THINGS TO DO
READY TO GET INTERVIEWS?
Functional Resumes Just Don’t Function
At some point in time, someone somewhere came up with the idea that a resume that was organized by skills was a good idea. The functional resume was born. A functional resume is organized something like this:
Skill Category 1
Skill Category 2
Skill Category 3
Job Title, Employer, Dates
Job Title, Employer, Dates
Job Title, Employer, Dates
Functional resumes were pushed for people who needed to make a career change or who needed to camouflage something in their past history such as an employment gap or periods of unrelated type jobs. In the 70’s when the functional came about, it was a “black mark” for someone to have employment gaps or many jobs during a short period of time. The functional helped hide these deficiencies. Some people would use the functional in an attempt to emphasize key skills. Others would use the functional to try to hide education deficiencies or serious problems like a stint in prison.
At first, the functional resume was new and innovative and it probably worked moderately well for awhile. At least, until employers and recruiters caught on that the functional format was the format of choice for poor candidates who didn’t have the correct skills or who wanted to hide something in their past. The functional format then became a big red flag.
Another problem with the functional format is that employers can’t get a feel for the job seeker’s background. When did he use the skills he lists in the Skills Categories? How much experience in those skills? What job were these associated with?
As a result, recruiters and hiring managers absolutely DETEST the functional format. If you want to shoot your entire job search in the foot, use the functional format. Recruiters just won’t deal with it and round-file functional formatted resumes.
As humans, we think in terms of time – chronological; therefore, it is natural to prefer to read about a person’s job history in terms of reverse chronology. Think about it: we study history of all types in terms of chronology. It naturally makes sense to talk about job history in terms of chronology.
What is the best choice for a resume? Ask any recruiter and they will say “reverse chronological”. Don’t run the risk of getting round-filed or deleted by using the old, functional format.
A Million Dollar Resume
“Will the resume you write for me win me a $500,000 job?” That was the question I was asked today by a prospective client. I wished I could say “Heck yes!” but I couldn’t and remain honest. Resumes don’t win jobs. Resumes win interviews. People win jobs. Once the resume gets you into the interview, a whole new set of factors comes into play.
With this particular gentleman, his qualifications and salary history would justify a new salary of around $150,000 give or take a few thousand. He had good leadership experience, was in a growing industry, and had a solid track record of success. We could write a resume that would open doors for him. Once he stepped through those doors, the resume was secondary, serving more as an agenda for the interview. He could probably expect a salary offer that was commensurate with his qualifications.
Does that mean that two different people with similar backgrounds and qualifications can expect to earn the same salaries? Not necessarily. Circumstance, opportunity, education, initiative, and a myriad of other factors affect earning power. I’ve seen a diverse range of salary expectations from people with similar backgrounds. What makes the difference? The choices they have made in life, the opportunities they have been afforded, and often the risks they take.
I know a beautiful (and I mean drop dead gorgeous) young woman who was smart and had everything going for her. Her brains and her appearance could take her very far and very high in the business world. Unfortunately, she made some poor choices and is now a single mother attending a community college a few nights a week and waitressing to make ends meet. Her choices affected the rest of her life.
For an example at the other end of the scale, look at Bill Gates. He was on the traditional track to average success when he saw the opportunity for licensing software to the computer hardware industry. He took the risk and made the move. We all know the rest of the story. His choices affected the rest of his life.
Are you facing choices in your career or life? Is there risk involved? Are you missing opportunities because you simply aren’t ready to respond? Think about it.
The Sandwich Generation
There is a generation today that is experiencing something that most other prior generations have never had to deal with. This generation is between the Baby Boomers and the Gen X’ers and generally graduated high school during the eighties or late seventies. The Sandwich Generation currently are in high gear in their careers being in their late thirties and forties. Now is the time when they’ve achieved their advanced degrees, moved into the management offices, and are reaching their stride in the work world.
What is unusual about this generation is they are sandwiched between two other generations for which they have a great deal of responsibility. On one end of the time line, they have parents who are retired and getting to the age where they need special care at varying levels. That demand is made even more stressful because most adult children do not live near their parents. In past generations, our society was not mobile and families stayed in the same geographical areas making it easier to be available to take care of the needs of elder parents. Now people move a great deal and usually do not live close to their elderly parents.
A second factor is that the Baby Boomers had fewer children so whereas in prior generations there may have been five or six siblings to share the care of the parents, now there may only be two or even just one. That puts a greater burden on the Sandwich Generation.
On the other end of the timeline, the Sandwich Generation has children of their own who are still in school, preparing for college, or entering college. That creates a whole new set of problems ranging from financial considerations to emotional turmoil.
What does all this have to do with your career? A great deal if you are a member of the Sandwich Generation. More and more we work with clients who are not able to relocate due to proximity of elderly parents or who have had to take a leave of absence at the peak of their careers in order to care for a dying parent. Many people are seeking high level management positions that will allow them to work from home at least a portion of their week so they can work around doctor’s appointments and hospice care.
The stress endured by the Sandwich Generation shows up in job burn out and job hopping. Often, those of this generation will take a lesser position simply due to the lower stress it affords and “make do” on a lower salary.
Salary brings up the consideration of financial issues. Many Sandwich Generation members are partially supporting not only their college-aged children but also elderly parents. That means they need the highest salary possible for the work they do to meet their financial obligations.
Those of us in the Sandwich Generation are on a treadmill with no retirement of our own in sight.
Have you noticed all the advertisements on television in the past few months that concern retirement? It seems like everyone is pushing retirement financial management and other related services to the Baby Boomers. Maybe it’s because I’ve passed a milestone birthday this year but these commercials have been catching my eye, even though I’m not a Baby Boomer but rather the generation between Baby Boomers and Gen X. I wonder about these advertisements because it seems a bit late for Baby Boomers to be tackling retirement investing. Shouldn’t they already have their investments locked in?
Job search can be like investing. You really need to think long-term when you are searching for your next job. Is the job you are seeking now going to be a good stepping stone for the rest of your career? Is the company going to be a long-term employer or just an organization that gives you a boost? When you are planning out your career moves, pause for a moment and think ahead ten years. By looking at where you want to be at that point, you will be better able to judge what is right for you now.
Like Baby Boomers, you need to think about your age, too. Most Americans change jobs at least six different times over their lifetimes and change complete career fields three times. Many change jobs more often; techies tend to cycle through jobs about every 18 months. Depending on where you are in your life will impact the decisions you make about your next career move. Are you looking for the final job in your career from which you will retire? Are you looking for a rainmaker job to boost your income? Are you looking for something that allows for growth within the company or growth of skills?
Framing your resume to position you for the next job is not only a tactical action but it can be a strategic one when you look at your career path over time. Some things cannot be anticipated such as burnout, industry downturns, economic changes but you can outline where you want to take your career. A plan never hurts.
Fun vs. Work
I had some down time today in a waiting area so I picked up a magazine to read. I wish I could quote it directly but it was some kind of outdoors magazine. It caught my eye because the main story on the cover was about fun jobs. I am always interested in fun jobs so I read the article.
Essentially, the article was about several different people who found a way to combine things they love doing (primarily outdoor activities) with their regular jobs so they could have the best of both worlds. One person was a doctor who traveled regularly to Africa to rough it and teach malaria disease control. Another was a fellow who worked in Yosemite National Park as a PR guy between park authorities and rock climbers.
As I was reading through this, the thought kept coming to me that reality is generally not that generous. The lady doctor had graduated med school and blew off internship to go to Africa and make $16000 a year. My practical mind automatically says “What? No student loans to pay off?” The rock climber guy had attained a degree in philosophy from Yale. Again, my practical mind said, “Well, of course he took a rock climbing job. There are no jobs in philosophy.”
My point is that the article was a bit unrealistic. Does that mean you can’t combine fun and work? Absolutely not! In fact, the most successful people are people who are working in jobs that are enjoyable, challenging, and fit their personalities. Most successful people also have a good hold on reality while climbing their personal career ladders. They understand that balancing priorities is a key to finding success in life.
What defines success is as diverse as the world’s population. Some people define it by money, some by milestones, some by happiness, and others by inner satisfaction. What is success for you might not be that attractive to me. The key is to find what you value and build your life around it while still living in the real world. We hold responsibilities to other people other than ourselves and sometimes it’s easy to forget that in our self-centered society. Can anyone who neglects the people in their lives be truly successful in the long run?
Internal Resumes Don’t Work on the Outside
You may have been in this spot: a position has come open within your company and you wrote your resume and submitted it. You were one of the finalists for the position but didn’t get the job so you decided to look around outside the company to see what the market offers. Your resume worked great for the internal position so you assume it will do the same for you outside your company. You send it out and nothing happens-- no calls, no emails, nothing.
The reason an internal resume usually does not work outside the company is simple. The internal reader has a frame of reference into which he/she can place the content of your resume. If you mention a project on an internal resume, you generally don’t give details because the reader is already in the company and knows what that project entailed. The reader knows the impact that project had on the overall company mission or where it fell in the “scheme of things” for the company. You knew this frame of reference was there before you prepared your resume so you subconsciously did not go into detail.
Another advantage to an internal position is that you have a reputation established within the company. If you don’t know the hiring manager directly, chances are he knows someone who knows you. The hiring manager might talk to his internal connections to “check you out” and also talk to your supervisor to get the skinny on your performance. The grapevine kicks in to supplement your internal resume.
When you field the resume to an outside position, you don’t have either of these advantages – point of reference or internal recommendations – so you have to overcome that as much as possible with the resume. The resume is your primary marketing tool for external positions and it needs to sell your skills better than a resume for an internal position would. It has to do a better job because the hurdles are higher on the outside. Most people don’t understand this concept so they go after jobs on the open market with a resume that might have been prepared for an internal position.
Using Both Sides of the Brain in Your Resume
I saw a really unique resume today. Keep in mind that I glance at hundreds of resumes every day as part of our free critique program so when I can sit down in the evening and one sticks out in my brain, it’s something to write about. Not only do I remember his resume from the hundreds I’ve seen today (just like a hiring manager might see), but I remember his name. It was Marshall (last name withheld for privacy). The graphic design of the resume was such that it froze itself into my brain.
This particular resume was from a Creative Director who was a graphic artist. It is understandable that a graphic artist would have a very visually creative resume but that doesn’t always hold true. I’ve seen many, many resume (a few today) from job seekers in the creative fields whose resumes are as bland and dreary as a resume from a non-creative field might be expected to be. That’s a shame, too. For people in the creative fields, the design and creativity of the resume itself is a statement about the job seeker’s creativity and sense of design. When the resume is hum-drum traditional, it doesn’t help win interviews.
If you are in a creative field, have fun with designing your resume. Approach it as you might an advertising campaign or a brochure or other artistic project. Create it so that the design elements help your resume stick in the brain of the reader. Use color or maybe graphics (as Marshall did) or some cool background treatments. Use your creativity to SELL your creativity to the reader.
While revving up your design approach, don’t forget content. That was what was wrong with Marshall’s resume. He was not getting the interviews he expected and it was because, despite having great design and creativity, he had neglected the content. It wasn’t clear in words the value that he offered. While human readers would grasp the creativity, he was missing the computer search portions because the content was thin and did not give strong job descriptions.
Resume writing is really a balanced approach but most people concentrate on getting words down and neglect the visual. In Marshall’s case, he did a fantastic job on the visual but neglected the content. Make sure you have an all-around approach – use both sides of your brain!
Worry is Widespread
Are you worried about the stability of your job? If you are, you are not alone. An article in Advertising Age notes that 35 percent of workers are concerned about being laid off or losing their jobs, despite the economic recovery that has taken place since November, 2001. Essentially, the US workforce is fully employed at a 4.7% jobless rate. So why all the worry?
Because we aren’t stupid, that’s why. Doesn’t it seem like just when things are going great, something catastrophic happens and the rug gets pulled out from under us? Think of the dot-com boom, the 9/11 attacks, and now the war on Islamo-fascism. Things may be going good on paper but workers have been burned before by unexpected layoffs. That leads to being somewhat gun-shy when it comes to employment.
Jobs are being outsourced overseas and 80 percent of Americans live paycheck to paycheck with no real savings in reserve. Consumer debt has jumped 46% since the end of the recession. In reality, the US worker is not prepared for a job loss. That creates worry.
If your job was eliminated tomorrow, would you be ready to hit the pavement immediately in search of a new job? Would you have the funds available in the time of crisis to support your family, meet your debt obligations and fund your job search? Be prepared ahead of the game by always having an up-to-date resume ready. You don’t want to wait until you are unemployed and stressed to the max to begin your preparations. Think of a professionally developed resume as good insurance – insurance against catastrophe and investment for potential opportunities that may pop up.
Write with Purpose
There was a recent headline in the news that noted SAT scores were lower in 2005 than in the past several years. You can stand on all sides of the educational issue but one thing we all must admit is that something, somewhere is not working as well as it should. We can blame all sorts of factors on the decline in education of our children ranging from poor home lives, to lack of funding for classrooms, to the digital divide. Like most large disasters, the problem with education is probably not one single thing but a “series of unfortunate events” that culminate in declining performance.
What does this have to do with careers and resumes? The ability to write, of course. Most professionals today write the following types of documents on a daily basis – emails (by the score), memos, status reports, and agendas. What most professionals DON’T do is write persuasively and vividly. Basically, everyone is out of practice.
Do you remember senior English? You had to do a research paper with all those note cards and bibliography cards. You had to write essays. You had to write book reports. You had to write responses to reading. Most of us never had to write a persuasive paper or anything that had to sell something using words. Does that mean we can’t write? Not necessarily. It just means we don’t write the kind of copy that is required of a resume to win interviews.
Writing a resume is more than putting down job description and educational details. It’s choosing words that paint a brilliant picture in the mind of the reader. It’s selecting phrases that accurately portray competence, brilliance, value and ability without being overdone, underdone, or trite. It’s knowing what to include and what to leave out.
Can you manage all that without training? Do you want to trust your job search to the possibility that you can’t?
November 2005 /
December 2005 /
January 2006 /
February 2006 /
March 2006 /
April 2006 /
May 2006 /
June 2006 /
July 2006 /
August 2006 /
September 2006 /
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 >