THINGS TO DO
READY TO GET INTERVIEWS?
I was chatting with an accountant recently at a holiday party and when he asked the required conversation-starter-question “What do you do?” I, of course, answered that I own a resume writing firm. “Well, thankfully, that’s something I don’t need anymore,” he hastily replied.
It seems this hard-charging young man had just made the leap from working with an accounting firm to being his own employer, hanging out his shingle and jumping into the world of the self-employed. Being self-employed myself for the past twelve years or so, I recognized a starry-eyed newcomer and thought I’d see what he really knew about self-employment.
“Congratulations on working on your own! I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being my own boss. Tell me, how are you handling client acquisition?” I asked.
“I brought three clients with me from my old firm,” he replied confidently, “They will pay the rent and keep me operating for the time being. I plan on going after some more corporate accounts in the New Year.”
“That’s great! Do these target accounts know you personally or are you going to be going after them cold?”
“One I’ve done some work for in the past on project, but the other two I have some contacts on the inside that will help me get my foot in the door.”
“How do you plan on doing that?” I asked, smiling inwardly to myself.
“I’ll get my card in the right hands, don’t worry.”
“Well, speaking of cards – here’s mine. When you realize you need a corporate resume, not to mention a bio and perhaps a CV, if you are targeting international clients, give me a call. We can help you develop your corporate presence so your clients know who you are, where you’ve been, and why they should hire your firm.”
In my twelve years of self-employment, I have worked a great deal with new entrepreneurs who are riding the rush of making the break from the W2 and heading out into the forest to kill their prey and drag it home. I’ve mentored many and authored training materials for others. I’ve led professional organizations that provide support and guidance to the new members of the industry. I have never met one that did not need a resume. And often, the resume is just the start of the marketing materials that a self-employed individual needs to successfully market their services.
The US economy is a 95% service-based economy. That means the “product” that is being delivered is an intangible and originates with one person or a group of people. An accountant is only as good as his/her experience and that experience is the “product” that must be marketed. A resume is the marketing vehicle of that product. Sure, a resume for an entrepreneur looking to land a contract will be somewhat different than the resume for a job seeker looking for traditional employment, but it is still a resume.
So if one of your New Year’s resolutions is to ditch the nine-to-five and venture out on your own, don’t forget that YOU are the product and you need to sell it well.
Tips for Career Success in the New Year
Ask any career professional and he/she will tell you that January is one of the busiest months of the year for them. With the beginning of a new year, people start looking at making new beginnings or long-overdue changes in their lives whether it is losing weight, stopping smoking, or changing jobs. If they decide to change jobs or career fields, and they are concerned about doing it successfully, they seek the services of a career professional – a resume writer, a career counselor or a career coach. This makes for busy days for those who specialize in helping others succeed in their careers.
Like losing weight or breaking a bad habit, making a career transition will take time, effort, and investment. A job search takes time; the average job search lasts about 12 weeks with that average going higher in direct proportion to the increase in salary level. It is easier for an administrative assistant to find a job than it is for the CEO of a Fortune 1000 company. This is due to the fact that there are more jobs at lower salary levels and fewer specific qualifications required. It’s fairly easy to find an admin that will do a satisfactory job; it’s more difficult to find a CEO who fits the bill.
Job search takes effort. We have become accustomed in this day to ease. Everything is easy – communications, travel, availability of information, obtaining goods and services. When we are faced with something difficult, we tend to become discouraged more quickly than our parents’ generation. Job search is going to require organization, time, learning, and moving out of comfort zones. Most people only job search every three to five years so when it comes time to make a change, the activities required such as interviewing, networking, communicating, or presentation feel awkward. When faced with these difficult activities, many job seekers get discouraged rather than buckling down and working harder. Being prepared mentally for the effort goes a long way toward achieving success.
Job search takes investment. To put investment in perspective, first consider the investment you have made in your career to date. You probably invested thousands of dollars in your education not to mention lots of effort that came in the form of late night studying, working multiple part-time jobs, and sacrificed family or social time to make the grade. You have probably invested in some sort of continuing education whether it is seminars, advanced degrees, special certification, conferences, or an internship. In your work life, you have invested time, headache, late hours, stress hours, commute time, and lost family/personal time to advance your career. So when it comes to investing in advancing your career, you are already well-vested. Now it is time to invest in marketing the career that you have built.
Most executives realize the value of marketing because they work with the necessities of marketing the goods or services of a company every day. They are used to selling ideas to consumers, investors, partners, and others who are in a position to advance their interests. Marketing your career effectively has the same value. Invest in a good marketing campaign (professional resume, internet posting, mass mailing to recruiters, etc.) and your investment will bring returns.
Now as you resolve to make a positive change in your career in the new year, whether it is finding a better job, a new career field, or even simply pleading your case for a raise, remember that the process will require investment, effort, and time. Do it right from the start and you will save on all three.
Wording vs. Results
I’m spending this day after Christmas trying to catch up some on the work that has piled up over the long holiday weekend and trying to get ahead a bit so I can take some more time off this week. Part of that catching up is performing the free resume critiques that we offer. There was one in my inbox from over the weekend from a tech sales and marketing executive that I thought was a good example of how a resume can be well-written but still ineffective. That might seem like a conflict of terms but it’s more common than you would think, especially among inexperienced resume writers, amateur or professional.
There is a difference between well-written and effective. An effective resume is always well-written, but a well-written resume may not be effective. Now that I have you confused, let me explain using the example that was in my inbox.
The sample came from a fellow whose original resume, updated by him, was four pages long. He decided that was really much too long (it was) and hired a professional resume writer to “fix” it. The result was a two page resume that was well-written. It had no spelling or grammatical errors (although I did find a couple of hyphen goofs). It was written in the active voice. The resume was in chronological format which was correct for the job seeker’s employment history. It had all the right buzzwords for the job seeker’s industry. The resume was written at an appropriate readability level (about freshman college level). It was descriptive in verbiage. Overall, it met the criteria for being a well-written resume.
But it wasn’t winning interviews. The job seeker had sent out over 80 and had only received four interviews. The test of a good resume is if it WORKS, not if it sounds good, looks nice, and meets all the “rules” of a well-written resume.
Missing in this resume were results – facts, metrics, accomplishments, proof of ability. Since it was a sales industry resume, it should have been chock-full of numbers – sales ratios, percentages, territories gained, quotas, dollar figures, etc. Almost the entire content was task-based information. Well-written, but still task-based. Task-based information does nothing to sell the candidate. It’s job description. It doesn’t answer the questions “how?” and “what was the result?”
For example, the resume contained the bulleted phrase “Showed ability to ‘hit the ground running’ and quickly develop order, focus and vision.” As a hiring manager, I would think, “Okay, that sounds good. How did you do that? Why did you need to do that – what was the situation? What good came about as a result of being able to get up to speed quickly?” Also as a hiring manager, I would have put the resume aside and gone to the next one simply because I didn’t have time to guess about a potential candidate’s possible track record.
Another bulleted phrase was “Achieved Guinness Book of World Record’s notation – for the world’s largest shopping cart.” (sic) Wearing my hiring manager’s hat, I think “Say what? What does that have to do with anything?” It could have been better worded if it said something like “Won national notoriety and press coverage for company through marketing promotion involving sales gimmick of ‘world’s largest shopping cart’” That is a results-oriented statement rather than a task-based statement.
Here’s another: “Designed and managed major PR/promotional events and presence at trade shows.” What is “major”? What trade shows? What industry? What effect did these have on market share? The original statement tells me little about true ability.
The job seeker paid good money to have his resume “fixed” by a professional writer, but unfortunately, the result is as ineffective as the “unfixed”, four-page-long version. It sounds better than the original; the resume writer was a wordsmith, but he wasn’t a strategist with good knowledge of how to position his client as THE candidate to hire. Somehow, I don’t think he guaranteed his work, either, or the job seeker wouldn’t have sent it to me for help.
Do you even know? Have you thought about it? Most people’s mind races back to their childhood and what they wanted to be before the reality of life hit them. Reality comes in many forms – financial restrictions, marriage, children, mortgage payments, etc. The dream job is often relegated to the realm of other dreams such as winning the lottery, discovering a new planet, or driving a Maserati. The mini-van world is reality.
Does that mean you can’t have any portion of your dream job? The average American will change jobs eleven times in his/her lifetime. The same average American will change complete career fields three times. Just because you are doing one thing right now, doesn’t mean that you can’t change directions at some point and go down a different path.
Let’s look at an example. Joe always wanted to be a competing downhill skier. He grew up in Colorado and skied as much as possible. He was pretty good but not Olympic material. When Joe was sixteen, his father died and Joe had to start contributing to the support of the household which consisted of a family of six. Joe took on a part-time job at the local discount store and on weekends he taught skiing at the local ski resort. At age eighteen, he joined the Air Force so he could see some of the world. Sixteen years later, Joe has a family of his own, is now a manager of a large discount store and has a mortgage.
Sound familiar? Is Joe completely out of reach of his original dream job? At the ripe old age of thirty-four, competitive downhill skiing is probably not physically possible for him anymore. But the thrill of competition of some kind still is and so is just skiing for fun. Joe also liked the environment of skiing – the mountains and the snow. Along the way, Joe discovered he really enjoyed being around kids, maybe as a result of being the oldest in a family of six children.
To achieve his new dream job with some elements of his old, Joe made some changes. He moved his family to a mountainous region where he was fifteen minutes from a ski resort. He took a job managing a large toy store which used his work experience but also allowed him to work with children. He started teaching ski lessons to children on the weekends and working with handicapped children on the slopes. He found a win-win situation. He married his learned employment skills with his interests and situated them in an environment that he loved.
Sometimes, the dream job of your childhood is just not possible as an adult dealing with reality, but you can be like Joe and find a happy medium. Today, when asked what his dream job is, Joe always replies “Exactly what I’m doing now.”
Choose a Word
I tell all prospective clients who contact me for a resume review the key to good resume writing is marketing the job seeker powerfully. Good resume writers write powerful documents that make the job seeker stand out from the crowd and paint a picture of that person’s work history, skills and accomplishments. A great resume “shows”, rather than just “telling”.
Many individuals who contact us have written their own resumes but they are just not working for them. Most are puzzled why they are having such trouble. They have good experience; they spell-checked their resume; and they followed the “rules” they read about in a book on resume writing. No one knows their backgrounds better than they do themselves, right? So what is the problem?
Writing a powerful resume that wins interviews is more than just following the “rules”. It is about strategy and word choice. The only profession I know of that pays more attention to word choice than resume writing is law. Ask any lawyer what difference a word choice can make and you will be amazed at the answer you get. The same is true in powerful, tight writing.
One of the most common word choice mistakes we see in resumes sent to us is overuse of a word. There are so many words and phrases that have been used over and over in resumes until they no longer make sense or have any impact. Some example phrases include “dedicated professional”, “people-person”, “proven track record”, and “proven leadership”. What once were great, powerful phrases are now so overused they have no meaning to resume readers (aka the hiring manager). Resume writers know which words and phrases to avoid and how to choose good ones that are more descriptive without being ho-hum.
Another common mistake is redundancy in words, especially at the beginning of sentences. We recently received a resume for review in which every single bulleted phrase started with “worked on”. Choosing varied language keeps the reader engaged and the resume from being monotonous.
The World is Shrinking
We receive many requests for resume reviews from individuals who are outside the United States who are conducting job searches. Most are interested in working either in their own countries or the US. With the global nature of sites such as Monster.com or CareerBuilder, job seekers anywhere in the world are able to apply for positions in the US. And with most large US companies operating on a global scale, they could easily work for a US company right in their hometowns.
Unfortunately, most of these job seekers do not realize that the Curriculum Vitae (CV) which they use in their own countries is not the right job search tool for the US or Canadian markets. Even if they are applying to a US company in their own country, a CV might not be the right choice.
US companies are bound by specific hiring laws that are designed to eliminate discrimination in hiring based on age, sex, marital status, and ethnicity. Most CVs that we see come to us for review have a section of personal data where this information is listed, often including a photograph. Due to the hiring laws in the US, any company that receives a resume/CV with such information in it, must immediately discard that resume and eliminate the candidate from consideration. Job seekers from outside the US are usually not aware of these restrictions and thus handicap their job search on a global basis by including the information.
We generally recommend that clients use two documents in their job search if they are conducting a global job search – a resume designed for use in the west and a CV that can be used in Europe and the rest of the world. Additionally, if a client is interested in working in the US, we generally recommend he/she attempt to hire on with a US company in their home country and work toward emigration to the US as an employee of that company rather than trying to hire directly into the US. With immigration and security restrictions, it is increasingly difficult to find a job in the US directly. More and more attention is being focused on immigration in the US by members of the government so the situation is not expected to improve, either.
On the flip side, US citizens who wish to work in a foreign country need a CV for their job search needs. Each country has slightly different requirements for CV’s. Some want pictures included; some don’t. Some want it to be one page; some want it very long. A CV is also not as hard-hitting as an American resume. An American resume is a sale document whereas a CV tends to be more of a biography.
Two different documents fill the needs of a global job search. If you are considering a job search in a different country, make sure you know which document you need and how to best approach your search.
Attitude is Irreplaceable
I saw someone get fired yesterday. Okay, it was a fast food worker, not a high level exec, but it was still and employee who got terminated by the supervisor. I was having a fast meal prior to an event and as I was awaiting my food, I was observing the supervisor running her crew.
The crew was made up of teenagers who didn’t seem to want to be at work on a Sunday evening. Instead of filling in time between food prep with other activities such as filling the ice machine or restocking the napkin dispenser, they were standing around looking at each other. The supervisor was having a hard time getting them moving. She was doing a good job in explaining the work that needed to be done and why they should be doing it while traffic was slow but she wasn’t succeeding in getting cooperation. As a result, she was “laying down the law”, so to speak, and being very pointed in her instructions.
At some point, a male worker with a nose ring decided he had had enough of being bossed around and made a snide remark. The supervisor immediately gave him the rest of the evening “off” and informed him not to come back unless he could come up with a better attitude. Amazingly, all the other workers who had been giving her a hard time, too, suddenly decided to get to work and stop complaining.
There are several lessons to be learned from this. First, the supervisor should have taken the young man to her office to have a chat rather than having the confrontation in front of the other workers. Of course, the example she set by terminating this young man had an immediate effect on the others. The long-term consequences of the public firing on crew morale will probably be detrimental, however. I could understand her frustration, though. She had a staff of lazy, sullen teenagers and a line of customers and no one was doing their job. She made a decision and got results.
Second, and probably the bigger lesson, is that no worker is indispensable. I don’t know what this young man’s main function was – whether he was French fry guy or shake man – but he was obviously operating under the delusion that he had the authority and could make his own rules. He learned quickly that was not the case. Whether it is a French fry cook or a CIO, everyone can be replaced.
Third, this just proves again that attitude is everything in your career. It doesn’t matter if you are the best darn shake man in the nation; if your attitude stinks your career is in danger. This young man’s attitude was not only the pits but it was contagious to the others in the crew. Employers can easily replace skills. Skills can be taught. Attitude can’t. Employers hire more on attitude and enthusiasm than on skills. Put two equally skilled candidates in the interview process for the same job and the one with the better attitude will get the job every time.
Feeling stressed out from the holidays? Are you being a Scrooge around the office? It’s time to rethink your attitude and advance your career. Not only do what is required but go beyond the basics and volunteer to work on special projects or tasks. It can be a career energizer.
Multiple Goals - Multiple Resumes
As we approach the New Year, you might be considering a career change or a career direction change. The change may be within your industry or it may be a career change that is completely unrelated to your current job. If you are considering making a change part of your 2006 plans, you should consider your resume now and what tools you will need to accomplish your goals.
First, you need to look at your goals to decide if you will need one resume or more than one. Usually, if you are making a career change toward something that is related to your employment experience, having just one resume prepared will work just fine for you. However, if you are considering several goals that are quite different from each other, more than one resume will be needed.
Making a career change that is still within the same industry is one of the easier changes to accomplish. The resume will reflect your industry knowledge, your experience working with related concepts, and your track record of success. The resume format will be more traditional, containing solid employment history information coupled with demonstrated accomplishments in your industry. It is also important to show in the same-industry resume a record of being able to adapt and learn concepts that are quickly applied. More than likely you will not be starting all over from the beginning in this career change and will be looking at a lateral move that offers different or better opportunities. This is made easier by showing your success in the past working within the industry.
The resume for the complete career direction change is more difficult. You need to know what the employer in the targeted career field is seeking but be able to relate your career history to those needs. Finding ways to relate differing industries in a way that will make you a viable candidate can be a challenge but it can be done. A professional resume writer is trained in looking for similarities between industries and finding accomplishments and skills in one that can be transferred to the other.
For example, I composed a resume for a gentleman who was moving from being an airport worker to being a network technician. He had schooling in his new direction but no experience. In his previous industry, he had been ramp supervisor for a major airline at a major hub airport. It had been his job to coordinate and choreograph all activities related to luggage/cargo onload-offload and to make sure that fueling and restocking of aircraft was accomplished. He had an excellent record in his work that we were able to translate into the needed work skills as a network technician. He managed multiple projects that were time-sensitive simultaneously. He had an excellent safety record as did the crews he supervised so he had the trust and cooperation of both workers and management. He had a head for security issues and had proven he could think out-of-the-box on unusual security issues that arose.
We brought all this into his resume and he landed a job very quickly based on his past work experience. His new employer commented that he could train him in the network skills he was still lacking but that he needed a leader to step in and take control of the IT department; leadership skills were harder to find that network skills. His career direction change was a success and he is now a Vice President of IT for a major international cargo carrier.
One resume size does not necessarily fit all needs, especially if you are conducting a career change. Most people realize this but they don’t know what to do about it. That’s where we can help.
Get Ahead of the Good Intentioned
As we move into the full-blown holiday season with all the events, parties, chores, and traditions that go along with it, many people who are considering changing jobs feel it is better to wait until after the first of the year to begin their job search. Many people make a new year resolution of finding a more satisfying job and don’t get started looking until the first or second week in January. It would be better to get started working on that resolution now rather than wait. There are several reasons for not putting off getting started on your job search until January:
Beat the crowd. Just as those who are really organized and smart do their Christmas shopping in January for the next year, those who want to beat out the competition don’t put off their job searching until January. Getting started now gets your name in the race ahead of the hordes of competition who are “resolution hunters”. Employers know those who apply in January are more than likely just fishing the market to see what’s out there; but job seekers who brave a job search in December, in addition to all the holiday rush, are really serious about looking for a better opportunity.
Clear Budgetary Picture. Companies whose fiscal years renew on January 1 are searching NOW for candidates to fill the positions that will be hired in the new year. If you wait until January, most new or renewed positions will already be filled by those who beat the rush. If a company needs someone in the slot and working by the second week in January, they are already looking right now for the right candidate. Wait until January and you’ll miss out.
The holiday season is also used as an economic indicator to many companies. If sales go well over the holiday for the company or other industries that affect the company, it gives forecasters a better feel for human capital needs for the upcoming year. They can usually tell by the first week in December if their hiring needs are on target or need to be increased. Getting your foot in the door now will give you a leg up when they start moving.
Tax Implications. Job search expenses are tax-deductible in most cases. By conducting your job search now, you can deduct the expenses on your 2005 taxes. Be sure to check with your accountant or tax professional for details.
Better Networking. The holiday season is prime networking season and can be a great benefit to a job search. Use the holiday parties to network to your next job rather than to just double your normal intake of food and drink. January is a dull month for meetings. Attendance is usually down at events that normally would be good networking opportunities during January due to weather and burnout by the holidays. Catch people in good spirits during the holidays and you can leverage that bonhomie into good job search results.
Maximize the Holiday Potential
It’s that time of year again – the holidays. With the seemingly endless rounds of parties and get-togethers, it seems more like holi-daze. That infinite stream of eggnog and cheese balls can be a great opportunity for networking toward your next job.
Networking is by far the most hated word in job search. I can preach networking until I’m blue in the face and most clients will still avoid it like the plague in favor of posting their resumes online. It doesn’t seem to matter that networking – just getting out and connecting with people – is still THE most effective job search method. Job seekers groan and cringe when they think of doing the meet and greet dance.
The holidays are ready-made for networking since opportunities for getting together with other people abound. Whether it’s the office party, the neighborhood open house, the church concert, or volunteer opportunities, the holidays are rich ground for networking that masquerades as celebration. Most of the time, the events you attend during the holidays are for fun. Now you can combine fun and networking and make them more enjoyable and more productive toward finding a new job.
The key in networking is to not go into it with an introduction of “Hi, I’m Joe. I’m an engineer and I am looking for a job. Do you know of any?” Instead, approach people as you would at any social gathering. Ask the other person about themselves and as conversation evolves be on the lookout for information that might be helpful to you. For example, a new acquaintance might mention that her boyfriend works for a certain company in which you are interested. If so, ask in the conversation if she knows anything about the company. You will probably end up with a connection to the boyfriend who can help you get your foot in the door. It’s as simple as that.
Don’t take your resume to a party! Do take a small notebook (small enough to fit in your pocket) to jot down names and phone numbers as people offer them. These names and phone numbers are the seeds from which you will grow and harvest your job search connections. Make sure you get the name and phone number (or email) of the person offering the information, too, so you can refer to them or send them a thank you note later.
The holidays are also full of opportunities to volunteer in the community. Getting out and working with toy drives, baskets for the poor, and other civic activities brings you into contact with the business community. These are excellent network contacts. By volunteering, you not only do something productive for others but you also end up rubbing shoulders with other professionals who are in positions to be of help to you in finding your next job.
So next time your spouse announces another holiday event that is a must to attend, don’t groan. Instead, look at it as a ready-made opportunity to extend your efforts without it seeming so painful. Networking can be accomplished just as easily over glasses of champagne as it can over boring luncheons at the local job search club. Put on a smile and get out there!
November 2005 /
December 2005 /
FROM THE BLOG
We specialize in
working with professionals in the high tech, engineering,
and manufacturing industries to organize, direct, and
accomplish their career goals. Our knowledge of technology
and our expertise in these rapidly changing industries set
us apart from all other career services firms and provides
outstanding value to our clients. See how we can help your
Career by reading our Blog.
< goto blog >