Untold Job-Market Stories: “I thought I was in a relationship”

My father worked for the same company for 35 years.  Now, if you work for a company for more than five years there is the stigma of “drank the kool-aid/can’t teach new tricks”.

In the past, the employee/employeer relationship was a long-term relationship.  The definition of a ‘good career’ was staying with the same company for a long time.  Companies valued ‘loyalty’ and employees with a long-tenure.

However, this relationship has changed dramatically as companies have become increasingly focused on revenue and profit.  In this new world, employees need to be productive on day-one and are to be replaced when their “usefulness” to the organization is limited.    Basically, we have become ‘interchangeable tools’ and the employee/employeer relationship has become one of ‘transactions’ with both parties focused on near-term rewards.

One factor driving this change is a change in corporate values.  In this new economy, profit is king and revenue is queen and employees can be hired and fired with little impact to the perception of the company.  In fact, companies are rewarded if they ‘dramatically cut headcount’ before problems occur thereby (hopefully) heading-off any slide in corporate valuation.

Why do companies do this?  First, they do it because they can.  There is very little stigma with ‘right-sizing’ your company.  Second, they do it because internet technology has given them an almost unlimited pool of resources.  Why take care of an employee when you can hire someone who is (generally) cheaper?

These changes have a profound impact on how we view our careers and search for a new job.

Writing a resume – where to start. Part 4

Writing a resume using this easy approach will now let you focus on the last two remaining pieces, namely: the summary statement, and your achievement statements.

So which do you approach first?

Here’s my suggestion: since your summary statement is a distillation of all your achievements, start with your achievement statements first.

Once you have all your achievement statements written, you’ll find writing your summary statement easier.

Remember, your achievement statements need to start with a powerful action verb (full list here) and include a numeric measure of that achievement (e.g. 20% improvement or doubled sales etc…).

Each achievement statement will tell the reader what skills you used, and it’s when you look back over all these skills you’ll see common themes emerge. This way, when you write your summary statement it will be aligned with your achievements.

But what if you wanted to write your summary statement first, and then write your achievements? that’s o.k., just make sure that your summary statement speaks to your achievement statements and vice versa.

What I mean by that? probably best if I use an example:

Say your summary statement speaks to you being a great supervisor, when you write the achievement statements, they need to show your skill in supervising others and the achievements you and the team had.

One last tip, don’t feel constrained to just write one achievement statement, or summary statement for that matter, write as many as you want to describe the same thing. You can always pick and choose which ones to use later. For now, just write as many as you can.

Writing a resume – where to start. Part 3

As you’ve probably gathered, the approach I’m using in this series (part 1 here, part 2 here) is to build up to the more difficult pieces and to leave them till the end.

The easier portions of your resume you can add easily, and will help with the writing more difficult elements (e.g. achievement statements and summary statement). We’re not quite finished with the easier items yet there are still some others we can add.

Depending on the type of work you do there maybe specific skills you always use and employers are looking for. These are the tools of your trade, or the software/hardware you work with and know. (for example, Ms Windows, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access etc…).

If you can list four or more of these items, then you can include these Key Skills or Technical skills on the resume too. It’s usually a good idea to put these in a section of their own, so they stand out. Putting the section at the top of the resume makes sure it’s one of the first things the reader sees.

Rather than just including everything in a list, think about formatting them in two columns like this:
Example

Ms Windows Word
Excel Powerpoint
Access Outlook

Or if you have items that can be grouped together consider using the Technical Skills approach where you group your list of items:

Example

Languages: C, C++, C#, VB, Java, JavaScript, J2EE, XML, HTML
Web Technologies: HTTP, ASP, CSS, AJAX
Databases: dBase, SQL Server, Oracle, MS Access, Sybase, MySQL
Operating Systems: MS Windows, UNIX, Linux, OS/2, Solaris

The evolution of the job-search process

Well, I will simplify by stating that I am going to focus on the past 100 or so years and not have to explain what happened before then.  Anywho, we find ourselves (Americans) in a thriving farm/agriculture based economy.  The way you found work was to look for it – and I really mean “look for it” – physically and directly.  The process was simple – ‘you wandered around and asked people for work’.

Then we got the industrial revolution + our communication infrastructure got much better.  So now the process had evolved to include ‘looking in the paper’ for a job.  In fact, you can actually look in a formal list of jobs for one that you like/suits you.    Of course, you mostly looked in the local papers for local jobs.  You generally didn’t have easy access to employment opportunities (and stats) from other areas.  Weather they be in the next county or on the opposite coast.

So the job-search process was (1) write a resume and cover letter and (2) look at the job listings in the paper and (3) send your resume and cover-letter to jobs that you want.

As our communication infrastructure improved, job-seekers had increasing exposure to non-local jobs.  And the job-aggregation industry started because now you could get a lot of information from many different places to try to match supply and demand (and make a few bucks in the process).

Then came the internet.

Now we have instant access to anyone connected to ‘the web’

and social networks,

and automated search engines,

and resume builders,

and pretty much everything that a person needs to search for a job in this ‘networked age’.

Oh, and networking is really important because you can access just about anyone through your network.

Which now makes us current.

So now we can see any job that is online (and all jobs are online)  – any job, any place.

And call anyone up at any time (or send them email).

Therefore, the ‘modern’ job search process is:

1) Write a resume and cover letter (with hundreds of fonts, styles and formats thereby ‘customizing’ your communications to ‘best position yourself’ for the role)

2) Email/snail-mail to very specifically researched roles and/or spam every listing that is somewhat close to what you want (or even better, all that contain a keyword)

3) Network with anything and everything.   Why?  Because 80% of all job-changes are through ‘networking’ AND the bigger the network, the better the network.  Why?  Simple, you now have ‘direct access’ to an exponential (lot) number of folks.   So, how do you network?  Well, you join linked-in and then look for everyone that you could possibly add to your network (and do so).

Oh yeah, and social networks, join those too to expand your network.

Now you have access to many, many people and job listings.

Managing these ‘moving parts’ becomes increasingly challenging as you increase the volume.

But we have super-fast computers!   And super-fast computers are, well, “super fast” – so they can do a lot of things very quickly.  And software!  There is software out there for just about anything!

Rejection Reply – how to get feedback?

I had a different post in mind for this morning, but Simon Meth got me a little riled up.

I can understand why he suggests recruiters stonewall candidates when it comes to giving them feedback on why they weren’t selected, lets face it who wants to get into a protracted discussion/argument with emotional candidates.

Sure “Most people will accept” that you are “unable to provide any details and that you thank them for their time and interest” because they have become so used to being treated this way. But to suggest “You should never give them any reasons” is just perpetuating the disconnect that exists and doesn’t help either party.
Surely there’s a better way for both parties to behave?

What I’d like to have read from Simon would have been some suggestions on how recruiters can provide feedback without getting themselves into a discussion/argument.

Yes, this cuts both ways, the job seeker who wants the feedback needs to handle their side of the conversation without getting all defensive/argumentative etc…

So how should job seekers handle the situation? Here to start us off is my take on how to ask and “listen to feedback” without getting into an argument.

Lets start with what we’re trying to achieve here: The minimum you want to achieve is to get feedback so you know what to do differently next time, and avoid burning any bridges by getting into an argument (or worse).

1. Ask questions, don’t demand answers.

The whole point of this conversation is for you to learn how THEY understood the skills, abilities, experiences you have. Recruiters are not mind readers, and you can’t expect them to “know what you mean” if you don’t tell them clearly through either your resume or the interview.
So your goal here is to get feedback about what needs to change. If they say you didn’t have enough experience, and you thought you did, then that tells you you’re going to need to polish the answers you give next time.

2. Listen to what is being said without interruption

The hardest part about asking for feedback is to hear it. After you’ve asked your question, Listen, don’t interrupt. when the other person has finished, then it’s your time to ask any follow up question or get more clarity.

3. Keep your ego, emotions in check.

This is really hard, but immensely important, leave your ego somewhere else and keep your emotions in check. Things you’ll hear will make you feel like you did wrong or you’re not as good as you think you are. Given your probably feeling a little stressed and upset having this feedback heaped on top may make you want to rant and rave (and you may even feel justified in doing this), but please don’t. Burning bridges and loosing your rag isn’t going to help you, as much as it feels good at the time.

4. Clarify any points, don’t get defensive.

You’ve managed to ask the question, you’ve not interrupted their reply, and your managing your emotions, but you hear something you disagree with, or you know they’ve gotten it wrong. Rather than give in to the urge to correct them, you can ask clarification questions e.g. “Could I have made the point better that I have 5 years administrations experience?” or “So you suggest it’d be good to highlight my 5 years admin experiences better”.

5. Thank them for their feedback, close on a positive note.

Recruiters, HR etc. are all busy people and while we may want them to give everyone feedback, it’s practically impossible for them to do that. so if your lucky and got someones time, do the courteous thing and say “Thank You“. You’ll be surprised how far that will go to help you in the future. And it’ll also leave them with a positive impression of you. Who knows it may help you get the next opening they have, and wouldn’t it be sweet if that opening never got advertised so the candidate-pool was just one. YOU.

Would love to hear your thoughts on what else to consider, or even how and what questions to ask.

Do you know how to look for a job – really? tell me then…..

One way to understand if you truly know something is that you can explain it to someone else.  So what is the job-search process?  Take a break and reflect on your understanding of the search process and how you would explain it to someone.

Now I am guessing that many had a response similar to:

1) write a resume and cover letter + post it online (one of the ‘big boards’)

2) search the job boards for listings and respond to ones that fit your skills/requirements

If you are particularly clever, you may have ‘join linked-in’ and ‘network’ as part of the process.

This is not surprising, because this is the same process that folks used before the internet.

But we now have the internet – so what have we changed?   Well, instead of searching in the newspaper we now search on-line, oh, and instead of mailing our CVs and cover letters, we now e-mail them…..

And, that + linked-in/social networks/networking provide us with a good view of the job search process.

Or does it?

Writing a resume – where to start. Part 2

So you took the plunge and started writing your resume.

You’ve added the easy stuff such as your:

  1. Contact information
  2. Education
  3. Employers
  4. positions and dates

So what do you add next?

How about some supportive information like places you’re a volunteer, or are a member.
These are fairly easy to add, you may not actually have any to add, which is OK.

When you’re going through the list of possibilities, keep in mind only list those that bolster and support your resume and the type of position your applying to.

Here are some suggestions for additional supporting information to add:

  1. Membership and Affiliations
  2. Volunteering
  3. Publications
  4. Licenses
  5. Certificates

Poets day Picks

From the labor day week here are this weeks poets day picks

Bills interviewing tips, and CM Russell adds a firm handshake is a must

Thanks to Joel for the heads up about this from

Kathy Sierra’s post about defining your own measure of success, which doesn’t have to include moving up the corporate ladder. The comments and links are worth checking out too.

The itzbig-blog talks about the using the resume “objective statement” versus “summary statement” debate. (my earlier posts on the same topic- here and here).

Have a great weekend

Top 5 Job Application Mistakes to Avoid

In the entire span of your adult life, you may have filled out many job applications. However, it is possible that you have made some very common mistakes. No, completing an application is not rocket science. However, there are certain rules of etiquette that apply and there are specific ways to phrase things in order to sound like a more appealing candidate. Below are the top five job application mistakes that you can easily avoid.

  1. Not Following Directions – Something as simple as “Last Name First” can be easily overlooked by an applicant. However, employers notice when you do not follow instructions, as it may reflect on your ability to follow instructions on the job.
  2. Spelling Mistakes – If you are completing a job application by hand and do not have the convenience of a spellchecker, then stay away from big words you aren’t sure about. Not all of us are spelling bee champs and there is nothing wrong with that. However, spelling words incorrectly on a job application looks unprofessional.
  3. Scribbling Out Words – If you are completing an application in person, you will only have one chance to get it right. (Asking for another application because you “messed up” is not a good idea.) If you misspell a word or make a mistake, do not fret. Instead, you should draw a clean, horizontal line through that word. Never scribble things out in a messy fashion.
  4. Incomplete – Always hand in a complete application, leaving no blanks on the form. Employers would not include these questions on the application if they weren’t important to them. If some questions do not apply to you, simply add “Not Applicable” or “N/A.”
  5. Using Negative Phrases – For obvious reasons, employers regard phrases like “I quit,” “I was fired” and “I was terminated” as red flags. If a job application asks for your reason for leaving, simply add “Job Ended” if you were fired.

Avoiding the common mistakes above can greatly increase your chances of being short listed for a position. Even if you have perfected a professional resume, some human resources departments insist that applicants complete a job application. Therefore, you should take the same care when filling out an application as you did when creating your resume.

This post was contributed by Heather Johnson, who is an industry critic on the subject of becoming a pediatric nurse. She invites your feedback at heatherjohnson2323@gmail.com.

Writing a resume – where to start.

The news is full of bad-news recession talk over the last few month, and you may already have started to think about taking steps to be ready, just in case.

If all you’ve done to date is thinking, CONGRATULATIONS! it’s a good start, at least you’re not burying your head in the sand about things.

I bet the first thing on your list is to update your resume.

And I bet (double or quits) you haven’t quite gotten round to start writing your resume yet.

Sure it’s a big job, it’s important, but let’s face it, cranking open Word and writing your resume just doesn’t motivate you.

So how about you do it in some nice easy steps – no need to stress yourself about having to get it all done in one go.

So here’s my suggestion:

Start with the basic stuff you don’t need to think too much about, like your contact information, your education, the employers and the positions you’ve had. That’s pretty straight forward, right?

When you add your information to the Resume builder in Virtual Job Coach, The resume is broken down into sections, adding your information is as simple as filling in a few boxes.

So go right ahead, sign up for a free account in VirtualJobCoach and start writing your resume the easy way.