1/16/11 - Job advice that was true 20 years ago -- but not today:
What words of wisdom are outdated
By Anthony Balderrama, CareerBuilder Writer
Think back to 1991, if you were even alive at the time. Operation Desert Storm began. The Soviet Union dissolved. "Beauty and the Beast" was one of the year's top films. Some women were still wearing jackets with shoulder pads. Men wore moustaches without any irony. Super Nintendo made its United States debut.
It was a different era.
Today, U.S. troops remain in Iraq after a second Gulf War. Today's students wouldn't think to call Russia "the former Soviet Union." Animated films are rarely hand-drawn. The 1990s went away and already came back again with the label of nostalgic. And video games can be played on your phone.
Our world has evolved and now feels drastically different than it did in 1991. But when we start looking for a job or dealing with co-workers, we seem content to follow advice that was being dispensed two decades ago. In today's economy, you can't afford to be an outdated job seeker or employee. After all, you wouldn't walk into an interview wearing an outfit that looks like it came from the set of "The Cosby Show." Shouldn't your whole approach be just as current?
1991: Hard copies are best
2011: We live in a digital world.
Résumés used to be printed on heavy card stock that stood out from standard bulk copy paper. Today, in most industries, an overly formal résumé presentation appears outdated. Be sure to have copies of your résumé on hand when you go for an interview, just in case the interviewer forgets his or hers. And make sure it looks good printed on paper. But most applications are online these days, so make sure the formatting looks good on your computer screen. Before hitting the "send" button, check hyperlinks, turn off the spell checker so that proper nouns don't have red squiggles underlining them, and pick a font that's easy to read.
1991: Always wear a suit
2011: Do your research
Yes, you're better off wearing a suit to an interview than ripped jeans, so better safe than sorry. Business casual, however, is now the norm in many workplaces, and if your attire is so formal that you seem to have no idea what the workplace culture is like, you could look unprepared. Try to find out what the dress code is and choose attire that is a step up from it. You definitely want to show that you dressed up, but you also want to prove that you're not clueless about the company.
1991: "References available upon request"
2011: Provide references when asked
Some companies ask for references upfront. Others ask for them in the final stages. Some never mention them. Always be prepared to give the names and contact information for references, but don't list it on your résumé unless specifically instructed to do so. That's because hiring managers know these people aren't going to badmouth you; otherwise you wouldn't be using them. Let the employer tell you whom they want to talk to -- e.g., direct supervisor, people you've managed. They assume references are available upon request, so wait for them to ask.
1991: Professional and personal lives are completely separate
2011: They can be, but you need to be diligent
Keeping your professional and personal lives separate isn't an outdated concept, and it wasn't exclusive to the 1990s, either. But today, people don't exist just at the office and at home. They're online. A quick search-engine query can return plenty of information about you, and friending someone on a social network reveals even more. Remember that you're living in the 2.0 world, and if you don't want anyone to know that you were at a karaoke bar at 2 a.m. last night, then don't update your public Twitter account with that information. Use privacy settings to be as public or private as you want with your colleagues.
1991: Keep your résumé to one page
2011: Be reasonable
If you're just out of college, exceeding a single page is probably excessive. But if you've been in the industry for a decade, you probably have enough information to spill onto a second page. No employer wants to read a novella, so don't go overboard. As mentioned above, this digital world is more about the presentation online than on the page, and scrolling to a second page isn't the deal breaker than seeing a stapled two-page résumé was. Always get to the point and avoid fluff, but don't edit out essential information and play with the margins just to squeeze everything onto a single page.