winning culinarian known for his creativity. Let us be clear that any chef who has learned in these environments has positive talents, but they don’t rate awards and they are by definition not creative. The chef might want to be, but claiming the attribute is just plain silly.

A banquet chef of a Marriott conference center writes that he is specialized in Asian, New American and Haute French cuisine. Excuse me while I try to clamber up on the turnip truck I just fell from, but we who suffer chefs, even the fools, gladly, know the value of a banquet chef , but also know that his identity is not the newest trendy cuisine but strategic planning, development and oversight of items that have holding power and can be delivered in an organized manner and a profound sense of timing, plus some more neat stuff.

A manager from a chain claims to have a strong sense of fine dining. You get the blunt point.

The finer point is that this is a small community, and the people who hire for restaurant A probably know about the kitchens of restaurants B, C and W and fifty places and they read the papers and industry news, so misstating your qualities, whether through self delusion or in an attempt to get what you think you want will more often than not have an adverse effect.

Having aspirations and wanting to do something beyond the limitations of your current situation is a great idea. If you work at Morton’s steakhouse and are interested in a restaurant with a New World menu, you can state that you have had a deep interest in the cuisines of the Southern Hemisphere or that you are seeking a position offering you more opportunities to be creative, and someone may listen and give you the opportunity based on what they know about  your ability to follow structural guidelines (not a small thing) and organizational discipline. If you tell them you are an expert in the field, they will deep six your paper or put it in the ’86 file, as I do.

Saying you are coming from a strength which has not even got a toe hold in your visible employment history allows two possible interpretations, neither of which work well for you: 1) You are trying to have them on and do not respect their intelligence and 2) you are mildly clueless and don’t have a sense of what your own strengths and weaknesses are. Why would they pick up the phone and call?

Jan 282011
 

Career Goal: Top Chef Contestant/Media Star

If the culinary graduates or young cooks verging on sous chefs ten years ago had their eye on the five star wine country bijou or NY/SF Celebrity restaurant, an alarming number of today’s upcoming  cheflings have media ambition. Questions: “Can you get me on the Food Channel?”,  “Who do I speak to at Top Chef”?  Answers: A) Only if they happen to ask me to find you (which they have) and B) There is an annual competition and application process   Look it up on the Net. Join their Facebook pages.

Gordon Ramsay, a chef once known in Britain for bringing the refined manners of the soccer field to the world of fire, steel and boiling liquids, set the tone the second season of Hell’s Kitchen by proclaiming that a pretty girl in her early twenties was the image of the perfect chef, thus throwing oil on the burning ambition of thousands to make it to the top by shortcut. It is the only ten minutes of Hell’s kitchen I have ever watched, and my stomach went into a knot considering the consequences. My stomach was right. He changed the cook world forever.

Most if not all of the winners of Top Chef seem to have done quite well. The exposure it provides is invaluable not only for luring diners but for attracting investors, and the contestants are pre-selected for their backgrounds and abilities, so you would expect them to thrive.

Hell’s Kitchen winners  don’t appear to have the same success. A number of them are teaching rather than working in restaurants (not that teaching is undesirable, but it’s a curious thing).  Some are private chefs, some “consultants”. You can look all this up on the web.  That’s logical.  Unlike Top Chef contestants most were, of course, not seasoned chefs on entering the program, so it would be hard for them to take up their career again where they left off for the show – some however did – rather than try to get as much out of their time investment in the show while they can, and they appear to be doing well.

Of the rest of the graduates of both shows, some  appear to have new connections to and futures in media, quite a few from Hell’s Kitchen are working as private chefs for the Glitterati, and a few are missing in action or not meeting expectations. It’s a bit better across the board than one would expect from the general culinary population, with a few extraordinary opportunities thrown in.  A few of  course have shot themselves in the foot by showing their dark side to the world in general, and the introduction, “HI, I was on top chef,” is to most of the hiring public somewhat of a turnoff, but on the whole, if you have the opportunity and it suits you, why not? It could be fun, and it has definite financial benefits for some.

Actually  there are a few answers to “Why not”, but they are not conclusive. For one thing, being involved in the shows is time consuming and interrupts a normal culinary career. Your contract will restrict some of the things you can do or reveal afterwards, and you may have to interrupt your next positions to return for one or a series of episodes. For another, the temptation to let an interlude go to your head puts you in peril of being wooed by the wrong people or bungling opportunities you might have had later, but there’s  an app for that: Common Sense.

Most importantly, there aren’t nearly as many slots as there are aspiring cooks and chefs who are just biding their time in restaurants waiting to hit the pixeled screen. It’s kind of like sitting on a Hollywood soda fountain stool waiting to be discovered like Lana Turna.

The disconnect between the desire to be a television star and the industry of cooking is that it confuses two objectives.  Cooking, for which one attends culinary school, is a trade requiring endless skill and knowledge in addition to talent. Even though cooking schools correctly offer media training, they are not acting schools. You are extremely unlikely to get to television via the kitchen, and getting into media may only be a short term boon. In short, your odds at TV from cooking absolutely stink.  I think therefor, and I’ve been wrong often enough, that getting to media should be an option, not plan A.

Plan A should be becoming a great chef. I spoke with a number of the now top national television chefs before they had their shows, and their goal at that time was not to be in pictures. It was to be great chefs with great restaurants.   Being that (along with having a strong PR firm and much more)  is what got them their media exposure. Of course getting to the Food Network or on NPR requires much more, but the foundation of their success is their identity as chefs, which they continue to be. If you have an opportunity to speak to employees of chefs like Emeril Lagasse or Wolfgang Puck, you hear not hero worship but professional respect.

I have spoken to a number of thoroughly qualified chefs over the years who have quit their day jobs and were preparing pilots for their own shows. Not many are on television.  There are a few who have launched Web shows and thousands on You Tube, but does that equate to a culinary media career? That is not a redundant question. I don’t know.

What does this mean for you? I suppose whatever you want it to. Being good- no, excellent –  at what you do can get you to the media, so concentrate on being good before being famous. Your long term chances of being satisfied and successful are greater outside the media than in it, but somebody who puts it all on one number always wins the high stakes. So: If you want to get into media, pursue it. If media approaches you, listen and consider it. (I am at this point), but don’t start a culinary career with the long term intention of baiting and switching to become the next couch potato chef darling. If you want to be in pictures, go to acting school. It’s the easier path. Otherwise, carry on.

Some of the culinary schools are reportedly recruiting candidates with the lure of a career in culinary television. That is like a 4 year college promising a career as Senator. Some will certainly get there, but it’s a bizarre and unfulfillable claim. If a school dangles food shows in front of you, you, you’ll do well to keep looking.  (Media training, however, is a good idea, no matter where you take your education.)

Before you decide to embark on a television chef career, Google the contestants of the shows to see what they are doing now. Whatever you do, if you are a young culinary job hunter and think your future lies in bright lights, don’t tell anyone in an interview. It makes the hair on the back of their necks stand on end.

Jan 262011
 

I need to know the kind of chef I am working with in order to make a good job match.  So do you.

Your career is best served by job selectivity: You look for and choose jobs that suit you best.  In order for this to work, you need to know what you are looking for. If I work closely with a chef, I take some time to get to know who I am working with. It’s always surprising to me, how little those people have thought about themselves.  True, some people just follow their star and end up in a fabulous situation they never dreamed of, but most successful culinary professionals took time to figure how they worked and who they are and what they needed to get where they wanted to be. You  need to get to know yourself.

First you determine what these might be by defining your interests and motivation. Among others those might be:

  • Naked ambition – desire to be “big”
  • Acquisition of skill and knowledge (technique, product, volume management, communication).
  • Money
  • Life style
  • Security and stability
  • An exciting and interesting environment
  • Resume equity – names to pave your path.
  • Professionalism
  • Location
  • An opportunity to work with a specific style
  • Visibility
  • Title
  • Training and advancement.
  • Exciting cuisine
  • Structured, highly systematized environment / possibility of creative input or autonomy
  • A learning opportunity
  • Culinary values such as seasonal cuisine or integrity of style

There are many more. Some are contradictory. You cannot, for instance, decide as a starting cook you want money and resume equity. The highest pay goes to the jobs with the least visibility, and some limit other choices.  You need to be realistic.

You need to give yourself a review. You are, in the end, the boss of you, and this is the time to use your supervisory  power over yourself. What do you do well? What aptitudes do you lack?  What skills do you need to build? If you have had jobs you didn’t like or have not worked out in a job try to determine how you, your current skill set and your general nature contributed to the situation. Forget fault. Look for reasons.

Where do your natural aptitudes lie? Some people are naturally highly organized and analytical. Others are spontaneous and intuitive.  Some are detail oriented and thrive with small, individual projects, while others have inborn oversight of large spaces and the ability to create sense of chaos. Some  have golden palates, while others can keep a kitchen running like a clock. What are your strong and weak points? Beware of categorizing yourself as what you want to be instead of what you are.

What you are not is even more important than what you are. The things you lack can either be learned (organization and communication are absolutely acquirable skill sets, and an analytic mind can create as impressive a menu as an inspired talent) or avoided.

Half of the art is to determine if and where your desires and your skills meet and to keep an open mind, so you can choose from as many appropriate paths as possible.  The other half is to figure out what will not work for you, so you don’t put your energy into a job that will give nothing in return.

When you are looking for career steps, look for something to provide a challenge you are sure you can meet, not what you want to be able to meet. At the same time seek out locations which will use and appreciate your combination of skills. A gifted saucier may be able to manage a sandwich arcade, but the title of Executive Manager will not keep him happy for long. A manager without strong financial skills may be able to coast along for a while as a GM for a location requiring them, but she would probably be happier and more successful in a position with growth and learning potential, where she does not have to reinvent the wheel and scramble to keep up .

An old bridge adage says, “Play from your longest and strongest suit”. It works in careers, but with a caveat. A position which does not add to what you know will not be satisfying for long. While you select restaurants for your probability of success, you want them to give you a future as well. Like a driver looking five cars ahead, your career choices should point to the job after next.  Always ask  yourself, “What do I get out of this besides rent and groceries?”

What does all this mean pratically for you?

  • You don’t broadcast your resume to anyone who is looking for someone. You are worth more than that.
  • You don’t interview as if you were in an oral exam. You take time to find how much of a match the spot is for you.
  • You research the operations you want to approach and take time to seek out businesses that can meet your specifications.
  • You work with  your recruiter to determine what is a good match, but always thinking critically.
  • You target your resume to the level of position and type of operation that will push you forward.
  • You put as much focus on your career as you do in buying  a new car.
  • You think beyond the paycheck and the title as you make decisions.
  • You analyze every job offer not only in respect to how much you want it but how well it fits  you.

A well built career is a work of Art. It takes thought and time and a stubborn streak. You have a right to one.

.

Jan 242011
 

Choosing the right job in the right kitchen:

Part One of Two

In your career, you are special. You have you’re a unique set of talents, aptitudes, strengths and weaknesses combined with a body of knowledge and set of skills formed during your working life. They may lean towards the systematic management of large numbers of people or towards the fine tuning of intricate flavor combinations.  There will be any number of people more or less similar to  you, but nobody exactly like you.

You are also special and unique in your goals and expectations. If you are young in the industry they  include developing your future and your skills. If you are seasoned, you want to put what you have learned to use. There are any number of people in some ways similar to you but nobody just like you in the labor market. You are one of a kind.

So are most jobs, from the job description itself to the nature of the clientele to location and demands of the physical space. Out of twenty jobs, there may be one for you, or none or three. If you are reading this, the short odds are that you are considering your career and a possible move. Another set of short odds says that in the process, you are not thinking about matching you to a kitchen or restaurant operation, but that you are sending out a dozen resumes to anything that looks like a possible match.

If you are already being selective, congratulations. You have figured out a lot more than most people.

Part of the motivation of changing jobs is always an improvement. Most people see this as increased compensation or title, but there should be more – companies where you can progress, managers from whom you can learn or challenges great enough to move you forward but not too great to put your success in question should be part of your career thinking.

Defining what you want and what will benefit you, not always the same thing,  is an important part of your job search.  You owe yourself the thought and time it takes.

As a special unique professional with specific goals you need to target your search and your choices, then to act on them. Stay tuned for more on you working in your own best interests.

 Stay tuned.

Jan 132011
 

Keeping your restaurant job search approach professional

An impressive HR director from a terrific company just sent me the following comment on a resume she had received: “Orgasm is a word that does not belong in a cover letter.”  She has a point.

The person who sent the resume suggesting those tasting her food experienced When Harry met Sally “Ill have what she’s having” reactions  was obviously trying to impress the employer with her bubbling personality, and impress them she did. She finished by stating coquettishly that she was not the right fit for just any organization, implying that the firm should be honored by her application.  The company agreed, deciding immediately that they were one of those organizations she would not fit, as most well run businesses would.

I would never hire this woman,  and I would never refer her. Her inappropriate and presumptuous attempts at jocular bonding raise flags.  How would she interact with her staff? What complaints and issues would arise for the employers if she waged a clever quip to a sensitive employee? Her tone, furthermore, shows disrespect for the people she intends to woo.

I recently ill-advisedly responded to one of the many “Dir Sir” applications I receive with a note that I was a dear madam rather than a sir.  The upper management applicant responded that he could hardly have known that, as there was no name on the web site.  “By the way,” he continued, “You have  a beautiful name.”    While the assumption that the manager of this firm would naturally be male should be a small red flag (how many of the important management positions in his last company went to women?  Would my clients be facing discrimination issues if he were hired?),  an attempt to gloss over the glitch  with superficial charm not only shows a surprising level of cluelessness, but insults the employer’s intelligence.  The application went straight to the electronic round file.

These two applicants attempted to bond through familiarity and what they believe to be their irresistible personalities,   a profoundly dumb strategy. It hardly ever works. For one thing, the person who reads your resume is not in familiar  mode when  reviewing candidates. It is a purely serious process, whose success impacts the future of the company and the lives of everyone who works there. Employers want information, not entertainment. For another, what sounds funny or clever or charming to you in your own mind has little chance of being received that way.   As you see from the two examples above, in fact, the achieved effect is generally one that will exclude you from the pool of candidates under consideration rather than put your papers on top.

When it comes to resumes, your favorite flavor should be vanilla. Show what you have done in the best light and make your strengths and experience clear. You don’t know what the person on the receiving end wants or appreciates, and this is no time to start guessing. “Don’t shoot until you see the whites of their eyes,” is a good policy to follow in job applications. If you feel that your personality will help you, you can gingerly test the waters in an interview, where you  can read the interviewers expression and decide how far you want to go. Even then, however,  smarmy charmy and smart-alec  are risky modes .

Until you know who you are dealing with, a respectful distance is always the best policy. Don’t try to bond over an electronically generated document. It just doesn’t work.

Jan 052011
 

Resumes follow a fairly set pattern, which makes them easy to write and easy to read.  Somewhere during the formalization of that pattern, however, a couple of unnecessary standardized items slipped in and became accepted as rules.   One is the thoroughly redundant ending,  “References Provided on Request” – of course you will provide references, but nobody reads that, so it really doesn’t matter.

The second usually equally redundant resume addition is the “objective statement”. If you send out a resume, your objective is probably pretty clear: You want a job or a different job or a better job. You want a recruiter to represent you or an employer to hire you. You want decent pay in a decent environment with decent people, and it should suit your background and give you a chance to succeed and build your career. None of this needs to be put in writing.

“But everyone has an objective statement,” I can hear you saying.  You’re right. As a matter of fact, nearly everyone has the same objective statement. The fact that someone started doing it and everyone thought they had to do it too, especially since nearly every resume template on the Internet including ours has one, doesn’t make it obligatory or even advisable.

Here’s the dirty truth. As a recruiter what you want is secondary to me. My primary concern is what my clients want. An employer doesn’t care what you want, either. As a matter of fact, an objective statement is more likely to get your removed from the possible candidate pool than not.

If you do decide to include a a statement in your resume, it should contain distinct and clear objectives:  “An Executive Sous Chef or Executive Chef position in the Tri City Area.”  Or: “A position which will permit me to expand my  knowledge of multi-unit management.”   If you are applying for a specific job or a specific company, that position is your objective: “I am applying for the position of sous chef in the new O’Conner’s Pub as advertised on Joe’s Job List,” “A senior management position with Tri State Grills,” etc. That is absolutely enough.

Most objective statements, however, say absolutely  nothing in too many words:

“I am seeking a challenging position in a quality restaurant and professional environment where I can  apply my talents,”  for instance.Who isn’t?  Can you imagine this, “Objective: A boring, poorly paid job slogging around a train wreck of a kitchen among dilettantes and fools”? No employer is going to read that and think, “Oh, gee. Too bad. We are a second rate hash house, so let’s not call this guy,” as every employer thinks his property is a professional, quality environment. Nor will they say, “Gee, this guy wants a professional environment and we are a professional environment. Hey, it’s a perfect match.   He’s hired.”

Here’s a variation that arrived today: “To utilize my experience, integrity, professionalism and skills, in a challenging position providing a high standard of service.” Now it’s your turn. What would the alternative be?

Some, such as, “I am an aspiring food diva,”  or, “I am looking for an Executive Chef  job in the best kitchen in the Boston area so I can improve their food, “are very funny.

Thumper said, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say nuttin at all.” In a resume or in any professional correspondence you can expand that to, “If you don’t have anything meaningful to say, don’t say nuttin at all. “

I guarantee you, nobody is going to notice that you don’t have an objective.  Less in resume presentation is usually more.  Facts, furthermore, are far more valuable than declarations. Where you worked, how long, and what you did there – your actual job responsibilities – how big it was, and the nature of the business  will impress an employer, not a silly statement of the obvious or the absurd. Save your space for the important information.

Dec 222010
 

Every time I read a cover letter I find my self scoffing at best and throwing things at the wall in the worst case.

There seems to exist a wide-spread and thoroughly  mistaken belief  that cover letters are some kind of essay contest,  whose winner will get the best job, confounded by the equally groundless idea that the more you write the better grade you’ll get.

Most of what people write is a list of how terrific they are and all the things they have done. Some wax philosophical and others poetic. Frankly, My Dear, from a professional standpoint, I don’t give a damn. Actually, I do give a damn. I detest the pages of self-congratulatory bullets and have a very hard time warming to  the people who write them, reminding myself that they just don’t know any better. With that in mind, it’s perhaps a good time to educate a few of you. Ready?

The purpose of a cover letter is to convey important information you would not put in your resume. Basta.  It should do so tersely .  It should not resemble your eulogy. It is not a recommendation written by you about you, who we all know are the least subjective person on the planet on that particular topic.  If you want to praise yourself, write your own obituary – not a cover letter.

It should state  in a few pregnant sentences (i.e. tersely) – why you are interested in my business or my  job.  It can tell me why you are leaving your job or moving  or specify just what you want to do. It should not contain more than three paragraphs. Four at the most. It might explain why you are approaching me. It’s a letter, remember, not a flier. It should not begin, “Dear Sir”, since a) I am a woman and b) I have a name. Letters beginning with, “To whom it may concern,” generally get thrown out, since nobody is concerned about them.

Here’s an example:

Dear Mrs Jones (To the management of Bob’s Burger Bar/ To the recruiter a Sams Chef Stable)

Our mutual friend Jim Francis referred me to you/I ran across your web site and saw that you have a position open for a senior director of purchasing, which interests me greatly.  As chef of DoWop Diners I have had full product acquisition responsibilities and command both Windows and Apple resource administration software.

Although I am currently happily employed in Cleveland, my wife has an attractive job offer in the San Francisco Bay Area,  so I will be moving there in June at the latest. If an earlier opportunity should arise, I would move out first. My current employers are aware of this decision and are available for references / I have not yet informed my current employers of this decision, but I want to provide them with  at least 4 weeks notice.

I can best be reached by message on my mobile phone, 555 555 5555.  I am impressed with what I read regarding Joe’s House of Burgers, especially your commitment to quality, and I would appreciate an opportunity to speak with you about the job above or other opportunities you might have available.

Joe Dokes.

Now that’s a good cover letter. Joe has something to tell me. His resume will speak for the size and nature of the places he worked and what he did there. He isn’t telling me he is a great anything, but mentioning the specific points which might interest me for a specific job.  He knows who I am or he at least knows the company I work for.  I will probably call him. The restaurant manager who reads this will take note.

Obviously Joe tells  a unique story.  You can have a different story – you worked in California and want to return, you are seeking something in a larger organization because you want to hone your volume management skills – you are selling a successful restaurant due to issues with the landlord. Fine. It means something.

“I am a chef with 29  years  of highly acclaimed experience” does not.

If you don’t have a story, don’t write one. Just say that you noticed the company has a position open that would interest you, and that you’d appreciate a call. (Never ask them to call ASAP. It smacks of arrogant foolishness.) Philosophical musings on the shape of todays economy or the industry are out of place: “In times like this it behooves us to think beyond the box and reach for the stars.”  Oy Veh.  Again, it is not an essay.

Keep your cover letter simple, and keep it short, or just write a couple of sentences in the email you attach it to.  It’s the only effective thing to do.

Dec 152010
 

Business cards, you may have heard, are no longer kept in books albums with  unwieldy plastic pages or in dozens of boxes, nor are smart people spending their time typing them into their laptops. After various card scanners – Neat Receipts  and the less buggy and more efficient Cardscan among them – had moderate success in the card storage market,  new apps on smart phones are allowing people to store and access their contacts by category just about anywhere.

I can, for instance, give you a list of seven chocolate makers or dairymen  in two minutes or find half a dozen sommeliers in the Miami area on my Ipod. If you gave me your card, I can reach  you from the road or from Munich. If someone calls me and asks for the address of a restaurant supplier in Kansas, I can pull him out of a pile in seconds. You want that. (Well maybe not a call from me, but being available or having your information available is one of the key elements of being successful in this odd business.)

During a week of card database restoration after my 2500 item card list was taken out by a rogue hard drive I have developed a sharp sense of the essence of good and bad business cards and what makes them effective. Let me share:

  • If you are between jobs and looking, you should have a card. If you have a card from  your employer,  you should also have a personal card with your permanent contact information. If you have a second business you should have a card for that. It’s how people find you.  Your card is your best advertising. People store them and pass them along.
  • Have your card printed professionally. Nothing speaks dilettante louder than a hand knit card on fold and tear stock.
  • Have it designed by someone who has a sense of look and proportion. Having seen the effects a company  like Noise 13 can achieve with  an image, we are believers. Our favorite printer, Red Dog Graphics,  and many other printers also offer design services.
  • Your printer will charge you a set up fee for putting your card on a plate. Make sure you get a copy of the set up and keep it in a safe place. I have one on a keychain thumb drive, in case I need cards away from home.
  • Use dark print on light background or vice versa – similar tones like dark grey on black or cream on white can’t be read by scanners. Your print should also contrast with your logo.  While scanners easily read really tiny print, some people can’t. You need to keep your print  small but not microscopic.
  • Fold over cards and dual sided cards are a great way to get more information into the small space allowed, but put all of the important contact information on one side.
  • Repeat: Everything that you need someone to know about you – Company name, Title, phone, email etc – belongs on one side of the card.
  • Use standard card size. Over-sized cards tend to get put aside and lost. Small ones can’t be found. Card shapes, on the other hand, are expensive but eye catching. A rough edge can make it interesting.
  • Don’t confuse cute with effective. A card printed on a beer coaster or a Chinese puzzle box won’t make it to or through the scanner. A fortune cookie is a great gimmick, but not a card (you can, of course, do both.)
  • Don’t go too wild with fonts. Fonts that look like trees or swishes, medieval scripts and crayons in the form of letters are not recognized electronically, nor are wild scripts or funny fonts. If you do have an exquisite, artistic and illegible card face consider double sided printing with the same information in a simple font on the back.
  • The fewer colors used in printing a card, the less it costs. New methods may change that.
  • You are working on small space, so your graphics should be simple and leave space for information.
  • You don’t absolutely need graphic, or at least not pictures. If you are an individual without a graphic, there’s nothing wrong with putting your photo on the card. It helps people remember you and find the card, if they are looking for you.
  • Add a Skype number if you deal outside the country. Consider adding a Google Voice number (this is a permanent number which relays to multiple phones.)
  • Explain what you do or are. If your company is “The Blue Bloom” something like “Purveyors of Fine Wine” or “Ambiance Consultant” belongs below it.
  • Be generous with your cards. I hear back from people who got mine ten years ago.
Nov 012010
 

Getting Fancy

In addition to being sources of information about you, your resume presents an image, and images impact the beholder on first sight. You determine the first impression you leave with whoever reads yours. Do you want it to be dignified, flighty or arrogant? Little things on paper make large subliminal impressions and predispose the recipient in your favor or not. If I have to squint at a resume in some odd gothic script, I am most likely going to be less positively inclined to the person who made me read it.  If something is nice and balanced, easy to read and  has good information, I’ll probably be eager to meet her.

Anything you write or hand out can look sloppy, artsy, straight forward, dignified, professional or just crammed.  They can lend your presentation an airy feel or give it a certain weight (suggesting importance.)  The most important part of your written application or inquiry about a position is of course its content, but that doesn’t mean is shouldn’t look good. After all, you press your suit before you go to an interview (I hope).

One thing that determines the initial impact of your resume is your choice of Fonts, once called type face. They range from wedding announcement  to stuffy to Tequila bash  flip, and you’ve got the choice.  Choose Whacky Tango and kiss the Four Seasons good bye.  If you want your presentation to make give the first  impression of an extremely competent and together professional, ” Jokerman” isn’t going to serve your purpose. What will?

One philosophy of choosing type face is that if you want people to be able to read and ingest information easily, you use a “serif font”. That’s one with little feet. Classic serif’s are Times’ New Roman, Cambria and Garamond. They tend to appear professional and sometimes a little formal.

If you want something to stand out, the wisdom continues, use sans serif, or footless fonts. Examples of that are Microsoft Sans Serif and Ariel, but there are many.

Given the choice, I generally go with Times New Roman for its ease of reading as well as its professional impression.  It has the  advantage of being fairly compact, so that you can get more on a page.  A footless (“sans serif”) type supposedly makes things stand out, so some choose to put their name and contact information a font like Ariel or Microsoft Sans Serif. You can have a couple of them, but more than two usually looks a bit busy.

You don’t have to go with these two, since all modern word program offer dozens of usable options, and some good ones are very pleasing. Just stick to those that make your resume look like the business communication it is rather than a school project. If you want to view them all go to Format and fonts on your word processing program. A box will open. Highlight the first one and scroll through them to see samples .  If Times looks too vanilla, try another. Caution advised.) Test them out on your resume to see how they look. If Times New Roman is too vanilla, try another, but remember to keep it dignified.

One neat thing about different fonts is that they have different widths and spacing, so you can easily save space or fill it by trying different ones. Squarish fonts can appear very artistic, especially if used in a slightly lighter black.  You can experiment with  “light emphasis” on your page by taking a squarish font and toning down the black to a lighter color, if you are intent on being arty.

There are a lot of fonts beside  Jokerman and the medieval scripts which just don’t make a very good impression. If you have no sense for appearance, print your resume in several versions and ask someone else what looks best to them. One font in particular to avoid – and there are many you should – is courier, which emulates the old typewriter style. It looks tacky and cheap, as if you can’t afford a decent printer.

By the way, there’s an option in Word  which allows you to save styles. You can check it out using the help option on your computer. It comes in handy now and then.