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Career Change

  • resume strategyIf you are fortunate enough to have had a long and successful career in one field and you are pursuing another position in the same area, consider yourself one of the lucky ones. For most job seekers, the search is more about survival than it is for career satisfaction. As we all know, the wider the net you can cast, the more likely you are to land something viable. However, this does not come without its challenges when it comes to resume strategy.

    Your resume can only hold so many characters and so many words. Additionally, your reader is only looking for so many skills, experiences, and qualifications. So the built-in challenge becomes “How does one develop a resume flexible enough for multiple goals, while focusing enough on any one reader to draw interest for an interview”?

    The answer to whether a viable resume target mix is possible depends upon WHICH employment targets are being pursued. For a resume to achieve any kind of consistency in performance, it must quickly communicate (usually within 10 seconds) that there is enough of a match for the HR manager or recruiter to explore further. Now, if our reader has to wade through totally unrelated content before getting to what matters to them, you will lose them. So the secret of a successful multi-targeted resume depends upon the commonality of the qualifications.

    For example, a resume strategy involving the targets Database Administrator and IT Project Manager, is likely to perform better than one for designed for a Database Administrator and Librarian. Think of your employment targets as being physical targets 30 feet in front of you. Then, consider your resume to be one handful of rocks. The farther apart the targets, the more difficult it will be to hit them with that one handful of rocks. But the closer together they are, the easier it will be.

    As a resume development strategy, it is recommended that you first prioritize the targets. Then, it is best to develop the resume to ensure that the primary target is fully addressed. Next, you would want to then begin integrating as much of the second target into the resume as possible. If you begin to notice a sort of dissonance between the content for each, you are going down the wrong path. The resume’s content should not fight against itself for attention. When this happens, think of how your reader will absorb this. While reviewing the documents, they will wonder why 50% of the information is even in front of them. At this point, you have lost the battle.

    There is nothing wrong with a diverse job search. In fact, for many people it is a necessity. But what will never change is that you must have the right tool to do any job. A resume that tries to cover too much ground will fail more often than it will succeed. When your employment goals have too many uncommon elements, you will simply need another resume to ensure both give you the results you seek.

    Be objective when it comes to your resume strategy development. It may be tempting to attempt to cover everything in one document, but remember, you are not the audience. Your readers are really pressed for time and do not want to go through the 200-plus resumes that have been handed to them. Make it too difficult to see your value and, well, let’s just say your search continues, shall we?

  • career managementToday you made headway. You applied to several posted job vacancies, made sent in cold resume submissions to target companies your research showed might be hiring soon. You’ve reached out to your members of your LinkedIn network for information on potential employment in their spheres and you’ve done the same when it comes to your social network. But if you are not taking the time to document your progress, you are being as efficient as you can be with your career management.

    You of course have the option to keep it simple. Some opt for the everyday garden-variety spreadsheet. While Microsoft Excel is of course an excellent tool, the advent of free cloud based services such as Google Docs give you real-time updating ability through the use of Google Sheets. But regardless of the spreadsheet program or platform used, it should contain the same track categories to help you stay on top of your job search. You will want to keep track of everything related to the search. Some column titles may include:

    Job Applied For
    Company Name
    Contact Name/Title
    Phone
    E-mail Address
    Mailing Address
    Date of Last Communication
    Website
    Date Resume Submitted
    How Resume Submitted
    References Sent
    How I Heard About This Job
    Job Description/Keywords
    Status of Application
    Comments and Notes

    It may not be just the vacancies and potential positions to which you have applied. You will want to track communications with those in your network that can either assist you with finding a position this job search cycle, or could be of value in the future. Remember, good career management is not just about the job that you need today. It is about building those relationships that can open doors tomorrow. In fact, if you manage your network properly today, your next job search is likely to be much shorter.

    If you are looking for existing job search tools to help with career management, there are several out there that are proven to be effective. Most job seekers already know about JibberJobber.com, which has been around since 2006. This platforms free version gives you the ability to track 250 companies and 250 contacts. Not bad. The premium version is only $9.95 per month. Others such as Careershft.com are a little more expensive, but is a more comprehensive tool with an interface that allows for more efficient management of your time and process. They also have patented technology for performing address and telephone searches for contacts. Others include ApplyMate and StartWire.

    Whether you use a career management tool that already exists, or decide to go to the spreadsheet route, it is always good to know when those targeted resumes were sent, to whom you’ve spoken, and the status of those applications, among other things. But what that list can also provide is new members of your network, as well as an excellent starting point for the next job search.

  • resume-writer-tipResume writers and career professional are often asked by clients for their opinion on what the next career move should be. But the truth is that this is not a question that can be accurately answered by us. Yes, we can give you a tactical analysis on the types of positions for which you seem to have the best qualifications match. But deciding on your career change should involve numerous factors of which we often are not aware.

    At any point in the fork in the road of your career, there are going to be several factors you will need to assess for yourself before a decision can be made. For example, what is your propensity for risk? Not everyone has the disposition “put it on the line” and take gambles. Some opportunities are safer than others. Perhaps not a lot of upside, but they are steady and you know they’ll be there. Then again, some careers are high risk/high reward. Taking such a road can lead you to the penthouse or the poor house once the dust clears. You need to decide which type of person you are. We are all made up of different stuff. Best to know your makeup before you leap.

    Another question you can ask yourself is whether you are an office person or enjoy working in the field. You are going to have to get up every day and go “somewhere” on your next job. Are you the type of person who likes routine of going to the same place daily, or is your thing working in the field? There are benefits and detriments to each. When you go into an office every day, you can benefit from the structure and have engagement and social interaction with fellow employees. However, the professional in the field usually has the freedom to control their own hours and they meet new people daily. When you close your eyes, which do you see yourself doing every day?

    Other factors to consider include:

    • Do you like the stability of a large company versus the dynamic environment of a smaller one?
    • What is your bank account looking like? Do you have time to pursue this ideal career path, or will the well run dry before you secure it?
    • Which of your skills do you see using every day and which would you rather stay away from?

    It is always best to piece together your target like a jigsaw puzzle. Work out the different aspects of what the job should look like for you based upon the totality of your personal makeup and situation, then step back and see what it looks like. Find the job that best matches those parameters and you’re off to the races!

  • resume strategyResume Strategy Challenge

    A client reached out with the issue trying to figure out how to deal with a nine-year gap in employment. As a mother of three, she was recently divorced and getting back into the workforce. Most of her experience prior to the start of her family was in administration and she was looking to return to something in that capacity. She completed an Associates degree in Business, but it was quite some time ago. Her goal was to find an office position she can utilize her prior experience in office administration.

    The old resume needed plenty of work. Along with a rather pedestrian looking header, the layout strategy just screamed for the reader to look at the dates, where of course, the nine-year gap was waiting to greet them. In addition, the spacing was inconsistent and phrasing left a little to be desired (by the way, many of these issues are pretty common in do-it-yourself resume attempts).

    Resume Strategy Resolution

    First things first. Our reader needs to be sold on the positives before the negatives even appear. Thus, we look to develop a resume strategy for keeping the eyes from settling on the dates. The old resume was missing any sort of an introduction, so we want to set a tone here. We built a profile and core competencies section with a focus on high-relevance skills (but the hard skills, not that soft skills fluff). I decided to space the lines a bit to make it easy for the eyes to rest here, but did so evenly so as to be unnoticeable to the reader.

    Next, instead of leading off with the Professional Experience section, I went either a small Functional Skills section. Now, note that I did not create an all-encompassing functional resume strategy, which raises red flags. This was a resume strategy with the purpose of being a reinforcement tool in support of the skill set before the weakness is eventually discovered.

    Traditionally, whenever a client has any significant experience in a field, Professional Experience section comes next. But we decided to roll Education above it to further push down those pesky dates. However, we removed the graduation date. We also added a few core courses for added relevance.

    When we finally got to Professional Experience, the idea was to make the dates blend into the background. Instead of using two lines for each employment entry, we used one. While the employment dates are traditionally aligned to the right of the page, we flip them next to the employer information. This prevented an easy scan of the dates. To further pull the eyes away from the dates, we bolded the job titles that led off the job header lines and made them slightly larger than the rest of the text.

    The client had five positions within her work history, but we only included three of them. With her date issue, we wanted to keep the document to one page. Additionally, her work history contained no notable highlights (at least none that she could recall). My normal resume strategy in such a case would be to use of bullet points to create white space. But with our goal to keep the eyes off of the weakness, I decided to place this information in paragraph form to keep the top of the resume the focal point.

  • sanity at workWhen No One Else On The Job is Invested in Being Great

    Not every place of employment is populated with high-energy, motivated champions eager to step up and lift the organization to greatness. This is no mystery, nor should it be. If by definition most people are “middle of the road”, then if follows that the organizations employing them will be mediocre as well. The problem comes when you have been hired under the pretense of playing a major role in helping to raise the company’s performance, but you seem to be the only one who is pursuing that mission. This is compounded even more when management and ownership are counted in this number. The result for you is daily frustration, as minimal gains are achieved due to consistently having to swim against the current. Here are a few tips for keeping your sanity at work in the face of such wide-spread complacency.

    STEP 1: Ramp Up Your Network Chatter

    Let’s face it, the worst-case scenario is that you may have to leave. Eventually. Networking and personal contacts have always (and will always be) the #1 way jobs are landed. If you are doing as you should, you would be doing this year-round BEFORE you need them. If not, start now, because you may need them soon if things begin to go south with later steps.

    STEP 2: Get Your Resume Together

    Why? See Step 1. If the time comes to fly the coop, you don’t want the added hassle of trying to get a resume written during what could be a trying period. This, as well as the step involving reaching out to your network, is emergency preparation.

    STEP 3: Decide Your Course of Action

    When the organizational environment has been poisoned to wholly accept underperformance, you have some decisions to make. You can:

    • Begin plotting your exit strategy in hopes of landing someplace where they care more about the job and direction of the organization.
    • Decide to take your case to management and see if there is hope for a turnaround. Perhaps there is a housecleaning coming soon. Of course, if you don’t like what you hear, see Bullet 1.
    • Say nothing, but change your perception of your job so as to reduce your ownership of the results in your own mind.

    Now, bullet 3 is the tricky one. What you are essentially doing here is lowering your expectations and psychological investment in the results of your efforts to keep your sanity at work. On the surface, this seems a bit irresponsible. But if you are stuck in this position due to circumstances and don’t see the environment improving, you have to keep your sanity in some way. Perhaps the job pays great comma have excellent benefits, is close to home comma or has favorable hours to allow you family time. These reasons maybe why you don’t pursue another option in mediately. So in the meantime, you will want to keep your stress levels low.

    If you have done all you can to help the team meet its mission, set some boundaries and do not let the lack of accountability from others encroach upon you and your peace. If you have been stressing out trying to “pick up the ball” everyone else has been dropping, stop. Answering late-night calls or emails as a result of the rest of the team’s proper functioning? Don’t. Have you executed your duties to the best of your ability but others around you not putting forth the effort? Document, document, document. Be sure that when things hit the fan and projects fall through, you can show where you performed to task and then some. If that major presentation falls through because everyone else on the team did not get the job done, you should not be expected to physically OR psychologically carry the entire load when management and ownership won’t.

    But for long-term career satisfaction, you should still plot your departure if the environment seems set in stone and you are looking to stay engaged in achieving personal career heights. Maintaining one’s sanity at work is key to keeping the rest of your life on track.

  • short term employmentWhen To Include or Not Include Short Term Employment Entries In The Resume

    A resume that is going to achieve maximum effectiveness does not follow a formula. Every applicant has a different mix of skills and qualifications, so their resumes should be adjusted accordingly. But even for any one individual, every situation will be different. How to handle short-term employment periods can cause headaches for novice resume writers. But did you know that in 2013 approximately 40% of employees who left their jobs voluntarily did so within 6 months of their start date?

    Before your resume writer decide to include or exclude your short-term employment stay within the resume, you and they should be sure to consider all of the factors to determine its net effect. First, consider the overall hole that it will leave in your resume if you remove the position. If you had employment immediately before and after a three-month role, then leaving a three or four month gap is not a big deal. But what if removal of the position leaves you with a 17-month gap? Then you may want to reconsider. Another factor would be where within the timeline the position appears. What’s this position within the last year or two, or was it 12 years back? If exclusion of the position from the resume causes a notable employment gap more than a decade ago, it will be less relevant to the hiring manager than if that gap happened within the last year or two.

    Also, consider how the position aligns with your employment goals. Was this a 6-month “pay-the-bills” job that in no way aligns with your career path for the position you are pursuing? Depending upon how the rest of your professional experience on the resume lays out, you may not want this non-relevant roll sticking out like a sore thumb near the beginning of your resume. But perhaps it was a temporary job that perfectly aligns with your career that was followed by a long-term role. This is likely a situation where you would include the position, perhaps with a note regarding the temporary status of the position (so that your reader doesn’t assume you were released for any performance issues or that you abandoned the post.)

    As with anything else, what you do and do not include on your resume, as well as where you include it, is governed by one rule: how it will affect your reader. When your resume writer approaches any strategy element to your document, every final decision should be based upon this strategy assessment. Short-term employment tenures do not have to be resume killers if you take the time to consider the big picture.

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