Archive for October 2009

You can thrive in, not just survive, an economic slogging!

October 30, 2009

JobActionDay2009LogoAs co-coordinator with my colleague Miriam Salpeter, I am pleased to participate in our second round of posts from our community of expert career advisors and resume writing professionals called the Career Collective.

This month’s articles are in response to Quintessential Careers Job Action Day. I encourage you to visit other members’ responses, which will be linked at the end of my article on November 2nd. Please follow our hashtag on Twitter: #careercollective.

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The economy is in a slump. Cost cutting and lay offs persist. We all know this. It’s not news.

The question: How do job seekers boost their visibility and generate more interviews during these trying times? Moreso than ever before, it is about being crystal clear on your value proposition – what not only makes you unique (yes, your uniqueness is nice to know and often will perk up the hiring manager’s or recruiter’s ears), but it also is about why you matter to that hiring decision-maker. What’s in it for them, specifically?

Although refining and communicating one’s unique market value was advice I ‘would’ have given a year ago, I believe this year’s message is greatly amplified. Your likelihood of being edited out from a hiring manager’s radar screen is multiplied because of the shear masses of resumes circulating for each open job.

More than ever before, being crisp, smart and quick in illuminating your resume and career communication message to the reader or listener is critical to being cutting-edge in your job search initiatives.

How do you do this?

1. Begin by doing career brain dump, an exercise that you should anticipate taking 6-8 hours over the course of several days to accomplish. Do not short-change this step!

a. Be somewhat orderly about it. In other words, start with the overarching initiatives that you faced this past year and the year before that, and the year before that, then flesh out the actions you took, describe the hurdles you leapt over and brag about the special problem solving skills you tapped to make things better (i.e., improved processes, negotiated buy-in to an idea, grew revenue or profit, shortened lead times for product development, appeased disgruntled customers, expanded the marketplace footprint … and much more).

b. Of course, punctuate these stories with the end result in a measurable way: percentages, numbers and dollars work. Remember, even if you didn’t directly impact a measurable outcome, you always are indirectly impacting something bigger and better that a department, division or the entire company is accomplishing. (If you weren’t impacting the bottom line, you wouldn’t be earning your salary!) Map to that – find the path to the numbers.

c. Then, flesh out your soft skills and traits, and how your actions map to those: i.e., Approachability, Having Composure, Inspiring Teams, Listening, Conflict Management, Ethics and Values … etc.

2. Research, research, research. Investigate companies  and types of jobs that interest you and those which loop back to your particular experiences and results. What is realistic? Earmark those! Where (at what jobs) might you take a chance and try to bridge gaps where your experience and /or education fall short? Earmark those, too! Who would be willing to listen to you if the best, most value-laden message were at-the-ready? Note their names, titles, emails and phone numbers. When researching, use these online tools:

a. Company research: ZoomInfo, Hoovers, RileyGuide, Bizjournals, Manta, corporate websites… and many others.

b. Jobs research: LinkUp, CareerBuilder, Indeed.com, Monster, corporate web sites, etc.

3. Start writing, or better yet, partner with a professional resume writer to flesh out your career story. This isn’t the time to be mechanical or rules-focused [i.e., list of subjective resume writing rules that you check-mark; i.e., a. Font size (check!); b. Page length correct (check!); c. # of buzzwords sprinkled throughout (check!); d. Summary broadly written so I don’t miss any opportunities (i.e., “I would take any job mentality) (check!)].

a. Meaningful writing is critical; during this phase you must drill down to the right words and story points that will best resonate with the target reader!

b. Moving a dozen or 2 dozen pages of career brain dump into a 2-3 page sales piece that proves value in a snap through your career camera lens is vital.

Once the resume is complete, begin connecting …

5. Know your audience and reach out to them. Join LinkedIn, then join and interact in groups, post links and updates and invite others. Expand your network, learn about individuals in other companies and become known by them.

6. Start a blog. WordPress.com is free and easy to get started with. Sign up today for an account, choose a backdrop, write an article focused on articulating your value and expertise. Tell your friends and colleagues. Post your blog URL to your LinkedIn account.

7. Join Twitter. Create a profile with a picture and be known for the industry or job-specific expert you are. Tweet meaningful thoughts that will add value to your followers. Retweet value-add information from others. Comment on others’ tweets; engage; smile; be uplifting. Offer genuine opinions but don’t openly criticize.

Final thoughts: Your career message in this new economy should certainly weave in your abilities in containing costs, shoring up resources and boosting productivity. However, equally important is a focus on advancing growth, turning around distressed companies, netting multifold returns on capital and generating revenue and profit. It’s not just about surviving, it’s about thriving.

Show (don’t tell) the reader that you are capable of helping them lift themselves from the slog of this downtrend and into a robust, revenue-multiplying and profit expanding new place. Be someone who proves s/he can both execute and deliver the goods for a better future!

Meg Montford:  Job Action Day: Finding Your “MOJO” After Layoff http://coachmeg.typepad.com/career_chaos/2009/10/job-action-day-finding-your-mojo-after-layoff.html

Debra Wheatman: Plan B from outer space; or what do you have in case your first plan doesn’t work out? http://resumesdonewrite.blogspot.com/2009/10/plan-b-from-outer-space-or-what-do-you.html

Heather Mundell: Green Jobs – What They Are and How to Find Them, http://dbcs.typepad.com/lifeatwork/2009/10/green-jobs-what-they-are-and-how-to-find-them.html

Erin Kennedy: Cutting Edge Job Search Blueprint http://exclusive-executive-resumes.com/resumes/job-search-blueprint/

Grace Kutney: Securing Your Career While Navigating the Winds of Change http://sweetcareers.blogspot.com/2009/10/securing-your-career-while-navigating.html

Hannah Morgan: Career Sherpa– Why Our Job Search Advice is the Same but Differenhttp://hannahmorgan.typepad.com/hannah_morgan/2009/10/why-our-job-search-advice-is-the-same-but-different.html

Gayle Howard: The Enlightened Jobseeker http://www.theexecutivebrand.com/?p=500

Laurie Berenson: Making lemonade out of lemons: Turn unemployment into entrepreneurship http://blog.sterlingcareerconcepts.com/2009/10/30/making-lemonade-out-of-lemons-turn-unemployment-into-entrepreneurship.aspx

Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter: You Can Thrive In, Not Just Survive, an Economic Slogging https://careertrend.wordpress.com/2009/10/30/you-can-thrive-not-just-survive-an-economic-slogging/

Rosalind Joffe: Preparedness: It’s Not Just for Boyscouts http://workingwithchronicillness.com/2009/10/preparedness-its-not-just-for-boy-scouts/

Rosa E. Vargas: Are You Evolving Into The In-Demand Professional of Tomorrow? http://resume-writing.typepad.com/resume_writing_and_job_se/2009/10/furture-careers.html

Dawn Bugni: Your network IS your net worth http://thewritesolution.wordpress.com/2009/10/30/your-network-is-your-net-worth/

Miriam Salpeter: Optimize your job hunt for today’s economy http://www.keppiecareers.com/2009/10/30/optimize-your-job-hunt-for-todays-ecomony/

GL Hoffman: The Life of An Entrepreneur: Is It for You? http://blogs.jobdig.com/wwds/2009/10/30/the-life-of-an-entrepreneur-is-it-for-you/

Katharine Hansen: Job Action Day 09: His Resume Savvy Helped New Career Rise from Layoff Ashes http://resumesandcoverletters.com/tips_blog/2009/11/job-action-day-09-his-resume-s.html

Martin Buckland: Job Search–The Key to Securing Your Future Careerhttp://aneliteresume.com/job-search/the-key-to-securing-your-future-career/

Chandlee Bryan: Where the Green Jobs Are: http://emergingprofessional.typepad.com/the_emerging_professional/2009/11/where-the-green-jobs-are.html

Heather R. Huhman, Take Action: 10 Steps for Landing an Entry-Level Job, http://www.heatherhuhman.com/2009/10/take-action/

Barbara Safani: Where the Jobs Are 2009 and Beyond: http://www.careersolvers.com/blog/2009/10/31/where-the-jobs-are-2009-and-beyond/

J.T. O’Donnell: Actions that got people jobs in this recession http://www.careerealism.com/4-actions-that-got-people-jobs-in-this-recession/

I’m not a career coach, and that’s okay

October 22, 2009

pen_night_writerOkay, so by default, I weave guidance into my in-depth resume writing processes that smacks of coaching.  Recently, Recruiting Animal (@Animal) took note of this in his blog post: “The Resume Writer.”

However, today, I beg to differentiate myself: I am a word wrangler, message clarifier and career story teller (i.e., resume writer) – not a career coach. At the end of the day, my clients hire me for the influential ‘words’ that erupt from the virtual and literal pages that we create, for the words that spring from their lips during job interviews, networking conversations or when caught unaware in casual conversation.

As well, my job as a career writer is to push, prod, ask the reporter’s ‘who, what, where, when and why’ questions, drive for deeper understanding of where the job seeker has been and even more importantly, provide them the spade to unearth their unique value drivers that help define where they want to go!

As a good career reporter, I do my research. This involves a barrage of questions, the answers of which often lie dormant in the job hunter’s head and involve intellectually rigorous recovery and regurgitation (My clients work hard! Likewise, I lift intellectual weights on their behalf!). Moreover, the job seekers I write for find themselves performing research to illustrate their go-forward goals.

Serious about my writing trade, I maintain ongoing niche-specific credentials (including Master Resume Writer) qualifying me to build the engine for a job seeker’s career vehicle, tapping the job seeker’s truth and powering it up with word fuel that drives the message home to the target reader. It’s all about the audience reading the story, after all!

It’s been bugging me for awhile, this tendency to lump resume writers and coaches into one entity, almost as if to say, that without adding ‘coaching’ to our label, then we’re ‘just’ resume writers with perceived lower value.

I applaud my resume writing colleagues who equally market their career coaching and resume writing talents, for many are passionate about blending the two professions. However, that’s not me. My overriding value proposition is my career reporting skills: abilities in in-depth research, asking the driving questions, unearthing career gold nuggets, whittling 25 pages of career brain dump down to 2-3 crisp, compelling and focused pages, and marketing the job seeker’s value to the right reader, influencing them to call.

Eating Bananas Doesn’t Make You an Ape

October 8, 2009

As co-coordinator with my colleague, Miriam Salpeter, I am proud to help launch a new community of expert career advisors and resume writing professionals called the Career Collective. Today’s post is one of many responses to the question, “Are you a cookie cutter job seeker?” I encourage you to visit other members’ responses, which will be linked at the end of my reply later this afternoon! Please follow our hashtag on Twitter: #careercollective.

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So, you are the guy with the master’s degree in the same thing your job competitors have a

Bunch of Bananas_hf

master’s degree in. At your last position you were personally responsible for _______________. Fill in the blank with one of the following answers, A. Increasing Sales, B. Increasing Productivity or C. Team Building.

Guess what? So did 99% of the other applicants.

You are just like every other cookie on the sheet. Same size, cooked for the same amount of time, same golden brown color, same texture.

What real difference does it make to one eating the cookies as to which row on the sheet the cookie came from, they are all exactly alike. Just pick one, eat it and move on.

The same holds true in the world of look alike resumes. Same old blah, blah, blah. For the most part hiring managers could take them, fling them in the air, grab one from the pile as they float to the floor, and make his or her decision based on that highly technical and thorough, technique.

You must stand out from the crowd. Especially in today’s highly competitive job market.

One of the best ways to stand out of course is to work with a professional who will ferret out those things that you either don’t think are important or you may have forgotten about.

How many times have you sat down to write your own resume, or a letter to your mother, or a note to your spouse for that matter, and after sending it to the recipient thought to yourself, “Oh, I forgot to mention this , or that?”

Had you consulted with someone first, the odds of leaving anything out would have been greatly diminished. That is the beauty of having your resume professionally written. Once the worksheet is done, you have had the opportunity to spend time thoroughly going over your career up to this point. All the while your resume writer asks probing questions that allow them to get down to the nuts and bolts of who you are and how you were able to accomplish those successes.

Almost every Saturday night during sailing season a group of us sit around and tell stories about recent sailing adventures. We laugh at each other, compliment each other and offer ideas on how to do it better. But the most fun part is when someone else tells a story about what I did or didn’t do. Now , I could tell the same story about myself, and all the facts would remain. But listening to someone else tell the same story from their unique perspective is always a hundred times more entertaining, not just to me, but to the rest of the crew as well.

The same holds true with allowing an expert “story teller” tell your story.

You are what you are and most people are not professional writers. Professional writers, or at least successful professional writers, spend much of their time researching the English language and constantly are on the lookout for better ways to express thoughts and ideas.

You’ve worked too long and too hard at becoming a success to wind up just another cookie on the tray. So why not make sure the one in charge of cookie selection is aware that you have a lot more chips then the other guys.

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Please link below to additional ‘Cookie-Cutter” blog posts from Career Collective members:

Megan Fitzgerald, Career By Choice’s Expat Success Tips: Ongoing Career management is No Longer Optional for the Expat in Today’s New World of Work

Gayle Howard, Top Margin:  Sabotaging Your Prospects: Cookie-cutter Style

J.T. O’Donnell, CAREEREALISM: Cookie Cutters are for Baking…Not Job Searching!

Chandlee Bryan: The Emerging Professional: On the “Cookie Cutter” Approach to Job Search: Do You Need a Recipe?

Laurie Berenson, Sterling Career Concepts: Job seekers: Break out of the mold!

Dawn Bugni The Write Solution: Dawn’s Blog: Is your job search “cookie-cutter” or “hand-dropped”?

Rosa Vargas, Creating Prints Resume-Writing Blog: Being a Cookie-Cutter Job Seeker is a Misfortune

Heather Mundell, life@work: How Not to Be a Cookie Cutter Job Seeker

Sweet Careers: Passive Job Seeker=Cookie Cutter Job Seeker

Barbara Safani Career Solvers Blog: Cookie Cutter Resumes Can Leave a Bad Taste in the Hiring Manager’s Mouth

Miriam Salpeter, Keppie Careers: How Can a Job Seeker Stand Out?

Katharine Hansen, Quintessential Resumes and Cover Letters Tips Blog: Avoiding Being a Cookie-Cutter Job-seeker in Your Resume and Throughout Your Job Search

Heather R. Huhman, HeatherHuhman.com: Break the Mold: Don’t Be a Cookie Cutter

Rosalind Joffe, WorkingWithChronicIllness.com: Forget the Cookies! Start With Vision

Hannah Morgan, Career Sherpa: Are You a Cookie-Cutter Job Seeker?