Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Edit Thyself

I have a new client who sought me out to help her package her information for a position she's very excited about. She is a highly accomplished non-profit professional with 25 years of experience, and has an extremely impressive resume. But damn is it long.

This is possibly the most common question I get from people: how long should my resume be? The truth is, there are really no clear rules today, especially since many resumes are posted online, and there are no real criteria for those. The rule of thumb, in my mind, should be: Put yourself in an employer's (or search consultant's) shoes.

Imagine you are a senior manager, under a lot of stress at the moment, with an open position reporting to you. Perhaps you've hired a search firm to conduct your search, or you may be spending more hours than you'd care to name trolling websites and reading resumes. You are starting to feel desperate; it seems counterintuitive that with so many people out of work, the ideal candidate has not presented him/herself.

With your employer hat on, think about the kind of communication you would like to see from that ideal candidate. Would you be interested in someone who merely attached a resume as a response to your posting, no cover letter in sight? Would you be inclined to respond to someone who wrote to you as Dear Sir/Madam, when you had clearly listed your name and title? Would you give someone a call if they wrote a 2-page cover letter and their resume was 10 pages long, including addenda and footnotes?

I can tell you from the perspective of both employer and search consultant, all of these examples are more common than you would expect.

So going back to this client of mine, she's having some trouble seeing the forest through the trees. She's afraid to leave anything off her resume, lest it be the one thing that will spark interest.

My job is to help her package herself so that she's done the hard work for the search firm and the employer. She needs to share the right amount of experience to get the employer to ask for more detail. If she fails to edit her material appropriately, it will be seen as a red flag and she won't get a call.

If you have done your homework, your resume will be an effective sales document, showcasing your unique selling proposition and providing the proof you can continue your successful track record with your next employer. If you don't do the work upfront, I can tell you for sure, you won't get a call.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Keeping Your Career Healthy in a Sick Economy

Today's New York Times features a piece called "Staying Healthy in a Sick Economy". It caught my attention. This particular article talked about staying fit, a particular obsession of mine, but it got me thinking about other wellness issues that can crop up during times of stress.

One of the reasons I became a career advisor is I strongly believe we all need other people to help guide us and boost us on a regular basis. I've mentioned in other posts the idea of selecting a personal "board of directors", because we all benefit from the advice of those we respect. It is not a sign of weakness to ask others to help, but the ask should be specific. And that is where coaching comes in.

Finding a partner during a time of change or crisis is an excellent investment in your mental health. Making a career or life change is always tough, but it doesn't have to be debilitating. It's incredibly helpful to have someone in your corner.

Now most of us don't have to hire people to be in our corner, we have friends and family members who love and care about us. But having a coach is very different from having a spouse; this person is focused on a particular aspect of your life--in my case, your career--and is bringing his or her professional experience to bear on your issue.

That means that your change will probably happen a lot faster, more efficiently, and with better results. And you will protect yourself from spiraling downward during a stressful time.

Now that's a good investment. So drink your milk, go to the gym, and if your career is under stress, find a good coach.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Getting the Phone to Ring

I received a comment on my last entry--about my friend who recently went back to work -- which I believe deserves its own topic. Here is the question as posed:

"It's just intimidating that she was getting all these calls about jobs - didn't she have to do SOMETHING to make that happen? Otherwise I am lost - my phone never rings with job offers!"

First of all, let me say this: The number one way people get jobs is through their network, and a very high percentage of jobs comes not from your first-line network, ie. the people you communicate with regularly, but the second and third tiers. This means that you need to work hard to get that phone to ring--and it needs to be a way of life. Networking is not something to be done in your spare time; it should be a regular part of your work and social life.

There's been a great deal written about networking's finer points and I won't get into the detail here. But suffice it to say that you want to be someone others think of when an opportunity arises, whether you are perfect for it or not. And if you're not the right person, ideally you want to be helpful and recommend someone who might just be. This goes, of course, for search consultants, who always remember who was helpful (and who wasn't). If a search consultant calls to pick your brain, it behooves you to provide as much information as you can, assuming they're from a reputable and ideally, retained firm.

What else can you do to get noticed in your field, or in a field you are considering entering? You can blog, you can speak, you can volunteer, you can intern. You can do a "vocation vacation" and try out a new career idea. You can create or join a group on Facebook or on LinkedIn, you can call attention to your industry knowledge by asking and answering questions on these business/social networking sites. You can follow prospective employers on Twitter.

There are so many ways to get noticed, and to link back to my friend and her new job, she was always doing these things because it came naturally. To others it may feel like work, but in the long run it will pay off.

I'd be happy to hear other ideas on how to get noticed and get your phone to ring.

Fast Company