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Archive for the ‘Career Change’ Category
In Part 1, I covered the top two mistakes that I see clients make on their resumes. In this post you’ll learn how to avoid six more resume pitfalls. Topping off this list:
Your resume places too much focus on responsibilities, not enough on accomplishments
Which phrase do you think is more powerful?
- Responsible for running monthly financial reports.
- Redesigned monthly financial reporting process, cutting production time from one month to five days.
We both know that #2 has a greater impact. Phrase one was taken from a client’s “before” resume, while phrase two was taken from her “after” resume, re-written to be more accomplishment-oriented (and then used to successfully accomplish a career change).
Always strive to go beyond responsibilities and include accomplishments (i.e. the “so what’s”). Showing the impact of what you’ve done separates you from your competition. If you can’t use numbers to quantify impact, try “substantially improved”, “well-received” or something similar.
You can also use well known names of things, organizations or places to create memorable images. For example, one client wanted to demonstrate his entrepreneurial ability as it was part of a sales position’s requirements. He could have written “Bring an entrepreneurial approach to sales” (which was what he had originally). Instead, we changed this bullet point to the more effective “Featured in Entrepreneur Magazine as a dynamic sales entrepreneur.”
Your resume is too hard to read
I often get resumes that are intimidating “walls of text.” They are written in tiny fonts, or with non-existent margins, in service of a notion that their resume just has to be on one page (or is it two pages?).
In terms of importance, the number of pages is way down on the list. Far more important— your “how I can help you” message needs to jump off the page in 10-30 seconds. And readability (not length) is key to getting your message across quickly. Make your resume easily scan-able, so an employer can quickly pick out the information you want them to see. This means:
- No big paragraphs—people don’t want to read them! In fact, paragraphs of more than three lines should be banned from your resume.
- Use bullets, and bolding and/or underlining of key phrases to make your accomplishments stand out.
- Use plenty of white space to make the resume easier to read. Let the resume be as long as it needs to be to tell the “here’s how I can help you” story. I and other Club coach-colleagues have had countless successes with more senior clients using 3-4 page resumes to land interviews! On the other hand, sometimes one-page is just the right length (especially if you have less experience).
- Use readable fonts: Times New Roman 12-point or Arial 11-point are roughly comparable in size, and both work well. Some people have trouble reading smaller fonts on printed resumes.
Don’t forget the “Golden Rule” of resume writing: Your “how I can help you” message needs to jump off the page in the 10-30 seconds a potential employer is looking at your resume. Everything you do on your resume should serve this #1 rule.
Your resume uses a non-chronological format
Some jobseekers try different formats to hide a lack of conventional experience or gaps in work history. This doesn’t work because the reader is expecting a chronological format with the most recent dates first; they either don’t take the time to figure out your format, or think you’re hiding something. Either way, you lose. At the end of the day, an employer wants your resume to quickly tell them both what you did and when.
If you feel you have problems with your experience, e.g. gaps in time, different industries, over/under-qualified, etc. the summary section discussed in Part 1 will solve most of these problems. And as we discussed in Part 1 as well, pick and choose what you want to include in the chronological portion that follows the summary section.
Your resume contains too many meaningless phrases
I get many resumes filled with phrases like “results-oriented problem solver” or “references available upon request.” It wastes valuable resume real estate, and the reader’s time, to have these obvious, meaningless phrases on the resume. So leave them out!
Your resume starts off with an “Objective”
Every potential employer wants to know “how can you help me.” The objective statement by definition focuses instead on how they can help you! Keep your focus on them—don’t use an objective statement. Instead, have a summary section which shows the title on top representing your job target.
You pay too much attention to resume “rules” that violate the #1 Rule
So-called rules like “leave out anything older than 10 years,” your resume has to be on one page (or two pages, depending on the telling), the company needs to come first, and then the job title, etc. etc. all have one thing in common; implementing them should depend on the situation– that is, whether or not each of these items serves the aforementioned “Golden Rule.” For example, in some cases your job title may resonate more with a potential employer than the company name, while in other cases the reverse may be true. Change the relative emphasis accordingly. Check out this post for an additional case study.
To summarize the common mistakes from both parts 1 and 2 of this blog post, here’s a list of Resume do’s and don’ts:
- Have a summary section
- Make sure your summary matches your pitch
- Make sure your resume positions you for the particular job
- Be selective about what you include and choose to emphasize
- Make your resume accomplishment-oriented
- Use the jargon of the job you’re going for, not your last job
- Use boldface and/or underlines for emphasis
- Use bullets, single sentences, or very short paragraphs
- Use action verbs- “Created”, “Led”
- Use white space for easier reading
- Make sure everything you do on your resume supports the “Golden Rule”
- Be too literal with your work history– instead emphasize the relevant experience
- Use dense paragraphs
- Have an “objective”
- Write superfluous things like “References Available…”
- Use a non-chronological format
- Throw in ‘no kidding’ phrases, e.g. “results oriented problem solver”
- Be overly concerned about resume length
- Follow “rules” that violate the Golden Rule
(Update: Part 2 is here) When a potential employer reviews your resume, s/he thinks: a) Can this person help me to do my job? and b) I have about10-30 seconds to scan this resume. Hence, the Golden Rule of resume writing: Your “how I can help you” message needs to jump off the page in the 10-30 seconds it’s being reviewed. You’ll hear many rules (like this one) tossed around by experts. My suggestion from experience and training is to forget all those other rules, and just follow this one rule. Anything that serves this Golden Rule is good, anything that doesn’t is bad– which brings us to the top two resume mistakes:
Mistake #1: Too much focus on your current or last job, not enough on the job you want
Taking the extra time to portray your experience in a way that’s relevant to a potential employer is always key, and is even more imperative when you’re seeking to change industries or responsibilities. Your resume should tell a story about how your background can be useful to a hiring manager. Emphasize the things that will help the employer, and de-emphasize, or leave out, the things that are not relevant. In other words, don’t waste their time and hurt your chances for the sake of being literal or complete.
A summary section goes a long way toward creating a resume that resonates. Think of it as your “elevator speech” or “pitch” right at the top of your resume– the first thing a reader sees. In a summary section, the most relevant, impactful accomplishments are at the top of the first page where they will be seen, not buried somewhere on page 2 (you can repeat the accomplishments again further down in the resume, under the appropriate job).
Case Study: Lori came to me for help after getting nowhere with her job search. I quickly spotted the problem when she showed me her resume. She was going for a Business Development Director position but her resume led off with her most recent job as a social worker in private practice. No wonder hiring managers were sending her resumes to the “round file”!
So, in Lori’s case, we placed a title at the top of her resume, in large font, that reflected her job target–“Director of Business Development.” The rest of the summary section contained keywords and phrases that resonated with her target audience (e.g. “marketing,” “publicity,” “staff leadership,” etc.) and separated her from the competition. Also, crucially, the summary section contained her “greatest hits” – bullets about her business development successes that were pulled from throughout her resume.
Mistake #2: The resume is a literal list of everything you have done
If you keep in mind the aforementioned rule, you’ll pick and choose what you want to include in the resume. Taking this targeted approach to your resume means often leaving out significant accomplishments and responsibilities because they distract from showing how you can help an employer in your target profession or industry.
For example, in Lori’s resume, we left out an impressive accomplishment– that she received countless thank you notes from her therapy clients about how she helped them overcome their psychological challenges– because it would distract from her business development pitch. Instead, we included how she attracted new clients to her private practice by delivering presentations– a point that is very relevant for her business development job target!
To further this same example, in the “non-summary” section of her resume, we chose the wording carefully for Lori’s most recent position. We could have left her job title as “Therapist,” the way she first showed it to me. Instead, we chose “President” of her private practice. While both ways of phrasing her job title are true, the latter is far more relevant for her business development job target.
By the way, after making all these changes, Lori started getting the interviews she wanted! In Part 2 of this post, I’ll cover additional common resume mistakes and how you can avoid them.
LinkedIn’s “Advanced People Search” feature is a fantastic tool for finding people in your extended network or shared groups who can help you to reach your career goals. Including boolean logic in your search terms such as AND, OR, NOT, parenthesis and quotes around phrases can greatly expand its power. To demonstrate, here’s an example of a client who was interested in obtaining a marketing manager or director position at Pfizer. My client began her people search as follows:
- On the upper right of her screen, she clicked on “Advanced,” to the right of the “people” search box.
- Under “Location,” she selected “In or Near” her zip code, “within 50 miles.”
- She kept “Sort by Relevance” (experiment with these sort options to vary the results).
- Under “Company,” she entered “Pfizer,” and just below that she selected “Current,” meaning the results will show only people who currently work there.
- She then clicked on “Search” at the bottom.
Her result: Thousands of entries came up. Within the first couple of pages she saw many 2nd degree connections (people to whom she could be introduced by her first degree contacts) working at Pfizer. But she realized she was not getting enough senior marketing people in her results– that is, people in a position to hire her. So she refined her search by adding the following criteria:
- For “Title” she entered: Marketing AND (Senior OR VP OR SVP OR Executive OR Chief OR “Vice President”) AND NOT “Senior Manager” and selected “current” just below to ensure these keywords were in their current job title.
Notice that entire phrases such as “Vice President” can be searched for (or in the case of “Senior Manager” excluded) by enclosing them in quotes, and that the boolean logical connectors (AND, OR, NOT) must be capitalized.
The result—my client found the potential hiring managers at Pfizer that she was looking for, including a Senior Vice President- Marketing, Senior Director/Group Leader- Consumer Marketing, and a VP – Head of Global Marketing & Brand Strategy. The first two of these were second degree connections. She shared a group with the third one, meaning she could reach out to this contact by messaging him directly through their shared LinkedIn group.
I’ll have lots more to share about leveraging LinkedIn for your career in my ‘LinkedIn Intensive’ webinar on June 6, 7-8:30pm EST.
I’ve been sharing LinkedIn’s new Skills section with clients; they’ve found it very helpful for a range of activities including composing a resume or LinkedIn profile, evaluating a career change, deciding on companies to target, identifying contacts for meetings, and staying current in their present job. Once you input a skill you possess or want to learn more about, you get a “skills analysis” that shows you:
a list of people in your network with the same skill in their profile. This list is great for suggesting people you may want to try and meet with.
companies that hire for the skill you’ve selected. Use this list of companies for your job-search marketing plan.
a list of additional related skills (i.e. other skills that people have on their profiles along with the skill you entered). Use this list as source material for “skill” keywords to add to your LinkedIn profile or resume.
LinkedIn Groups to join that are related to the skill you’ve selected.
A listing of job openings that use this skill.
A definition of the skill (e.g. from Wikipedia, etc.) that can be useful in exploring new career options.
To start using this feature, go to “More” on the top menu of LinkedIn, and in the dropdown, select “Skills.” Then type in the skill you want to analyze or add to your profile. As you type, LinkedIn will suggest the word you’re looking for. For example, if I start to type “financial advisor” LinkedIn prompts me to select “financial advisory” from among a list of related skills. Try to select one of the skills it suggests for you that matches most closely. To add to the “Skills” section of your profile (increasing its appeal to recruiters sourcing candidates on LinkedIn), click on the “Add” button on the analysis page.
UPCOMING CAREER WEBINARS
I’ll be covering this new feature, and far more, in the webinars I’m running in December that are open for registration, including Finding YOUR Right Career (Dec 6), Resume and “Pitch” Intensive (Dec 13), and Getting Interviews (Dec 20). Feel free to check out my seminars page for more information on these and other webinars.
This blog entry was originally posted in the Glasshammer’s website.
Some clients who first come to me for help after a long and frustrating search attribute their difficulties to something they can’t control, such as age, experience (i.e. over- or under-qualified), weight, ethnic background, gender or, less often, some other physical feature. Yes, these biases do surface at times in the job search. But, once these clients start describing their search in more detail, nine times out of ten, I see that the problem is actually in their job-search strategy or execution!
So, if you have that “out of control” feeling, here’s a checklist of 10 things to make sure you are doing, to help you get back into the driver’s seat and on the road to the job you want.
1. Are you “positioning” yourself correctly? That is, are you focusing on how you can help your target audience? This means dropping the jargon that is only relevant to your current or last job, and using the language of your next.
2. Are you too general, or trying to be all things to all people? This strategy can be tempting because this way you don’t rule anything out. The problem with the too general approach, however, is that people are not going to take the time to figure out how you can help them. Or, they will put you in a place you don’t want to be! Having a specific resume and pitch for each job target is the way to go.
3. Are you too scattered, trying to go for many different job targets at once? It really helps to focus on one thing at a time, with some overlap. You want to be perceived as an “insider” in the industry or profession you are targeting, and to do that you need to focus and build your network within your target. Become known, have conversations with lots of people!
4. Are you going out and getting what you want, or just waiting for the ad to show up or the headhunter to call? The way people find most jobs these days is via leveraging their network and contacting people directly who they don’t know. LinkedIn can be a great help with these latter two approaches.
5. Are you being proactive at all stages of your job search? That means, you need to be following up, and keeping in touch, with people in your network or people you have met with. Don’t let these contacts disappear into a black hole! A client once followed up with 23 phone calls (not messages– just leave 1 or 2!) before he got to speak to the person he was trying to reach– and then they thanked him for being so persistent and gave him an interview!
6. How are you communicating? Is your “message” getting lost because of poor delivery? Get feedback from someone on how you come across in all your communications channels – resumes, emails, phone-calls, cover letters, and interviews.
7. Are you meeting with both the right people, and enough of the right people? At the Five O’Clock Club, we say that you must have six to 10 “things” (i.e. conversations) in the works with people who are in a position to hire you at any one time, because five of those six things will fall away through no fault of your own. Don’t just hang all your hopes on that one position you are interviewing for! Building up enough volume is key– if you are doing everything else right, it’s still a numbers game.
8. Are you targeting enough positions? If you have only 10 companies that you are going for, each with two positions that would be suitable for you (whether the position is open or not), that means only 20 positions you are targeting. It will thus take you forever to get a job because you have to wait for one of the 20 people to leave (or for a new job to be created)! The Five O’Clock Club recommends as a rule of thumb that you target 200 positions. Again, it’s a numbers game.
9. Are you spending at least 35 hours a week on your search if you are unemployed, and 15-plus if you are employed? I tell clients to treat their job search like a full time job. Get to your desk at 9am and leave at 5pm! Don’t kid yourself that you are in a serious job search if you spend only one or two hours a day on it!
10. Are you having fun? Take breaks from this search and go do what you enjoy doing! If you’re not taking care of yourself, it will come through in your interactions with potential employers! Spend at least a couple of hours a day doing something you enjoy.
The latest BLS report showed the unemployment rate stuck at a dismal 9.1%. BUT, more positive news for many jobseekers can be found within the data. In particular, the unemployment rate for those with a bachelors degree or higher remained much lower than the overall rate, at 4.3%, while the unemployment rate for all those 25 and over was a lower 7.8% (teenagers aged 16-19 continue to see very high unemployment rates, at over 25%). The latest Bureau of Labor Statistics report can be read here.
In addition, the website Simply Hired, a Google-like aggregator and search engine for job-postings across the web, just released a report that shows job-postings up by 16.5% year-over-year. The entire report contains posting statistics by industry, occupation, region, and company that can be very useful if you are thinking about new job targets or a career change.
For example, results by industry show sharp year-over-year increases in job postings for the retail (150.6%), transportation (81.3%), and automotive (34.1%) sectors, while declines were seen in military (-34.6%), technology (-25.3%) and legal (-12.5%). Another measure, “job competition” (the ratio of unemployed to job-openings) reveals the least competition in Washington DC (ratio of 1:1) and the most in Miami/Ft. Lauderdale (9:1), with a national average of 4:1.
On a personal note, I (and other Five O’Clock Club coaches) are continuing to see clients at all levels land jobs they are interested in. The bottom line– while the job market remains difficult for many of you, the details within the data reveal substantial opportunity, and a more upbeat outlook.
Indeed.com, an online job-search engine that aggregates job postings from across the web, released an analysis of employment trends by industry and geography. Their findings could be helpful to those of you who are looking to develop job targets– I recommend checking it out. My observations from their data:
- The health care sector shows the largest opportunity by far, with a total of 813,000 job-postings, followed by Retail (437k) and Information Technology (392k).
- Predictably, “Media and Newspaper” and Real Estate are at the bottom of the pack, at 53k and 34k, respectively.
- “Financial Services and Banking” is bouncing back (I’ve seen this in the experiences of my own clients)– with 50% growth year over year, to register the fourth highest number of postings (289k).
- Miami, Los Angeles, Riverside CA, Las Vegas, and Detroit were at the bottom in terms of the number of unemployed per job-posting.
- New York took the # 4 spot of the top 50 regions listed, and DC was #1.
When forming your job targets, don’t just look at the external job-creation data. The “internal” data counts for as much or more! That is, consider what you enjoy doing that you are good at, how your next job should fit in with your long term vision for your life, and what work related-values you just can’t compromise on.
Many (or most) of you are probably on LinkedIn to some extent (if you’re not you should be– www.linkedin.com). LinkedIn is an awesome tool for getting results in your job search. But are you really getting the value out of it that you could be? Use LinkedIn to advance your search in three ways: 1) Research career options, organizations, people you should contact, or to prepare for meetings/interviews, 2) Get interviews via building and leveraging your LinkedIn network, and 3) Get interviews by contacting people directly who you don’t know. All of these are of course covered in my book. In this post, I’m going to share some LinkedIn features that are useful for job-related research.
A note on the importance of research: it’s your best friend in the job-search. Use research to a) explore career/industry changes- research possibilities to narrow down the list, b) learn how to market and “sell” yourself effectively for different positions, c) find companies you want to work in, to focus your efforts, d) find people to contact in those companies, e) prepare for meetings or interviews. Here’s an overview of the LinkedIn features (all accessed from the top menu) to use for each of these areas. For more information, check out LinkedIn’s help feature (in the main menu under “More”, “Learning Center”), or read my book!
LinkedIn “Answers”: Use this feature to ask people in different fields or industries about their professions, the skills you need to excel, how to position yourself effectively for career change, which career is right for you, etc.
LinkedIn “Groups”: Find groups that represent targets you may be interested in. For example, if you are interested in Human Resources Management, do a search using those keywords, and join one of the groups you find. Then monitor or contribute to the discussions, or ask questions of group members. For this approach to really be effective, you need to find high-quality groups, meaning– a) a good number of active, interesting discussions (many groups have this feature, but other unmoderated groups are dominated by member sales-pitches), b) a large number of members who are employed doing what you want to do (or who can hire you).
LinkedIn “Companies”: When you go to the company page, you will see a list of the organizations people recently left the company for, or came from. This feature can be useful in coming up with ideas for other organizations to target in your search.
“Advanced” People Search: Use keyword searches, job title searches, etc. to find people in your network or in shared groups who do what you might be interested in doing, or who are in a position to hire you. Then contact them for informational meetings (initiating this contact is both a science and an art– the subject of a future blog post).
LinkedIn Profiles: Do a search under the names of your job-target role-models. Their public profiles (if they are complete enough) could give you a clue as to how to attain similar success, or make a similar transition. Similarly, look at the profiles of people who you are meeting/interviewing with, to help you prepare– e.g. asking the right questions, proposing the appropriate solutions or sharing the right examples from your experience.
In LinkedIn’s blog and a recent Wall Street Journal article, a new LinkedIn capability was described. Career Explorer is designed to help college students use LinkedIn’s network to make career decisions; it’s now being tested in 60 schools.
Career Explorer looks like it will be quite helpful to students (and others as well as it gets rolled out to a wider audience), for a couple of reasons. First, it’s a helpful way for students to get introduced to LinkedIn– an essential job-search/career development tool for many professions. Today’s college students are Facebook-centric; their Facebook use is almost like eating– just another vital part of the daily routine. But many (or most) have not yet grasped that Facebook is no substitute for LinkedIn in aiding their professional advancement. The Career Explorer tool will help them to see that.
Second, this tool does introduce three new features that are not currently available on LinkedIn, and could be useful to anyone seeking to make a career move. (Two other features are also mentioned, but seem similar to or the same as what you can do on LinkedIn now, just repacked under the Career Explorer umbrella.) My take on the three new features follows:
1) Explore different career paths: This feature recommends career options based on what others on LinkedIn with your major and industry preference have done in their careers. What I like about this is it gives you (graduates and perhaps others) another useful way to brainstorm career options. It’s a nice starting point for career ideas. I would encourage any student contemplating a career move with access to this feature to give it a try.
One thing to be cautious about: not to feel boxed in by the “top” career options that LinkedIn selects for you. Also research out-of-the-box options that could be more relevant to you based on your self-assessment; i.e.what you enjoy doing most that you are good at, how these fit with your longer term life goals and your work-related values. The bottom line– don’t necessarily default to the tried and true route based on what LinkedIn (or anyone else) tells you that “everyone else” has done. See the career links page on my website for other ways to research career options.
2) Follow Potential Employers: This feature suggests companies based on the number of people on LinkedIn with your degree/industry preference who work in these companies. I appreciate how this could help give you a place to start in developing your job search marketing plan– it will help to give you an idea of what organizations (and what types of organizations or industries) you should approach.
3) Get the Unique Insights You Need (i.e. industry/profession research): If sourced externally (as salary data appears to be according to the WSJ article), it could be very useful, but I would need to compare it to other resources when the capability is rolled out formally. Research that is based only on LinkedIn’s membership might be less useful; many professionals are not on LinkedIn, or have not updated their profile, which could skew the results.