Don't Let Your Job Title Define You

No matter what position you hold in the office, the military, or at home, your given job title should not limit your ability to be successful in pursuing your career field of interest.  Think of yourself as an ongoing marketing campaign, targeting the career you’ve always wanted – the dream job.  Focusing solely on your job title to define your skills, experience, and education, can limit your career path and direction. For instance, just because you lack “Manager” or “Senior…” within your given position title doesn’t necessarily mean that you lack the corresponding experience.  This is particularly relevant to our military veterans.

Does the position of interest require management experience?  Are you hesitant to apply for the position because you have not had “Manager” in your job title?  Start with answering these questions:

  1. Have you ever been put in charge of something?

  2. Do you or have you volunteered for an organization where you were in a leadership role?

  3. Have you taken the initiative to create something new, to make something, make business operations more efficient, or save money?

  4. Have you mentored or trained a group or another colleague with outstanding results?

  5. Have you ever led a project, task, or program?

If your answer is “yes” to any of these questions, you have management experience.

Unfortunately, most career-minded employees bound their thinking, and focus on rigid adherence to roles spelled out in their job description.  The key to changing this behavior is to look holistically at your working experience and assess activities within this experience that point toward your desired profession, while investigating, pursuing, and achieving milestones which balance suitability for desired employment and attractiveness to potential employers.

How?

  • Volunteer for an organization to learn new skill sets and gain experience.

  • Show initiative in your current position by volunteering for a special project.

  • Seek out advancement and promotion opportunities within your organization.

  • Propose a new idea on the job that may improve processes or conditions.

  • Join a professional group and volunteer for a committee leadership position.

  • Are you a subject matter expert?  Propose to assist in training fellow employees.

Why?

You will set yourself apart from your peers simply because you’re investing in learning and applying new skill sets and experiences.  Once you master the basics of what you’ve learned, your professional experience becomes more attractive to hiring managers and you’re better equipped to market your professional background with more confidence, simply because you have gained knowledge about other things outside of your job title.

Conduct a Skills Inventory

We must reflect on and inventory what we have to offer:  Transferable skills, experience, knowledge, challenges, business ethic and values.  The purpose behind this necessary reflection process is to discover alternative ways of describing who you are.  You cannot restrict your definition of yourself to your current or previous job title.  The more you reflect and take note of who you really are what you really have to offer, the quicker you will identify the true value you can bring to the table.


Job Reference Etiquette - The DOs and the DON'Ts

Has an employer ever asked you for a list of references?  Were you prepared?  Did you notify your references in advance?  Did you provide favorable and verifiable professional references?  If you answered “no” to any of these questions, you may need a quick refresher on the proper etiquette of providing job references to potential employers.

As both a seasoned hiring manager and recruiter, I have been privy to various blunders that job candidates make when providing references.  Here are some of the most common:

The candidate fails to provide favorable and verifiable PROFESSIONAL references.  These include contacts that can verify information on traits and characteristics of the job candidate, are available for comment, can mention the employee’s specific contributions to the workplace, and have favorable comments to make concerning his/her work history.  Most recruiters don’t consider personal references favorable to their screening process.

  1. Candidates provide recruiters with the number to Human Resources.  What most candidates don’t realize is that a lot of HR departments have strong policies limiting the information they divulge to potential employers with the exception of verifying basic employment information.  It’s best to provide a contact such as a former supervisor or client who can speak to the performance of the job candidate.

  2. The applicant fails to make contact, obtain consent from, and notify their ideal references.  It looks bad when a provided reference wasn’t expecting the call.  It is always best for an applicant to notify a potential reference that they are seeking employment and mention their interest in using their name as a reference.  In addition, ask what number they’d prefer to be reached at and what time would be best for the recruiter to make contact.  This allows the referral to make some notes and prepare for the call as well as to avoid being surprised by the call when it’s received.

  3. The applicant does not provide a quality amount of references.  If the employer asks for three professional references, provide five.  A recruiter’s position is to fill the position quickly and if he/she has to wait for a reference to return his/her call, it only delays the hiring process.  Provide at least two more references to be proactive in the event that the initial references are not available when the recruiter tries to connect with them.

So what are the qualifications of a good reference?  An ideal reference should be able to provide the following:

  1. Share how long the candidate and referral have shared a professional relationship.

  2. Provide specific information relating to the candidate’s traits, overall performance and how it compared to other employees, and detailed information on their impact on and contributions to the workplace.

  3. Highlight any special qualifications that made the candidate stand out amongst peers and briefly summarize the candidate’s strengths.

The ideal reference should be someone who has evaluated the applicant either as a supervisor, manager, or client.  This person should demonstrate a strong ability to communicate and articulate vivid details regarding the candidate’s professional characteristics.  Peers generally do not make good references and neither do supervisors from fifteen years ago.

Should all references be previous supervisors or managers?  Not necessarily.  If the candidate is worried about getting a bad reference, it doesn’t hurt to call that supervisor and politely express his/her concern based on what may have happened on the job.  Chances are the supervisor will be honest – either he/she will provide a positive reference or encourage the candidate to avoid using them as a reference.  If the candidate does not trust the previous supervisor to provide a positive or neutral reference, then avoid that person all together.

In lieu of using a previous supervisor as a reference, the applicant can potentially use another department or division manager as a strong reference.  A lot of times department managers call on other departments to help resolve problems.  How often did this candidate come to the rescue?  What was their impact?  Or… was the candidate part of a project team?  What was his/her impact on the overall project, timeline, and team?

There are also plenty of cases where overachievers and strong performers in the workplace lack the support of their direct supervisors, creating an unpleasant work environment, not necessarily being the fault of the applicant.  In this case, avoid using this type of supervisor as a reference. If he/she didn’t demonstrate support on the job, chances are he/she won’t change their behavior as a reference.

So how should a candidate go about providing references to a potential employer?

  1. Contact and confirm potential references before applying for employment.  Follow the recommended criteria for selecting ideal referrals, get their preferred contact information, professional title as it was when working with them, a brief explanation of the relationship with the reference, how long the candidate knew each reference, and correct spelling of their names.

  2. Bring a printout of these references to the potential employer either when conducting an initial introduction, job fair, or to a scheduled interview.  Ensure candidate’s name and contact information is also on the document in case it gets misplaced by the recruiter.

  3. Avoid placing references on a resume.  This should be a separate document.  There are plenty of templates online for guidance on formatting and structure.


Just landed a new job? Time to prep for the next one!

My next job you say?  Yes, that’s exactly what I said.  The job after this one.  For most successful career job seekers, the job search trend is to seek out an employment change about every two to three years whether it be working for a new organization or competing for an internal promotion.

So how do you start to prepare now?


Save your job description and original job vacancy announcement

  • These documents will come in handy when updating your resume with recent employment information.

Retain your performance evaluations and written recognition

  • Resume writers love to brag on their clients and highlight unique and noteworthy achievements. Unfortunately this area is challenging for many of my clients who spend precious time trying to locate or recreate these key documents and accomplishments.

  • If you are fortunate to receive a written or emailed compliment from a customer or client, request that your supervisor provide a copy of it for your records. These make great references when adding achievement-related content to a resume especially if they are measurable. Numbers demonstrate immediate value.

Keep a running list of on-the-job training

  • Did you attend an advanced spreadsheet workshop that increased overall reporting efficiency and performance? Do tell!

  • If the training is relevant to future job interests, you will want to make note of dates, general course information, location of the training, and course duration to either incorporate into the application process or as part of a resume update, cover letter, or LinkedIn profile build.

This process can be as easy as putting it all in a binder with labeled tabs and keeping it in a desk drawer at work. Some folks call it their “brag book”, or for a more muted and discrete approach, call it your “achievement record” .

However you elect to do it, it will benefit you in the long run.  You’ll want to thank me for it when the time comes!

Enjoy the new job!

Do Your Homework: Critical Research When Considering a Career Move

You’ve finally decided to consider career options and commit to your quest for an employment change. You’ve updated all of your job application documents and social media platforms with your current employment information and accolades. Aside from the information posted in the job description, have you really considered what your potential employer is TRULY seeking in a job candidate AND how competitive/creative candidates are expected to present themselves?

After working with a talented client, our plans for a simple resume update evolved into an intriguing project exploring the “soft skill” essentials of his potential suitor company within the global fashion industry.

We discovered that employees were “chatting” online about their corporate experiences, how to land a job, and what personality traits and passions candidates possessed that the employer was intent on hiring.   Absolutely none of this “golden” material was posted by a recruiter – we had to dig for it.

OUR FINDINGS

  • The company sought out individuals who thought on their feet, applied creative problem solving, and used all of their networks at their disposal to get things done.

  • Recruiters were interested in candidates who were able to display a unique passion for the beauty and fashion industry.

  • Employees felt deeply connected to the organization. They relished the opportunity to discuss their work on a deep level with colleagues, fashioning camaraderie.

  • The company incorporated third-party development programs that decreased voluntary employee turnover and continued to give the organization a leading edge over the competition.

RECOMMENDATIONS

  • Read company press releases. Identify what companies they partner with.

  • “Like” all associated social media platforms and engage in conversation by asking questions or providing positive feedback on a service or product (your name may get recognized by someone on a hiring panel).

  • Actively browse through related social media platforms to stay on top of the corporate news, events, and product lines.

  • Create a video – yes with you in it – as a supplement to your resume or cover letter. The more artistic the company is, the more appropriate this will be!

  • Pick out a concept, program, or product belonging to the potential employer that you personally connect with and plan to incorporate this into your cover letter. Cover letters are boring. Period. You can change that with your content and truly pique the reader’s interest. This also serves as a great talking point when you’re called for an interview!

Goal: Don’t let your application package sound and look like everyone else’s. DIG for information. Show them you’ve done your homework not just to make a powerful impression but also to truly find engaging, value-driven employment.

Dispelling the One-Page Résumé Myth

There is no “rule” that a résumé should be only one page. In fact, there are many instances when a multi-page résumé is not only appropriate, it’s expected.

Length is not the only consideration for a résumé’s effectiveness. Yet, the one-page résumé myth persists. Jobseekers are being misled that recruiters, hiring managers, and HR professionals won’t read a résumé that is longer than one page. That’s simply not true.

While recent research shows that a résumé will be read for only seconds when it is first screened, the first review is only to determine if it is a match for the position. If the jobseeker is considered a serious candidate, the résumé will be read again.

Jobseekers who believe a HR professional won’t read a two-page résumé should stop and consider the résumé screening process. The résumé screener’s boss is asking him or her to come up with four or five people to bring in for an interview. If a candidate with 5-10 years of experience tries to condense that to fit an artificial one-page limitation, you’re asking that HR person to make a decision about you, based on what amounts to a few paragraphs.

Given a choice between a well-written two-page résumé or a cluttered one-page résumé which omits notable accomplishments in the interest of saving space, the HR professional is likely to choose the longer résumé.

If you submit a two-page résumé and the person reading it decides you’re not a match for the job, he or she will stop reading. But if you do seem to fit the job requirements, that person will want to know even more about you. A well-organized two-page résumé can actually make it easier for the screener to do his or her job by allowing him or her to easily determine if you’re a good match for the position.

So why does the one-page myth persist? Some recruiters are vocal about their desire for a one-page résumé. However, not all recruiters share this preference. There are certain recruiters who say they will only read one-page résumés. However, recruiters are responsible for placing fewer than 25% of candidates in new jobs, and not all recruiters subscribe to the one-page limit. If a particular recruiter requests a shorter résumé, you can always provide a one-page version to him or her.

When hiring managers and HR professionals are surveyed about résumé length, the majority express a preference for résumés that are one page OR two pages — the general consensus is “as long as needed to convey the applicant’s qualifications.”

College professors also share some of the blame for perpetuating the one-page résumé myth. Some professors — who have no connection to the employment world — believe “their way” is the right way to do things. They provide a template to their students and require advisees to use that format, even if the person is a non-traditional student who has an extensive work history or career path that sets them apart from other job candidates with similar educational backgrounds.

It would be unusual for most 21-year-old students to need two pages to describe their education and work history, but it’s not unrealistic to expect that an accomplished graduate might have internships, projects, activities, and honors that would make it necessary to exceed the one-page length. 

If you doubt the “Do as I say, not as I do” approach, ask any professor to see his or her résumé. Chances are, it will be at least two pages long to include consulting work and works published, in addition to classroom teaching experience. But professors call their résumés “curriculum vitas,” so they don’t have to follow their own one-page résumé limit.

Résumés submitted online are also less likely to be affected by the one-page résumé myth. That’s because the one-page format is unique to the printed page. Résumés uploaded to company websites aren’t affected by page limits. Approximately 30 percent of résumés are only stored electronically. They’re never printed out, so the screener never knows it’s more than a one-page document.

Length does matter. Your résumé should only be as long as it needs to be to tell the reader exactly what he or she needs to know to call you in for an interview … and not one word more.

Here are some guidelines for deciding résumé length:

  • If your résumé spills over onto a second page for only a few lines, it’s worth editing the text or adjusting the font, margins, and/or line spacing to fit it onto one page.

  • Don’t bury key information on the second page. If the first page doesn’t hook the reader, he or she isn’t even going to make it to the second page.

  • Don’t be afraid to go beyond two pages if your experience warrants it. Senior executives often require three- or four-page résumés, as do computer programmers and many professionals (physicians, lawyers, professors).

  • Traditional college students and those with five years or less of experience should be able to fit their résumés onto one page. Most everyone else, however, can (and should) use one page OR two.

  • Make sure that everything you include — regardless of length — is relevant to your job target and what the hiring manager will want to know about you!

Credit: Resume Digest

You Are a Seller In a Buyer's Market

A Résumé Can Be a Viable Marketing Tool to Secure an Interview

No one likes writing their résumé. It catalogs and records what we’ve done, how we’ve done it, and what the results were from doing it. Sound easy? Not particularly, but it can viewed as the single most important vehicle to securing your next job interview, and as such, a great opportunity for you to sell or market yourself to potential employers. To do this successfully, attention to detail is imperative when drafting and assembling your résumé as well as focusing on writing for your audience and not for yourself.

The first quarter of the first page of your résumé is the most important space in the document. This is the area that attracts the reader’s initial eye contact and interest. An individual will spend 10-20 seconds reading this section and will eventually make a premature decision as to whether the candidate is worthy of being scheduled for an interview. Therefore, it’s essential to make yourself visible to and win the additional attention from the reader by presenting your most powerful and unique parts while also covering what a recruiter is looking for in a candidate. Make your readers’ eyes stop by giving them something that catches their attention!

Your name is important. Don’t allot the same font size to your name as you do with your contact information. Some writers suggest that this may give a frail or feeble impression to the reader when they are looking for a sharp and powerful presentation of you. Making your name the most visible part of your résumé links your name with all of the accomplishments and achievements that follow.

“LadysMan75 ” is not considered a professional email user name. Use a variation of your full name to display on your résumé such as ‘Jane.Doe@email.com’. Most email providers support the capability of having more than one email address. If you lack a professional email address, it would be wise to create one to present to a prospective employer. Consider wisely when using free email services from popular websites.

Don’t just list your skills; get the reader interested by getting specific.Details ring true. Justify your skills mentioned in your powerful profile by providing specific achievements and elaborating on your skill sets within your Professional Experience or Employment areas. You have already listed your strengths in your profile, now you have to detail what the benefits of those strengths are while aiming to avoid clichés and overused phrases within your descriptions. Recruiters almost always count on candidates putting an enormous spin on their credentials to make themselves look good, so justify all.

Your work experience has to fulfill the expectations of the profile. Review the posted job description that you are applying for, find key qualifications, and then decide which of them most clearly resembles your strongest competencies. Key word use is vital especially when the organization uses talent management software to digitally scan applicant résumés. Using key words can increase the chances of your résumé being assigned the right level of desirability or even come to the attention of the right person.

Market your performance and professional achievements. You don’t have to be in a position of authority to achieve something in the workplace worth being proud of and discussed. This could incorporate an Employee of the Month status, exceeding your performance goals, defusing an irate customer, saving the company money, or making a tough sale. Your achievements, in conjunction with your employment details, should also fulfill and incorporate the expectations of your profile.

Sell yourself with action words to show just how capable and qualified you are. Stay away from use of passive statements like “responsible for” or “duties included”. Action words can enhance an otherwise bland resume by vibrantly demonstrating your competencies and skill set. Steer clear of overusing these “action” words in your descriptions. Vary action words to showcase your writing skills.

Before submitting your resume, review and make any necessary changes to deal-breaker elements such as grammar, spelling, and punctuation consistency. Though this may seem obvious to those individuals seeking résumé assistance, it is also one of the most frequent deal breakers when it comes to the applicant’s demonstration of accuracy and attention to detail. Know the difference between “their”, “there”, and “they’re”; add periods to the end of each bullet point or don’t – just make sure it is consistent within the document; ensure tense agreement, and have someone else proofread it before you hit “send”. An extra pair of eyes doesn’t hurt.

Keep in mind that the recruiter is not looking to hire a professional résumé writer, so the résumé is not going to win you the position of your dreams… you are. Take time to actively and carefully find the position that you are looking for – Network, make some phone calls, research prospective employers, ask questions, volunteer. These activities, along with using your résumé as a marketing tool, will open up new opportunities for you to find a company who will want you for exactly who you are and what you have to offer. Your task is to get out there and find it!


As featured in The Army Wife Network and Associated Content

Targeting the Job for Which You're Overqualified

Scaling Back Your Credentials May Help Secure Work in a Tight Economy

You have found yourself struggling to gain employment in your career field and your efforts have resulted in constant rejection despite years of experience. The tough economy has led to downsizing, corporate bankruptcy, and significant changes in employer recruiting methods. The job market has never been more competitive and good paying positions are extremely hard to come by. You have come to terms with this economical reform and are now willing to apply for positions below your pay scale and welcome a significant salary decrease for the promise of a paycheck.

Due to the increase in the unemployment rate over the last year, the amount of job applications employers receive has escalated and continues to rise at an alarming rate. Current events have caused an increase in employment screening efforts and capitalization of Web search-optimization tools. Use of these recruiting software programs to facilitate the pre-screening process has helped employers keep up with the overwhelming reaction to posted job vacancies. These programs are designed to identify applicants who not only lack the basic qualifications necessary to do the job, but can also recognize professionals who appear to be overqualified for the position.

In light of these changes, career professionals are recommending that overqualified job seekers tone down their resume to increase their chances at getting an interview. Most resume writers would define this approach as “dumbing down a resume”. I choose to describe this process as “creatively targeting”the position. Most posted job vacancies will list the necessary skills and qualifications that employers are looking for in a prime candidate. Using these job descriptions as a guide to writing your resume, just as I would advise any applicant applying for a specific job, is an excellent opportunity to highlight your RELEVANT skills, education, and experience as they apply to the job you are interested in. Omitting a college degree, especially a masters or higher, can help if employers are only interested in a bachelors degree. If you are applying for a truck driver position and your achievements indicate that you are an expert at sales management and leadership, your sales and leadership success and accolades are not relevant to the job you are applying for, so it may be best to just leave out these types of impressive achievements.

Why all the effort to avoid marketing yourself as a shining star? Hiring managers are not comfortable with putting a high-level candidate into an entry level or lower level position simply because these professionals are more likely to jump ship to seek better paying jobs. This creates costly involuntary turnover for employers and more work finding a suitable candidate to replace the one that just left.

Your job is to construct a resume that will get you an interview, and if you are applying for a lower-level position, (1) start by creating a separate resume that targets each position that you are interested in applying for. (2) Review the job description and highlight applicable key words relating to skills and education requirements to incorporate into your resume. (3) Keep your bullet statements to no more than three items per job, (4) and leave off “lofty” or “prestigious” titles.

Keep in mind that your primary goal is to obtain immediate employment and these recommended creative edits help professionals to do just that. After you’ve achieved this important milestone, you can then focus on staying true to your experience and career aspirations by seeking your dream job.


As featured in Associated Content