Blog Archive - November 2012
There is only one rule in writing a resume: Don’t lie. Everything else is strategy. For example, when a client has good work experience, I put education near the bottom of the resume. However, if a client has obtained a recent degree or certification that an employer will care about, education will move to the top of the document.
Here are two more complicated examples. A client is trying to get a position in clinical research. Her education is recent, so I put it first on the resume. Most people would say that professional experience should be the next element. The problem is that this client’s experience is not as relevant as volunteer work she has done for more than six years. In this case, I put volunteer experience before professional work because it was more relevant to what potential employers need to know.
Similarly, another client wants to return to the type of work he did 15 years ago. Rather than discuss this client’s work history in a simple most recent to least recent format, I put the work that matters most first even if it is 15 years old. It is this person’s best claim to be able to perform the kind of work he wants to do. Some employers might say that this experience is dated. Others, however, might see it as relevant to the position they need to fill.
Everyone agrees that employers don’t have time to read resumes carefully and figure out what you want to do. Make it easy for them. Put the elements first that show why you are qualified. Don’t hide your selling points.
Cold Stone Creamery fired an employee for making offensive remarks about President Obama. On first glance, this sounds like a violation of a citizen’s right to free speech. However, the employee’s comments cross the line. In a Facebook post, she refers to the President as a racial slur and expresses a hope that he is assassinated. Those comments are extreme. While the speaker may have a right to say them, an employer has an equal right to protect its reputation and brand.
I don’t believe employers should tell employees what to think or say. But, in a case like this one, the public manner of the employee’s statement (posting it on Facebook) impacts the employer. The moral of the story is to think twice before you post something offensive that might reflect poorly on your employer. It could cost you a job.
[“Sabbath” is this blog’s Sunday feature that looks beyond jobs and careers.]
For the Union
Yesterday I saw a great new movie, Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, which is based on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals. In some way, it seems impossible to make an interesting story about Lincoln because he is so well known. Only Jesus has been the subject of more books. Of all the presidents, Lincoln’s story is told most often and in the most detail.
Spielberg and screenwriter Tony Kushner take a very different path in this film. They focus on one central event, Lincoln’s struggle to pass the 13th Amendment in the House of Representatives. Given our current political state, no subject could seem to be less appealing. However, Spielberg and Kushner employ drama and humor to show how compromise is possible. More importantly, they show how leadership can come from an unlikely source.
Lincoln was not formally educated. His manner of leadership was seldom forceful. At times, he even employs deceit and trickery to get his way. The one consistent feature of his complex personality is decency. Whether speaking with powerful politicians or lowly soldiers, Lincoln treats all with respect and sympathy. When one political faction or another pushes him to act a certain way, the president ponders on the right course, which is freeing the slaves before ending the war. To do this, he must deceive his Secretary of State, William Steward, and the Congress. Lincoln looks beyond the lie to see a greater truth.
Spielberg and Daniel Day-Lewis, who plays the lead role, capture the political and personal conflicts Lincoln endured in the few weeks before he died. Lincoln is often shown standing or walking alone. In meetings, he deals with factions who doubt his wisdom and will. However, when the vote was at hand, it as Lincoln’s will and political guile that carried the day. The end of the war and Lincoln’s assassination are depicted, but not as the central part of the film. The last scene, in fact, is Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, which again underscores the need to right slavery’s wrong.
The film triumphs in every way: acting, script, and cinematography. I can guarantee that this film will not earn the box office that the new James Bond film will. But it might open some new debates about political leadership. Lincoln compromised to achieve what he felt was the greatest good, not to achieve a small, temporary victory. May our political leaders watch this film and learn from it.
Sometimes it is necessary to find a job quickly. The first mistake people make in this situation is to enter a state of panic and frenzy. They slap together a resume that is not targeted at the right kind of employers. Then, rather than networking, the desperate job seeker sits in front of a computer blasting resume at all sorts of jobs, many of which are above or below the job seeker’s qualifications.
What’s a better plan to find a job quickly? Try to use the energy of focused frenzy. Be very active and very organized. The first step is to identify the kind of job or jobs you will be pursuing. Then align your resume to fit those jobs and make the best case why you are qualified. Make a list of people who know your professional strengths, and contact those people to network with them. Make another list of companies that you want to work for. Check their websites for open positions. After you’ve taken these steps, it’s time to look on job boards for open positions and post your resume. Put first things first, and stay focused.
Panic is never a good strategy, especially when you have other pressures weighing on your mind. If you feel yourself losing control, it is time to stop and re-establish a direction for your fast-paced job search. Frenzy is not the solution. Focused frenzy offers a better chance for success.
Clients frequently worry about whether their resume will be found by “robo-screeners,” software that screens resumes for key words. I tell them that the real concern should be knowing what the employer wants. If you do that, the key words will take care of themselves.
How can you know what employers want? My advice is to do what companies do: market research. In the job search world that means putting together a market profile. Collect 8-10 postings for the kind of jobs you will apply for. What qualification and requirements are repeated? Those are your key words.
A market profile will also give you a great guide for writing your resume. Rather than just presenting a summary of your experience, a resume based on a market profile will present yourself as some who is qualified for the job you want, not the jobs you are leaving behind. By focusing on what the employer needs, you will be creating a resume that is relevant. You will also be preparing for interviews because you will be better prepared to speak to what the employer needs.
This part of the job search is not a mystery. It’s about the hard work of research and analysis. If you want to get a good job, start with a market profile.
Last week one of my clients showed me a job posting that he found interesting. It was for a managerial position with a broad range of responsibilities. My client is a hands-on type of person and wants a job where he wont’ be stuck behind a desk. There is only problem: pay. The job posting lists starting salary as $11-$13 per hour.
To get a rough calculation of salary for an hourly position, follow this formula: wage multiplied by 2,000 (40 hour per week by 50 weeks per year). According to that model, the job my client is interested in only pays a maximum starting wage of $26,000. That’s ridiculous and shameful for a managerial position. However, it’s also what the way a smart, cheap company will hire employees. State the wage and find someone who’s desperate enough to take it.
If you’re willing to take a job at a low wage, there will always be an employer who will happily pay that price. Know your worth and find an employer who will compensate you for the contribution you are making to the company.
It’s not easy to find a job in the current economy. Even so, taking a bad job can often be a big step back. It’s hard to look for work when you’re working full time. It will also be hard to interview well if you’re working for a company that doesn’t respect you. Look for a way to generate income (part-time, contract work) while you find the job that pays. You owe yourself more than a bad job.