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  • 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.

  • resume-writerWhen you considering hiring a resume pro while preparing for a multi-front job search, you may have to make some tough decisions. Your resume writer can’t realistically prepare multiple documents for the price of one (additional keyword research, potential rephrasing and re-ordering based upon the goal, new cover letter focus, etc.). So, how does one approach this dilemma?

    Option #1: Hire A Resume Pro Willing To Give Discounts On Additional Work

    When your resume pro prepares properly for the project, research is done on the industry and the position in question. A strategy is then developed based upon your particular qualifications mix to best bring immediate focus from the hiring authority to the relevant concepts. If you are seeking multiple position types (that vary in core skill utilization), you need a resume for each one to fully optimize your chances for success. Any credible resume service should be willing to prepare  additional targeted resume and cover letter packages at a discount. After all, you actual background doesn’t change and usually, the resume that was just prepared can usually be used as a starting point. check with any resume pro with which you consult to ensure this is an option.

    Option #2: Send A Resume Pro 100% After The Top Priority

    Perhaps you have a few employment areas that can be viable options for you, but there is one type of job in particular that you really want to land. if this is the case, your resume pro should develop a strategy to land interviews for that particular job. But along with developing strategy for that #1 target, your resume writer should seek opportunities to include concepts from the other job targets. But the kicker is, the #1 target should not be compromised in doing so. It is the resume equivalent to biting off one’s nose to spite one’s face. The primary target gets diluted, and now your resume is not strong enough for any of the employment goals.

    Option #3: Have A Resume Pro Develop An Excellent Base Resume That Can Be Retargeted As Needed

    If your employment goals are in the same ballpark, you can have a resume pro to build a document that gives you a good foundational resume that can be easily directed toward different, but related goals. Of course, this depends upon how comfortable you will be in making the resume changes yourself. A few keyword changes, profile entries and perhaps re-ordering duties and highlights to bring the most relevant ones to the top can be all you need. But be sure to seek consistency in phrase styling, formatting and spacing.

    Your resume is always to be written for your audience. So if you are not comfortable retargeting your resume and cover letter to pull attention to critical areas, be honest with yourself. Remember, a sluggish job search is a drain on your financial resources and delay in career advancement. Not to mention that the longer you are unemployed, the more “unemployable” hiring managers perceive you to be.

  • employer-loyalty-what-you-really-owe-themYou have been with your employer for 4 years now as an Administrative Assistant. While you have definitely shown employer loyalty, you feel the job is getting a bit stale. Your career isn’t moving where you’d like, nor is it moving as fast as you’d like. The company is a small one, with little growth momentum, so that is not likely to change. So you begin mulling over the possibility of hitting the job market. I mean, things are looking up for the overall economy, right? So you’re thinking,”Now is the time”. But just then, a little voice begins to chirp in your ear. “The boss depends on us so much, I am not sure we should leave. Who will the vendors talk to? Who will find the Gunderson file that is always getting lost? Who will correct the grammar of his written communications?”

    Loyalty. It is a virtue that is valued by all employers. But one that can end up being your demise if you aren’t careful.

    While you can be thankful to your employer for taking you off the unemployment scrapheap, remember that the basis of capitalism is pursuing one’s best interest. Unless you were hired because of “somebody you know”, your boss brought you aboard because you were the the best available of the pool of applicants that came along at the time. During that time, the likelihood is that you showed employer loyalty by putting in an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. Quid pro quo (loosely translated, “this for that”). You provided time and expertise, and your boss provided compensation. Other than that, the people you owe first are yourself and your family. You spend at least 8 hours per day at a full-time job. You need to be fulfilled not only from a growth perspective, but a financial one as well.

    In most cases, the only thing you truly owe an employer is two weeks notice before leaving. From there you determine a balance between your need to move on and time frame to do so. But if you find a new position and they want you to begin right away (you know, because you let a certified professional resume writer handle it for you), it would not be prudent to let the opportunity slip by simply because it would be inconvenient for your boss. Let’s face it. It you are “that employee”, it will never be convenient. But in most cases, if the bottom line suffered enough, the decision would likely be made to let you go. They may not like it. They may feel bad doing it. But if it is either you or their business, you will be the victim. 

    Employer loyalty is fine, but be loyal to yourself and your professional needs first. You’ll be sorry if you don’t.

  • good resumeI had a very long conversation with a client yesterday. He was perplexed as to why he could not find a simple job for which he knew he had more than enough qualifications and experience. He explained that he was a former business owner who had made millions in revenue. He also excelled at several other jobs over his career, all with varying skill sets. But he simply could not understand why the interviews were few and far in between, and why the few interviews he had did not result in an offer. Granted, this is not the first time I have had such a conversation. Although, he thought his situation was highly unique. But as resume writers, we see this scenario all too often.

    When most people prepare their own resumes, they do so from their own point of view. The theme of the project becomes “I have a wealth of skills and experiences that can benefit any employer. How do I summarize that best in a one or two page document and communicate it all?” What they do not realize is that the problem is their perspective. No shame in that. It is natural to take this approach. But it is dead wrong.

    A good resume is not written for the applicant. It is written for the reader. The question you should always ask when preparing your resume is “What problems does the employer likely need resolved, and how do I communicate my ability to resolve them?” Newsflash, people! Most professionals charged with the task of reading resumes really don’t want to do so. They are frustrated, distracted, and may have to go through dozens, if not hundreds of resumes before selecting a small number to come in for an interview. The last thing that you want is to have them fishing around in your resume to find the information relevant to their situation. Most will simply not bother, and move on to the next one.

    Another issue that our multi-skilled applicant will have is that if your resume communicates “executive” but the position you seek is “middle management”, most readers will step back to try figuring out why you are applying for a position that seems to be beneath your talent. Hiring managers are usually hesitate to bring aboard someone in such a situation simply because they wonder whether or not this type of applicant will be happy in a position that seems to be below their skill set. Or, they may feel that at the salary the available position offers, someone of that level will eventually want more money. Neither scenario is one that the hiring manager wants to take on. It simply means trouble down the road, resulting in having to go through the hiring process all over again.

    Employers look for a “good match”, and a good resume will clearly show one. That is not to say that an executive does not legitimately want a position with less responsibility. Many in the twilight of their careers seek opportunities to shed some of their high stress responsibilities. But your reader will not necessarily get this right away just by looking at your resume. The goal of a good resume is to give the reader what they need to make a decision to bring you in. So if that means not including the fact that you ran a $12.3 million business on your resume, then that is what you have to do. Does Target really need to know that you managed more than 2000 employees in a region in order for you to get an interview for an Assistant Manager position?

    Books are written for the audience. Movie scripts are written for the audience. A good resume is no different. If you want rave reviews, as well someone to call you in to learn more, give them what they need to know, not what you feel you have to say.

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