Hey, all you college kids! It’s time to get off your butts and start applying for jobs. Do not delude yourself into thinking you can wait until May. Spring is the time to be buying clothes for the job you already have. Top internships, management training programs, entry-level investment banking jobs and the other good jobs get filled early. After all, employers are not stupid. What are you going to do between now and June that will enhance your workplace value? For 99% of you, the answer is nothing. That’s why the juiciest companies beat the rush and hire the best candidates before anyone else can get to them.

Based on my experience, I’d say a good rule of thumb is that you’ll get one interview for every 50 resumes you send. That’s if you’re great. If you’re not great, double that resume number.

And God help you if you do not have a decent resume. Even if you’re great, with a lame resume, your greatness will not show. Here are the three most important rules to ensure your resume measures up:

One page. That’s it. I don’t care if you are the smartest person on earth or if you have founded six companies and sold each of them for a million dollars. Think of it this way. A resume gets only about 10 seconds to impress whoever’s looking at it. So every line must say that you are amazing because you don’t know where the person’s eye will go first (though you can be sure the person won’t read every line).

People with resumes that exceed one page say, “I couldn’t get it down to a page.” But here’s what a two-page resume says about you: “No ability to see the big picture.” You are so mired in the details of your career that you don’t know how to summarize it. This does not bode well for future career success. Cut your resume to one page.

Every line must quantify success. A resume is not about what you did. A resume is about what you accomplished. Don’t say: “Managed two people and created a tracking system for marketing.” Say: “Managed the team that build a tracking system to decrease marketing costs 10%.” Any college graduate can do what an employer tells them to. Not everyone will do it well. Show that you’re a person who does things well.

Think of it as the difference between writing, “Went to my classes and took tests” vs. “Have a 3.5 GPA.”

I know what you’re going to say next: “I can’t quantify my success. I didn’t have those kind of jobs.” You are wrong. Everyone has successes they can quantify. Let’s say you had a babysitting job, which I hope not very many of you will have to put on your resume. But for the sake of argument, let’s say you took care of two kids. You could write: “Managed household in parents’ absence and helped kids to raise their grades one letter.” Stupid, yes, but you need to make even stupid jobs sound marginally stupid.

No paragraphs. I shouldn’t have to list this last rule because no one should still be using paragraphs on their resumes. But recent grads do it all the time. In fact, my friend who edits my web site, and who is definitely very smart, showed me her resume and I nearly died: All paragraphs.

No hiring manager reads paragraphs. With a stack of 500 resumes in front of her, she’s scanning – looking for something that stands out enough to warrant an interview. Nothing stands out in a paragraph. So by using them, you take yourself out of the running unless the hiring manager is your dad’s best friend and he has to read your entire resume.

Most of you will say, “No paragraphs? Everyone knows that rule.” Good for you: a confidence booster. You will need it because it’s a tough job market out there. Now start sending out resumes. Think of each one you send as a lottery ticket. The more you have, the luckier you’ll feel.

My ex boyfriend emailed his online personals profile to me and asked me what I thought. I thought it made him look needy and told him so. I said that if he wanted to attract someone with an independent personality he should change the profile. I wrote a few paragraphs that he ended up submitting in his final profile.

It did not surprise me that he used my wording because I am gifted when it comes to composing personal profiles. I edited my cousin's profile and he immediately met his future wife. I thought this was a fluke until I rewrote my friend Liz's profile. Now she is getting married.

My profile-writing abilities are similar to my resume-writing abilities. In both genres, you must include specific achievements that differentiate you in an interesting way but do not make you seem boastful.

I could write an entire column on this: How to leverage your resume-writing skills to get a date. Instead, I want to explain why it’s important to have a clear career focus.

I have a hard time keeping my career focused because I keep thinking about starting new businesses. I have many ideas, but this is typical of me. I launched two companies earlier in my professional life, and most entrepreneurs are serial entrepreneurs, so I'm sure there will be more coming In fact, my freelance writing career is actually a business, with my writing being the product. I perform all the normal functions of a regular business: marketing, billing, product development and staffing, to name a few.

But here’s where my focus issues emerge. As I work, I keep thinking of new ventures, the latest being, thanks to my ex boyfriend, rewriting peoples' personal profiles.

This idea occurred after my ex asked me to look at the profile of a woman he had considered contacting. (Note: Do not send me emails saying my ex shouldn’t talk to me about this love life — we broke up amicably eight years ago.) So I read the profile, and I was appalled, “Are you kidding me?” I asked. “She screams ‘relationship nightmare.'” I thought this because:
1. Her photo showed her smiling without opening her mouth. This is unnatural. Only people who are hiding something smile like this
2. She wrote mostly about her work and did not appear to have another interest (all recent reading was work related).
3. She said her best friend was her dog.
I could go on. But my next thought was that if she paid me to fix her profile, she wouldn’t have to date psychos. She could attract nice guys. (I don't know what this says about my ex, but trust me, he's a nice guy.)

By now, I had decided the world needed me to start a personality-profile-writing business. She would be my first client. I spent 10 minutes crafting an email to her about why her profile makes her look bad and how I could help her — for a fee. I provided amazing insights so she would trust me. Then I tried to send her my email using her dating-network address.

This was a mistake. As it turned out, I had to join this network to contact her. I spent the next 20 minutes trying to figure out how to sign up for this network. First, I had to create a profile of myself and then, since I’m married, figure out how to use the “hide profile” function. After all that, I was asked to pay a membership fee?

Reality set in. If I was going to invest time and money in this venture, I had to do it right. I needed a business plan — not a long one, but something that would tell me, for instance, how long each profile would take to fix, how much I’d charge and how many pitches I'd need to make to lure a customer. I also would need to advertise on personals sites. Since my success would depend on an initial, online contact, I probably needed to hire a direct mail person to write the email for me.

A career writing personals no longer seemed fun or wise. I had to level with myself. What I really wanted was simply to tell dog lady her ad was terrible on her nickel. Instead, I wrote a column. That is my business now, and for this minute, at least, I am focused.

Here is my current list of things I hate. It's an on-going project that simmers week after week until it reaches boiling point and I have to spend a column venting.

1. People who are not coachable. They get good advice and don't take it because they think they know better. Everyone has blind spots that a little advice can shed light on. If you don't know how to take advice, people will stop giving it to you. And then you will stagnate. And the people who tried to help you will think to themselves, “Good. I was pissed that he wasted my time.”

2. Three-page resumes. Two pages are okay. Sometimes. Like, if you've been in the workforce twenty years, or if you don't know how to enlarge the margins in your word processor. But anything more than two pages is someone who has lost all perspective. There is not enough that is important about your career to fill three pages. You give away to all potential employers that you are mired in detail.

3. The high and mighty. The people who say, “I'd never work for someone I don't respect,” or, “I'd never play office politics to get ahead.” Get real. If you want to be able to put food on your table you will need to learn to work for someone else, to do things a way you don't agree with, to do some work that doesn't matter to you. If you can afford to lose your job constantly in order to stay on moral high ground, then you didn't need a job to begin with.

4. The 8pm meeting. I don't care if you don't have kids. I don't care if no one in your whole company has kids. Each of you still needs to get a life. Just because you have no one sitting in bed waiting for a kiss goodnight doesn't mean you should be at work. Go to the gym. Go to a movie. Participate in aspects of life that do not have a P&L. Well roundedness will make you a more interesting person, and even if you don't care if you're interesting, your co-workers will, so you will do better at work if you leave work.

5. The economically alienated. Don't blow off the company party because you have season tickets to the Opera that night. Don't complain about your butler to people who don't even know what a butler does. It's one thing to have a pay scale as if you are god and the people who work for you are morons. It's another thing to shove that in peoples' faces on a daily basis. Act like you're part of the team or you won't have a team to act for.

6. The people who won't change. Each week I get letters from people who say they hate their job but they can't change it because they have so much seniority. Or they want to stay home with their kids but they don't have enough money. Look, unless you are totally impoverished (and almost no one writes to me from this category except maybe recently divorced moms who have never worked) then you can do it. Sell your house. Move to Kansas. Stop sending kids to camp. If you want something enough, you will figure out how to live on less money. If you don't make the change then admit to yourself that you want money more than – a job you love/full days with your kids/you fill in the blank — and stop complaining.

7. People who don't make lists. Usually these are people who can't face everything they want to do. Or they don't know what they want to do. Either way, making lists can change your life. Start small: Distributing a list of items to cover in a meeting makes you look like a leader. Then get big: Maintaining a list of career goals keeps you focused at work. If you love to make lists, try branching out. Like, make a list of lists you could write. Or make a list of things you hate. It's such a big relief.

For most people, September 11 has come and gone, but the anniversary will always be important to me because I was a block away when the first building fell. The people I have met who were at the World Trade Center that day never stopped associating the event with their work, and I am no exception.

That day, I stepped outside my office to take a look at the spectacle. Before I knew what happened, I was blinded by debris and buried under a pile of people. I pulled myself out of the pile, but I couldn't see, had no idea where I was, and I couldn't breathe. I worried about my family until the lack of air became painful. Then I focused all my hopes on not having an extremely painful death.

There was complete quiet. No one could talk because no one could breathe. Then I heard cracked glass. I moved toward the noise until I saw a glow coming from a broken window. Somehow, I lifted myself into a broken window that was above my shoulders. I found air. And then I thought only of water. I found my way to a bathroom in that building and inside there were debris-covered men in ties drinking out of a toilet. I drank, too.

Days later, I went back to my software marketing job at my Wall-St based company, and though no one was really doing any work, I somehow continued to write my weekly column, furtively, from my desk. Soon, though, the company laid off almost all the employees, including me. I spent October in a daze. I spent November and December attending a group for people with post-traumatic stress syndrome.

The way to deal with post-traumatic stress is to tell your story over and over again. The theory is that when you are in the moment of trauma, you have to turn off all your emotions to get yourself through it. After the fact, in order to stop having nightmares and panic attacks, you have to experience the emotions you missed.

So I told my story over and over again. And each time, the story was a little different. (I still tell the story, although to be honest, most people are sick of it. Even my brother said, “That just took 25 minutes. Maybe you need an abridged version.”)

When I began telling my story I saw myself as an imbecile — for staying at work after the first plane hit, for standing so close to the building, for not trying to help anyone but myself. Later, my story focused on how I was a lucky person to have come out alive. And I was a lucky person to have a moment where I thought I was going to die and saw exactly what I cared about in my life.

This is the process of reframing. How we frame our stories determines how we see ourselves. It's the glass half-empty/half-full thing: The trauma of 9/11 taught me to frame my life as half-full.

Today, when I tell my World Trade Center story, my focus is on career change. Today I am the woman who nearly died at the World Trade Center. I lost my job as a marketing executive. I faced an incredibly tough job hunt, which I wrote about in my column. In the process, I became a writer; turning in a column week after week made me realize that I was a writer who was calling herself an unemployed marketer.

I used to think career changes were planned and instigated and systematic. Now I know that some changes could never be planned, and some changes do not need instigating, they just need recognizing. Positive change comes to people who can frame their world in a positive light — even a world where everything is literally falling down.

If you could see a movie of your life before you lived it, would you want to live it? Probably not. The thrill of living is that you don't know what's coming. In other words, uncertainty is what makes our lives fun.

Sure, it's hard to see uncertainty in such a positive light when you are out of work, or when you feel like you're flailing. But uncertainty is really another word for opportunity, and you can't harness an opportunity until you recognize it's there.

My first experience with severe uncertainty was my senior year of college. Not knowing what I was going to do with my life was too much for me to bear. I stopped going to classes and failed intro to sociology, which turned out to be a graduation requirement.

So I stayed in school for the summer, and during that time I learned to cope with ambiguity. I realized that the only way to lead an interesting life is to encounter uncertainty and make a choice. Otherwise, your life is not your own — it is a path someone else has chosen. Moments of uncertainty are when you create your life, when you become who you are.

Uncertainty does not end with the job hunt, though. Every new role we take means another round of instability. Even fifteen years after college, when I start a new job I am nervous. But now I remind myself that I am lucky to be nervous — because big opportunity and nervousness go hand in hand.

Most of us already sense that uncertainty rescues us from boredom. We know, for instance, that when we go to a movie, someone will face a difficult situation and we will get to watch her muddle through it. And we pay for that. You would feel ripped off if you went to a movie with no ambiguity. We like watching it, but in our own lives we avoid it.

This doesn't have to be the case, though. Here are some new approaches to uncertainty:

Live through uncertainty: Some of you work for unstable companies. You do not need to create uncertainty; it is there every day that the company veers closer to layoffs. In this case, ambiguity is something to endure. If you can focus in the face of instability, you are more likely to be able to leverage opportunity.

A great example of people who live through uncertainty is politicians running for office. Right now, the democratic candidates are betting almost everything on themselves and campaigning full-steam ahead even though their success is totally uncertain. With so many candidates in the race, the odds of success are not good, but many of these candidates are able to be at the top of their game in the face of huge insecurity.

Use uncertainty to make yourself shine: For those of you who have no idea what to do next in your life, remember that uncertainty is what allows you to surprise yourself. If you could see each future step along the way, you'd never get the chance to be amazed at what you can do.

When I finally did graduate from college, I went on to play professional beach volleyball. At the time I worried that the decision was crazy, and that I wouldn't make the cut. But in the face of massive instability, beach volleyball seemed like a reasonable choice. Now that is one of the parts of my life I am most proud of.

Create uncertainty: Some of you are stuck in your career. The only way to get unstuck is to create instability. Say to yourself, “Maybe I can change my approach, maybe I can find a new specialty.” In the face of a mortgage or a waning 401K, creating instability seems absurd. But think of it another way: Uncertainty is really another word for opportunity, and each of us should take responsibility for creating our own opportunities.