photo credit: Valeriana Solaris
I started working at age 18 in the mid-1980s, in the age just before computers. I remember working at a desk that did not have a computer on it. One of my jobs involved coding A4 pieces of paper with pay deductions. These papers were then sent off somewhere else to be coded into a giant warehouse computer which managed the pay section for this government department.
In the same office was a typing pool. This was a room of exclusively women, in a sort of hot-house environment. The lighting was just-so. The desks and chairs were all just-so. Every hour they all stood up and did stretching exercises, focussing particularly on their necks, shoulders and wrists. If you needed a letter typed you wrote it out long-hand and sent it into the typing pool. It then came out and you proofread it. If it was OK, then you signed it and sent it (snail mail). Of there were errors, you sent it back to be typed again. You made sure your letters were well-drafted before they went to the typing pool as you didn’t want several drafts going through this long drawn-out process.
And consequently, you probably received about five to eight letters a day and the turn-around for each letter was a few days. For those letters requiring a decision, you probably made three to five decisions a day.
Compare to today when I might received between 80 to 150 emails a day. Some are trivia (people saying “thanks” or acknowledging a previous email – “thanks”. But even so, the number of decisions and responses has gone up exponentially, and the turn-around has dramatically decreased.
However, I digress. This posting was about the sorts of things that you used to include in your (brief) resume – which would be bizarre if not unintelligible and irrelevant to today’s employer. For this list, assume an office-based job, particularly at the entry-level.
1. Ability to operate a photocopier. (Of course the ability to repair a photocopier on the run is still a desirable skill, but probably not worth putting in your resume unless you are applying fora job with Xerox.)
2. Ability to operate a fax machine. This was once a skill – these newfangled office machines! As was loading the thermal-imaging paper that faded after a few years, destroying all corporate records.
3. Ability to operate a Roneo-copier. This was a great machine that ran off carbon paper. I distinctly remember these at school – the teacher would write out lesson sheets or tests in long-hand (and they had to write neatly then! And remember how to spell the words correctly!) which were then printed on the Roneo by cranking a handle, which turned a cylinder and pressed the carbon paper against sheets of paper. Ker-chunk, ker-chunk. Ker-chunk, ker-chunk.
4. Job applications used to be written by hand – your best cursive. Most of us never mastered the Copperplate handwriting of our forebears, but our writing had to be neat enough to pass muster for a job application, and the letter had to be perfect. If you made an error, you had to start that sheet of paper again.
5. Ability to take dictation – either in shorthand or using a dictation machine. And no, I don’t mean a tape-recorder. And then the ability to transcribe dictation.
6. Later on, with the wide-spread implementation of desk-top computers, specifying the computer programs you could use – Lotus 1,2,3 leaps to mind – was a specific thing to list in your resume. The more the better. Nowadays it is usually assumed for most office-based jobs that you will be computer-proficient, and most offices use Microsoft. If it is included as a skill it is almost a perfunctory covering off on the basics. But at one stage it was a skill worth listing, something that might give you an edge over someone else.
What else did you used to put on your resume that you wouldn’t dream of including now?