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Friday, September 21, 2007
Wasted Time – Lost Opportunities

“I think it’s time to get my resume professionally prepared” is a phrase we hear fairly often. It is usually uttered by someone who has been in the job search for about six weeks or more and has had few interviews. I cringe when I think of the time the job seeker has wasted while trying to “do the resume” himself. Job search itself is a lengthy process, especially at the executive level of our clients so doing ANYTHING to actually make it take longer puzzles me.

So what makes people delay? Several things:

Budget – Time – Astuteness

The job seeker has a $100K education and twenty years experience in business; he’s embarrassed to admit that he, who knows himself better than anyone, has trouble writing his own resume. Reality is that smart executives know when to outsource something. You outsource when it’s cheaper, smarter, or when you just don’t have time to do it.

Let’s start with cheaper. If you are making $100,000 a year, you are averaging around $50 an hour. I’ve had clients tell me they’ve worked every night for a week on their resume and it still doesn’t work. Let’s say the job seeker spent 21 hours working on the resume (3 hours a night for a week). That would be $1050 of his time spent on something that doesn’t gain interviews for him. You can do the math – we’re cheaper, especially if you consider that “evening work” the job seeker did as “overtime” or “family time”. Lawyers hire other lawyers to represent them. Doctors hire other doctors to treat them. Smart execs hire Get Interviews for a new resume.

Next comes smarter. How often do you job search? Every three years is the national average so sometimes it’s more often and sometimes it’s less often. If you do something (write a resume) once every three or more years, are you going to be very good at it? No! Imagine if a computer programmer only wrote code for software once every three years! That software would be out-of-date, buggy, and not very professional. We write resumes every day so we know the market, know the trends, and know what employers are seeking.

Finally, time comes in – that precious commodity that you can’t purchase and you can’t retrieve. I recently saw a study that noted Americans spend more hours working than even the Japanese. Our home-time and family-time is extremely precious. Why waste it struggling to capture your professional value in a document? Rather than spending 21 hours, how about spending about 2 hours instead on your resume? That’s about the maximum time it takes for you on your side when you are working with our firm to develop the resume.


Time Gaps

Do you know anyone who has worked for the same company for thirty years? I don’t either, personally, but I occasionally still see them come my way when they are retiring or the company “downsized” to save on costs. It is fairly unusual for someone to have a continuous chronology of job experience these days. The average job lasts something like three years before there is a layoff or the employee moves on to greener pastures.

Another part of the “new employment order” is time gaps in employment. Most of the time, when someone is downsized, a date gap occurs, especially if the downsizing was a surprise. How many people have resumes that show a time gap after 2001 when the recession hit in the wake of 9/11? A very large proportion! It’s not unusual to see high level execs who started their own businesses at that time due to a layoff and who are now selling that business or retiring. Date gaps are not necessarily harbingers of doom and gloom!

There is also the “Sandwich Generation” – those of us who are in our forties who are “sandwiched” between raising children and caring for aging parents. Many people in this situation have no other choice than to take a leave of absence or some time away simply to be able to care for mom and dad. A date gap on the resume for family leave is quite common.

Many professionals take a year or eighteen months off to return to school for an advanced degree and that creates a gap in employment. Is it detrimental? Of course not!

So how do you handle date gaps? First of all, while you are doing whatever it is you are doing during the gap, make sure you keep up to speed on your industry. This is most important for technology professionals who get left behind by their peers if they simply take too long in the bathroom. It applies to other professions, too. If you want to change fields, you can take advantage of family leave to start working in a new direction – studying, volunteering, etc. The key is to not just “sit still”.

Second, don’t be afraid of them. Everyone has date gaps but that doesn’t mean you weren’t doing anything. You might be doing something VERY important during that period such as an internship or maybe traveling to a foreign country for immersion language training. You might just be staying home with dad to make sure he’s well-cared for, too. Whatever it is, you are doing something important so don’t be ashamed.

About the only date gap that I think is difficult to overcome in a job search is a prison term. That, too, seems to be failing further down on the list of “detriments to the career” if you watch the famous people making the news these days. I wonder how Martha handles her “date gap” on her resume?


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