Sunday, February 15, 2009

FREE résumé evaluation

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Résumé mistake 1: It reads like a job description

There are numerous books and articles about resume writing. Based on the résumés I've been seeing lately though, it appears the message has not hit home yet.

The number 1 job your résumé has it to market YOU. What is your brand? What are you offering the employer? If your résumé does this well, and the employer sees a possibility you fill their needs, your résumé will help in getting you an interview.

Anyone can file, write business correspondence and provide customer service. Everyone is a team player on their résumé. What is your proof?

Look back to your career. How have you completed deliverables? Did you do them on time? What was the result? How many people did you manage? How did you improve from quarter 1 to quarter 2? What is your error rate?
Study your industry and find out the measurements that matter. Frame your achievements using these measurements and include them in your résumé.

If your résumé looks like a job description, forget it. Competition is tough out there. Assume that everyone else is good and competent. Meeting just the minimum requirements is not enough.

Remember, write your résumé from a branding point of view. It is not meant to be a litany of your duties. Point out your best marketable skills and achievements that helped your previous employers.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

No one is exempt

Great podcast- --a Reality Check for those of us employed and reinforcement for those job searching. This economy is making us rethink our old assumptions. Really, none of us is exempt. That's why a Plan B is important. May it be doing part-time bartending work (as heard on the podcast), walking dogs, or tutoring, I think at this point, we cannot be as picky as we may have been a few years back. (If you are having difficulty opening the podcast, read about it here.)

Start where you are

I've been reading "Start Where You Are" (by Pema Chodron) for the past 3 months. I'm a fast reader, but this book does not lend itself to a quick read. I've been reading it a few pages at a time, and letting the days pass and the lessons sink in.

This is not a post about the book, though. It is about how great the concept of "starting where you are" is.

Last week, I started participating in a mentoring program offered by my employer. My mentor, the head of our training and development division, is an accomplished leader who has risen up the ranks. I enjoyed listening to the story of her career journey and one phrase she said caught me--"Start where you are." She said that career development can happen right this moment at your job. The opportunities are there, to practice professionalism, to grow as a leader, and to develop one's management style.

It all sounds so elementary, doesn't it? You may be thinking, yeah, yeah, I know I have opportunities at my workplace, yadiyadiyada. But STOP. Take a step back. Now think about that annoying colleague you have who seems to keeps shoving more work to your side. That's an opportunity to practice assertiveness and maybe some political savvy at work. The difficult customer at the other end of the line? Perfect time to play those "troubleshooting and customer service skills." How about technical difficulties at work? Maybe it's time to begin learning shortcuts and other ways to better use your company software/OS/app instead of calling helpdesk for the 5th time this month.

When my mentor told me to start where I am, all the things I used to complain about began to appear as chances for self-improvement. Whereas in the past, my thinking would have been, oh, I'll go to training for that or maybe I'll learn managerial skills when I take my MBA.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not a masochist who will try to lap up difficult situations just because they're teachable/learning moments.

However, I do find that sometimes I get so busy and the day passes by so quickly nary a thought to reflect on how I treated people and how my work contributed to my organization's goals. On some days I find myself trudging through work not being aware how it all relates to the bigger picture.

Learning to start where I am is akin to having a compass. All that I do, what I say, and how I treat people with dignity leads to something down the road. I can look back at my actions and see how they all lead to my true north.

Resilience during a Recession

The onslaught of dire economic news is depressing, to say the least. For those who are still employed, the talk of layoffs and furlough loom in every cubicle and breakroom. For those job searching, the wait for that interview or job offer gets longer and longer.

News about suicides and deaths related to the financial situation do not help. My sister-in-law and I have tried to figure out what goes on in the minds of those involved in such shootings. It is difficult to imagine what a dark place it must be to be able to consider taking away your life, as well as your family's.

One quality that we all can use and develop right now is resilience. Yes, it can be learned.
It was hammered into my head while I attended Catholic school years ago and only now do I realize its value.

Resilience enables you to look at failure and realize it is not the end of the world.

Resilience allows you to see your hand in your setbacks and the strengths that will get you through difficult times.

Resilience helped me at the time I was job searching and I kept receiving "Thank you for your interest" letters. For months I kept a stack going, only realizing one day that the stack was just a mountain of hopes dashed. That day, the stack met the shredder.

Resilience helped me as a new teacher, trying to learn classroom management, write lesson plans, and meet performance goals. Ask any teacher, and they will tell you the early years are tough. You face a lot of self-doubt and fear. You wonder whether you have the right to be up there, whether you have integrity. You want to live up to all your favorite teachers, to your concept of an ideal teacher. Having gone through my time teaching, I look back with fondness knowing that not only did I survive, I actually did well.

If you're still employed, be grateful and hang in there. Improve your chops, volunteer for projects and sign up for training. Avoid the crowd that talks about layoffs, etc. Really, will all the talk do anything? Instead, try to make yourself more valuable to your organization. Try to come up with a Plan B. Start saving your money and build your emergency fund that can tide you over in case of a layoff. Those Unemployment Insurance Benefits are not much, let me tell you.

If you're job searching, take a step back. Realize that the game has changed. Take a second look at your resume. Have a friend look at it. How are you marketing yourself? Look back to your achievements and reflect on how you can differentiate yourself from the crowd. Re-evaluate your elevator speech, your demeanor, interview dress and answers to interview questions. Talk to a trusted friend who will not sugarcoat matters. Accept their feedback with humility.

I don't know when this recession will end, and with all the pundits disagreeing about when it will all end, I don't really care. I just want to be ready for what we have now, and for the time things will start looking up. And it is resilience that will keep you and me in there long enough to see the good times come back.