The Difference Four Years Make to a Resume

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Summary: In the past four years, say from August 2005 until now, a lot has changed in my resume. I've added managerial experience, website experience, worked hands on with a lot of materials. This is sort of a rumination about such things.

Thursday, 08 October 2009

(22:29:45 CDT)

The Difference Four Years Make to a Resume

Four years ago this past August, I had a tiny resume. Sure, like all resumes, it was actually fluffed here and expanded there so it took up a solid page. Every single thing I had ever done had dozens of life skills associated. Volunteer work was treated as a full time job. Every computer program I had touched was there. I had heard of several bits of technology. Ok, that is hyperbole. By August 2005, I had worked in a bookstore for a year (mostly Waldenbooks, but recently started at Book Gallery). In fact, I had just been made manager over Book Gallery, with its staff of four, up to six or seven during holidays. Prior to that, the most impressive thing on my resume was my time as a Resident Advisor, and even that had ended less-than-well. I took the job too seriously for the first six months (too little sleep from staying up with extra duties, a loss of a Christmas vacation because I had to stay and watch the dorms, and some really complicated programs put on for students, but that's for another post), got burned out, and coasted through about two more months and then, with a month to go, stepped down under fair-to-poor terms.

I had other jobs previously, sure. If you count "under the table" style jobs, I had some fishing and farming experience. I logged for a day or two (paid each day). I had worked on houses, some. Never anything mechanical or electrical, but I had done the brute work on a number of things. In 2003, I spent time up in White Oaks, TN building a children's playground as part of a Methodist volunteer mission (a mission where you go and do things other than preach, essentially). I graduated soon after, with my old epistemology and astro-physics, and proceded to do little, directly, with them. I worked part time as a dish washer and supply manager for a biochem lab on campus, and that went down due some contract snafus. I later got blamed for the paperwork glitch outside of my control. I worked a month or two with West, answering phone lines for an insurance company, and was even called the star pupil by supervisor, but CSR work is not for me. At least not the wholly phone variety. There was my time making subs at Subway, which was kind of fun, but was only a summer job. Of all of my scattered experiences, the one I can brag about the most was my four months handling X-Ray astronomy. Which was largely spent staring at grey dots, realizing my love of science is more from an auxillary position.

Five years ago, by which I mean August 2004, I was getting worried. I did not want to work, at least not directly, with my field of study. The two jobs I had after graduation had petered out kind of quick, and often with me being made out to be a worse guy than I was, and so I sat down and said "I want to work with books". You see, it had never occurred to me that it was ok. I had wanted to work with books since I have been, I don't know, a teen. I wanted to be a librarian before I wanted to be anything else (besides, strangely, the guy that lived down in the bottom of the ocean in a bio-dome, but that, too, is another story). I wanted to own a bookstore. I just, I do not know, always felt it was a cop out. We had a small branch library where I grew up. The nearest bookstore was close to an hour away (the nearest real bookstore was an hour and a half away). I do not think I thought library work, or bookstore, was ever a real possibility. Even after I came up to Huntsville, it just never quite felt like something I was allowed to do. It sounds crazy, especially for those who know me now and have only seen me in a book/library environment, but it made sense at the time; in that way some crazy things feel like they make sense.

July and August of 2004, I applied at bookstores. Pretty much all of them in the area. Some of them more than once. And, finally, got a call back. To Waldenbooks. They needed someone to help with their calender kiosk. Ok. It is working for a bookstore, but not working in a bookstore. I might not have taken the job, but the assistant manager at the time said that she wanted me to work in the store, and not the kiosk, and so it sounded good. However, by the time I got there, I was only doing maybe four hours or so of work a week in the store and all the rest, sometimes as many as forty or more hours, was out in the kiosk. With the cool kids and the loud Christmas music. And you wonder why I hate popped collars and Christmas music.

Eventually, though, two things occurred. First, the assisstant manager left. Then, some internal strife got one of the employees fired. The manager gave the assistant manager position to one of the new hires, and I got promoted to "third key" (and/or Senior Bookseller). It had a tiny raise, but it allowed me to get more work in. And all was well, for a few months until there came another round of internal strife, this time manager versus assitant, and I got deemed in the assitant's cirle (which was mildly true, as much as I was in any circle not "Let's make enough money to keep my wife in college"), and my hours eventually plumetted. I started looking for another job, naturally. Except, now, this is nine or ten months later, and I have a resume with actual work experience.

I started working at Book Gallery selling discount books. To begin with, I worked both jobs. This worked well until a rather paranoid fit took one of the BG owners and they were convinced I was somehow divulging secrets from their five store operation to, you know, the Borders Group. There was some bad blood due to a fight with a Walden' in Tennessee. She put her foot down and so I left Waldenbooks, finally. I was making less at Book Gallery per hour, but was working as close to full-time as I could and still be considered part-time (that's right, they limited me to, get this, 34.5 hours a week so that there would be no sticky "he's a full time worker" issues). After being there for four or so more months, and now we are up to August 2005, the current manager left, the current district manager had some health issues, and in the midst of the chaos I became the new manager.

While not a perfect job, I just want to go on record and say that all those bookstores and retail shops you see on sitcoms where the employees are like family and weird things keep happening: that was my store. I kept the atmosphere light, we slung arrows at the giants of oppression, and we fought for our love of small-time bookstores. None of this, mind you, really matters to my resume, but I have a string of half-dozen or so workers who would take a bullet for me to this day. You know who you are.

Something that did help my resume, besides being able to bump down "Senior Bookseller" by the more impressive "Manager": I eventually got the chance to design and—from the systems side—run the company website. I worked on databases that allowed us to sell books. Webmastery and programming in one fell swoop. It was never a big website, and it ended up being shelved about the time I left because our customers preferred to come into the store, but it was functional, and it did make us money. That definitely helped.

Then, May 2007, the job came to an end. There are a lot of reasons. Some of them have been said previously, in much earlier blog entries. At the core, though, I was ready to move on. Had I wanted to keep the job, I could have sweat and elbow-greased my way through anything. Being done, like I was, it was just a matter of time. It was time to get my butt in library school. I had proven that in relatively no time at all, I had the skills to go from being low-man in the bookstore to a manager. I had the skills to be a librarian. June 2007, my dad dies, just a few weeks before we going down to visit (note: it had been two years) in August. I never forgave Book Gallery, precisely. It is not their fault, but part of me is too unwilling to accept that. The end result is that I went for some time, about sixteen months, without a job. Without a real job, anyhow. I did a few odds and ends over time, but I was more concerned in getting myself in grad school and overcoming the personal tiredness I was going through. I did well on the entrance exams and I worked hard to get everything in place.

I was not picked to be in the normal online cohort, but the regional. The regional cohort started in Spring, not Fall, making another four or five months to kill (this is why I was out of work for sixteen, instead of twelve or so, months. I was ready to get back to it. So, I got a job. Working in the calendar kiosk. Yes, for Waldens. Again. When I started back, I was sure I was going to quit come November. I did not. In fact, I stayed through to the very end and did kind of well. I made ends meet. I took no crap on a lot of things though. I got to see my family and did not feel guilty for taking off of work, even during the holiday season. I got the stuff I wanted and needed. That job came to an end January 2009, earlier this year. I went out and dug around and decided to go ahead and volunteer at UAH's library. If nothing else, it would be experience. I was offerend a paid position, instead, and here we are.

Flash forward nine or so months later, and here I am. Still doing it. I have experience with several key databases, experience with tons of things like citation styles and their relative merit, hands on with tutoring students on how to use certain programs and so forth. I helped designed the online database portal that all of our students use, and still keep up some portions of it. I ran a Wiki for a class that enabled my group to compile lots of data. I have experience with all major portions of Web 2.0 that impact libraries. What's more, my five year study on the bibliometrics and maintaining of ebooks and other e-ref is becoming increasingly relevant for a number of reasons.

For a class, I have to turn in my resume next week. Today, it just occurred to me, my resume is not that bad any more. There are a lot of big words and important terms on it. I have to edit it down to make it more concise. I do not have the room to fluff it, anymore. It is not the best, definitely not. I can work on that, though. Five years since I became a bookseller, four since I became a manager, three since I became a webmaster. Three years, with one of those years "off", and my resume is quadrupled in effectiveness and content. It was a good feeling.

Si Vales, Valeo


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Written by Doug Bolden

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