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Friday, July 28, 2006
Majority Rule
I once had a recruiter tell me something that, at the time, I thought was hogwash but which over the years, I have come to understand it was a valid point. The recruiter said to me “In every job you ever have, the best you can hope for is two out of three; you will like the job, you will like the people with whom you work, or you will like the location where you live/work. A combination of any two means you are doing pretty good.”

For the most part, that’s true. Most people find it’s two out of three. If you find yourself in a situation where you have three out of three, consider yourself fortunate. If you are only managing one out of three, you might need to consider some changes. Satisfaction isn’t something that is guaranteed to last, either. You might like where you live/work, like what you do in your job, and even like your coworkers and then a layoff or merger occurs and the staffing gets shaken up. You suddenly find yourself working with different people or a different boss and they may not be such a good group. Or your job scope changes and you suddenly have less responsibility which leads to boredom or you have too much responsibility which leads to burn out.

Most people I meet who are looking for a new job are looking for more challenge or a higher salary. A growing portion of new clients need to find a job in a certain location due to family considerations such as aging parents or health reasons so they are looking to make a change. Rarely do I hear “I just couldn’t stand the idiots around me!” but then, since that’s not really a PC thing to say, I’m not surprised. It happens, though. You spend as much if not more time with your coworkers than you do with your family so the need to get along well is a key factor in employment satisfaction.

So how are you doing? Are you achieving two out of three? What is making you unhappy? Is it time for a change?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Vacation Does Not Go on the Expense Account
The job market is in the middle of its summer doldrums at the moment. Many hiring managers and recruiters are on their vacations and so are many job seekers. Some job seekers who are working hard to find a job right now get frustrated at the market conditions and the slowness of response by hiring managers. It was with all this in mind that I read an article this morning at one of the online news sites that I found interesting. The article was about how many people actually work during their vacations. If you are a job seeker trying to get a response out of someone – anyone – to whom you have sent your resume, it might be a little hard to believe that anyone is working while on vacation.

The poll/study said that 43 percent of office workers take their work with them on vacation. It noted that was up considerably from a similar poll taken in 1995 when only 23 percent of people said they worked during vacation. The article made the point that the technology of today allows us to work in a more mobile fashion than eleven years ago. Laptops, PDAs, wireless broadband in hotels, etc. all contribute to the ease of taking your work along.

The article also noted that only 61 percent of Americans use all their vacation time. I think that says more about our state of life balance than anything. The Europeans (think the French) get mandated vacation time of something like four weeks a year. Somehow I think they use every last minute of it. We Americans, on the other hand, are continuing in our 200+ year old tradition of working overtime, extra time, on vacation, and during our commutes in order to meet our huge personal debt load that it seems everyone is carrying. Everyone owes so everyone goes to work.

And then we wonder why we are all sick with heart disease, take antidepressants by the bucketful, and scream at our kids. Is the Lexus worth it? Is the 4800 square foot house worth it? Is the 30 foot cabin cruiser worth it? I heard a great quote the other day and unfortunately I don’t know to whom to contribute it, but it went like this “Happiness will only be found with contentment is gained.”

My whole point is that if you are getting set to go on vacation before the kids go back to school – leave the laptop and the Blackberry at home. Life is too short to work all the time.

Monday, July 24, 2006
Education and Training
You want your resume to stand out and you want it to show how good you are at your job, how much you have learned over the years, and how successful you can be for the prospective employer. You struggle for hours with the job descriptions and rack your brain trying to get the accomplishments written just right. Then you come to the education section and you think “Ah, the easy part!” and make a long list of every training class you’ve ever been to, your degrees, and even that you were an Eagle Scout. Is that the right approach, though?

Sure, the education and training part of the resume is usually the easy part to write but including everything is not a good idea. Here are some brief tips:

Start with the highest degree. If you have an advanced degree such as a PhD or an MBA, start with that and work backward to your undergraduate degrees.

Leave off high school. Most people at your level have a high school degree. If you don’t have a college degree, listing the high school degree only emphasizes that you don’t have a college degree. Instead, list the training and certifications you have to your name.

Keep it relevant. A professional with twenty years’ experience will have attended a lot of seminars, conferences, etc. over the years. It is not necessary or even a good idea to try to list everything. Sift first for relevance to your current goal. If you are targeting marketing and you took a class ten years ago in Windows 3.1, it’s not relevant. Don’t include it. Sift secondly for dates. Usually, training and education that is not college related should be kept to the last five years or so. That’s a rule of thumb but sometimes there is training that is older that is relevant. If it’s older than five or seven years, think of relevance again.

Unusual training. The Eagle Scout designation is one I see quite frequently and I always look at it through the lens of time. The Eagle Scout is a difficult achievement but it is one that is achieved by high school students. Does the experience since high school also demonstrate leadership abilities? If it does, there is no need for the Eagle Scout info because it has been surpassed. Look at other unique designations in this light to judge whether to include them or not.

Friday, July 21, 2006
Proofreading Tips
The most common mistakes we see on self-written resumes are errors in mechanics. Misspellings, punctuation goofs, syntax errors, and spacing issues are common with misplaced hyphens scoring highest for most common mistake. Having an error-free resume is important because errors speak volumes to the reader. Mistakes in a resume tell the reader you do not pay attention to detail, you are a poor marketer, you are sloppy in presentation, and can even intimate lack of education. These are all messages you want to avoid giving in a resume.

Most people who do not write for a living rely on spell-check. That’s a huge mistake in-and-of itself. Spell-check is handy but it is not as thorough as it should be. For example, spell-check doesn’t show “manger” as a misspelling because it isn’t, even if you meant to type “manager”. Always make sure your proofread the old fashioned way using your eyes. Here are a few tips we pro’s use:

Print it out to proofread. Often, it is easier to see errors when printed on paper than when they just appear on the screen.

Read it backwards. Start at the end of the document and read right-to-left. This compels you to look at every word individually and negates reading for meaning.

Use a ruler. Read every line individually by using a ruler. I have a clear plastic ruler that has a highlighted area in the middle (I think it was made for accountants) that allows me to highlight each line and read it slowly.

Get new eyes. When you have worked on a document (any document) for a long period of time, you no longer see what you have written but rather see what you THINK you have written. Getting someone else to read it for you who has never read it before can help spot areas where syntax is off or you have other mechanical errors.

Hire a pro. Many people just aren’t gifted in writing. Others are. Outsource the entire project to the pro’s and save yourself hours of struggling with a resume in which you still do not have confidence in the end.

Read all numbers three times for accuracy. A wrong phone number can kill your job search.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Job Fulfillment
Have you seen that commercial about the guy who talks about the different kinds of bosses he has had? At the end, he says “Now I’m the boss.” I like the commercial in a way because it’s funny and the actor is dressed nicely in a warm, comfy sweater and he’s pouring award-winning wine in what seems to be his own winery. Nice picture.

The commercial disturbs me, though, because I think “Why did he waste so many years doing something he didn’t like?” Did he work 35 or more years to fund the last ten years? That really bothers me. Maybe I am having a mid-life crisis or something but time seems to move a lot faster than it used to. I work with people every day who are unhappy in their work for one reason or another. Some have stuck it out for very good, responsible reasons while others seem to have just been stuck for lack of a better option. In working with clients for over twelve years, I have come to realize that everyone should find something they enjoy and brings them fulfillment. Not to do so is to waste too much time.

Job fulfillment is something different to everyone. Simply providing for your family and making sure the kids have a good education is considered fulfillment by some. Other people are fulfilled only if they are living at the top of the income scale while others shun responsibility and enjoy the lack of stress in their lives. There is not one-size-fits-all definition of job fulfillment but you will know it when you find it.

If you are thinking of making a career or a job change, now is a great time. The market is good and the economy is chugging along. Define “fulfillment” and map out a plan to go after it.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Dog Days of Job Search
It’s hot today everywhere. You expect 100+ degree weather in July in the southern states and out west but it’s hitting triple digits in Wisconsin and North Dakota today. Ironically, this midsummer weather has an effect on job search. Usually at this time of year, the job market gets a little sluggish. The hiring process slows down somewhat; people go on vacation; budgets are put on hold pending the end of the quarter. It’s not unusual.

I had to go to a regular, weekly organization meeting today around lunch and I noticed that attendance was down considerably. Networking can become slow and more difficult at this time of the year simply because people are out of town or can’t stand the thought of leaving the AC to go to meetings. It’s hard to connect with people if they aren’t around!

Don’t be discouraged in your job search at this time of the year. Things will start to pick back up soon (especially once kids start school) and the speed of the process will start increasing. The average job search takes 12 weeks at the best of times so don’t start losing heart.

Now is a great time to hide out near the cool air vent and review your job search plan. Do some follow up communication with recruiters and with hiring managers from whom you haven’t had a response. Review your resume to make sure it is top-notch and is a useful tool and not a detriment to your job search. Make sure you have an updated resume version on the online sites. Use the time you have now to redouble your efforts and regroup so when everyone gets back from vacation in a few weeks, you are ready to roll!

Friday, July 14, 2006
On the Road Again
It seems like so many job seekers today are not only willing to travel but actually seeking jobs where travel is required. That’s a change from the traditional mindset that jobs that require travel are less-than-desirable. Part of the reason for the shift may well be the increasing ease of doing business in a remote location or while on the road. Technology has changed the face of business and part of that face includes travel.

I don’t travel so much for business as I do for pleasure but I have noted some basic changes that we seem to take for granted that weren’t available just a few short years ago. For example, even bargain-priced hotels now offer in-room high speed Internet connections. You can find free wireless hot spots all over the place now. I found IHOP has a wireless hot spot for people who aren’t afraid of getting syrup on their laptops. Most coffee houses are wired and I even found a marina that offers wireless connections for every boat slip.

I often think of the road warrior class as the traveling salesmen of the twenty-first century. Instead of traveling around in a Buick with a selection of brushes or encyclopedias, salesmen these days fly business class and carry a Blackberry. They are selling software and services rather than brushes and books. People used to take work home; now they work at home on a permanent basis.

I look at the changes over the past twenty years and wonder what the next twenty years will bring. What will be different in 2026? Think back to 1986 and just look at how lifestyles and technology has changed. It’s astounding to think about the future in the context of the past. Maybe those flying cars our parents promised us aren’t that far off after all.

Thursday, July 13, 2006
Through No Fault of My Own
Have you worked at a company that went under or went into bankruptcy while you were working there? If so, you have a lot of company. Many people have companies in their career history that didn’t succeed or had less than optimal results. Sometimes this makes it difficult for job seekers who have worked in such companies to come up with accomplishments and results to include on their resumes for those periods of time.

I recently had a client who was a CFO of such a company. He was concerned on how to handle that job on his resume because it seemed to depict his abilities in a poor light on the surface. We delved into the issue more in-depth and I was able to show him that the company’s failure wasn’t his fault, but rather that he did a super-human job of trying to keep it afloat as long as he did. In his particular case, the company was a start-up. He was not hired as part of the founding team, but was brought in after the company had burned through nearly all its first-round funding. The company’s product was a mess because it had not been field-tested or any kind of market analysis done before launch. The sales force was inexperienced in this particular vertical and the CEO was only 25. It was a disaster waiting to happen from day one.

In working together we found many personal accomplishments that he could point to that demonstrated his personal efforts. He had done many things that were wise and based on good thinking. We concentrated on those and kept the content positive rather than defeatist. It worked really well for him.

Company failures happen all the time. I think the statistic is that 50% of all new businesses fail within the first year. When you have larger organizations starting up, acquisitions and mergers become a factor. Rather than seeing these as detrimental to writing a good resume, view them as opportunities to delve into facing challenges. We all face challenges and to do so well is an accomplishment within itself.

Monday, July 10, 2006
That's Impressive
“One recruiter said he liked it at first glance and it seemed impressive, that's it for now.”

“Of those that did respond, most said my resume was impressive but the client was looking for specific skills and experience not evident.”

“The recruiters who have seen it say it’s an impressive resume but that’s it – no interviews set up.”

“I have an HR friend who looked my resume over and said it was impressive but it’s not getting interviews. I don’t know what’s wrong.”

“I’ve been told I have an impressive background by several recruiters but I am not getting the number of interviews I would expect.”

These are actual quotes from job seekers who have contacted us for a new resume because they are simply not receiving responses from their old “impressive” resumes. These comments are very representative of the confusion that most job seekers face in the job market when fielding a resume that isn’t working. Typically, a job seeker will spend several hours constructing a resume then send it to friends and colleagues for opinions. Because they are “friends and colleagues”, it is almost guaranteed they will not be brutally honest with the job seeker about either the state of the resume or the job seeker’s marketability.

The same is true for recruiters. Recruiters generally don’t give honest, truthful remarks about a candidate’s resume, especially if the recruiter doesn’t have a particular position that fits at the moment. Never burn any bridges – that’s a recruiter’s motto. If a job seeker doesn’t fit any open positions at the moment, that doesn’t mean the perfect position won’t come open next week and you don’t want to go back to a candidate that you’ve ticked off.

Unfortunately, the lack of honest feedback on a resume can be deadly. If a job seeker is using a poor resume, but everyone around him is afraid to tell him/her it’s a stinker, the job seeker is at a severe disadvantage. He is fielding a marketing document that doesn’t work and depending on it to win interviews. It’s a false sense of security and progress.

We review hundreds of resumes a week. Each resume is individually reviewed and a professional resume writer provides the job seeker with candid, often uncomfortable feedback on the efficacy of the resume as a marketing document in today’s job market. Not only do we tell the job seeker what is wrong with the resume, but WHY it’s wrong. The why part is crucial because resume writing is very subjective. Ask 10 different writers an opinion on a resume and you will receive 10 very different reports. But if we can tell you WHY something doesn’t work, you understand and are better helped.

Sure, we’d like to write your resume for you and many job seekers realize they need an ally like our firm in the job market who can guarantee results. They put their trust in us to market them successfully. Some take our resume feedback and rework their own resumes. That’s okay, too. At least we were of help and we are glad of that. Our ultimate goal is to help everyone find their next job quickly, easily, and with as little pain as possible. Many who attempt to rework their resumes eventually end up returning to us for a new resume anyway because excellent resume writing is more than “impressive” wording. It’s strategy, know-how, and experience.

November 2005 / December 2005 / January 2006 / February 2006 / March 2006 / April 2006 / May 2006 / June 2006 / July 2006 /


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