By Deborah Vance, Professional Resume Coach
All of us, whether we make $20,000 per year or $300,000, live with the same existential reality—if we can’t meet our basic needs, we are pretty much stranded until we figure out a way to make that happen.
People who make a lot of money lose their jobs too.
It is an equal-opportunity dilemma when the bottom falls out and we find ourselves in a desperate situation. I write resumes for people, and coach people who want to “sell” themselves in their current field, or new ones. These are not minor challenges, because our jobs are often what satisfy our lowest, most basic needs. And any disruption can cause the entire structure to be shaken.
A theory called the Maslow Hierarchy of Needs argues that our jobs are important to our psychological well-being. After all, they can affect all areas of our lives beyond a weekly paycheck. The theory proposes that our “lower” needs must be met before we can move up to our “higher” needs.
I want to share some very practical tips about writing resumes, an important step on the road to healthy employment and a secure sense of well-being.
Some people find themselves plummeting toward despair when they lose a job. So, what then are you to do? Find another job—an immediate impulse. But… what if you didn’t like what you were doing? What if losing your job is a good thing; apart from the interrupted income, was it a blessing in disguise? Gather yourself in a saner moment and try to consider the possibilities.
Be brave, open up your thinking, and generate new thought about what’s happening in the job market. Think positively…it will energize you.
FINDING A JOB THAT WORKS FOR YOU
First, make a list of what you’re good at (communication, organization, management), what assets you have (degrees, certifications, IT skills), what you actually like to do and don’t like to do (behind the scenes/support work, front line responsibilities, working with people, not working with people).
Then go online and start searching for anything that sounds interesting to you and matches your list. You might be surprised at what comes up that you never thought of. Save any job postings that remotely interest you—even if they’re not jobs to which you will actually apply. Let the description of duties act as a guide to fine-tune your goal of finding work that feeds your body and soul.
MARKETING YOURSELF IS YOUR NEW JOB RIGHT NOW!
A good resume used to be enough. It is still the best way of organizing and presenting yourself to an employer, but consider the following.
Today, we are living at a great time for communication. Online connections are seamless and efficient. Websites have been created to facilitate the meshing of job-hunters with job-seekers. Fast Company Magazine reported that 87 percent of recruiters use LinkedIn to vet candidates during the hiring process; titles and years of experience are no longer the most important factors in today’s world.
What is important then? Skills and a record or aptitude for results. Experience is good, but “what can you do for me today?” If your resume is full of titles as a way of presenting yourself, you could hit a brick wall online. Enthusiasm and the ability to stay current is a big deal. Start sentences with action verbs; use strong, specific words.
THINK LIKE A HIRING MANAGER
The only thing more exhausting than looking for a job is possibly going through piles of applications trying to find the perfect candidate. What would you like to see if you were wading through hundreds of resumes? Clear, short, easy-to-read lines of information… no long meandering strings of words. Help them find you!
Here is a template to use for a typical, and good, resume:
Name on top
JOHN E DOE
Address, Phone(s), Email, Twitter, LinkedIn
Description of job you’re interested in:
Qualified for; Seeking Position in:
[name a specific position, using job postings as a guide]
Short blurb about yourself…this is optional but it’s a way to add personality. For example, if you grew up on a farm you could say:
“Growing up on a farm required resourcefulness and hard work… I thrive on learning and being productive.”
or, if you are interested in social work:
“A creative and compassionate heart and mind combined with a pragmatic approach to organization and problem-solving has led to success in nonprofit ventures.”
Summary of Qualifications….a compact, two-column list of specific skills/qualifications (tab over to create the second column). Use the job description from the posting to make sure you include everything you’ve done that’s relevant. (Avoid clichés – e.g., team player; people person).
Professional Experience/Work History… a chronology of what you’ve been doing lately. Hiring managers do not like gaps in time sequences, so be prepared to account for them if you have any. Using concrete numbers will increase your likelihood of being hired by 40.2 percent, according to Jared Lindzon of Fast Company. Saying you’re a “leader” doesn’t tell them anything unless you show how you led your team to, say, 120% achievement of quota. Recruiters are looking for measurable success. Be specific but brief.
Your Education, Certifications, Licenses, Continuing Ed
Networking…it’s not what you know, but who you know. Sad but true. If you’re not a natural networker, get out there and start letting people know that you’re available! Have some simple business cards made up (name, job position you’re interested in, phone, e-mail, LinkedIn) to hand to anyone who might be able to connect you with a job. Cold-call any companies in your area that you’d like to work for.
Tips for the Interview:
You will almost always be asked what your weakness is. Think of something that you can flip to a positive. For example, if you tend to run right up against deadlines, cutting it really close (weakness?) flip it to “I’m a person who really sweats the details and can get a little obsessive. But I realize that.” Or if you are a talker (weakness?) flip it to, “I’m a communicator and like to network.”
If you’re asked a question you don’t understand or don’t know how to answer, ask interviewer to rephrase it. Gets him/her talking and helps you know what he/she is looking for.
Appearance: Good haircut and dark (black, brown or navy) jacket, sport coat or sweater.
Finally, some helpful statistics:
- Applications received on Mondays are 46 percent more likely to result in an interview than those received on Fridays.
- Applying within four days of the job posting can improve your interview chances by 64.7 percent.
- Applying between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. results in an additional 89 percent boost! The moral of this story: the early bird gets the worm. Stay ahead of hiring manager fatigue.
Over the last 15 years, I have written hundreds of resumes for CEOs, CFOs, medical assistants, IT professionals, newly released prisoners, prison guards, city managers, teachers, college grads, etc. No matter who you are or at what level, writing a resume and searching for a job is always about where you’ve been and where you want to go.
Finding someone you trust to help you clarify and articulate the specifics will be the most valuable thing you do. Believe in yourself! There is a great job waiting for you. You can contact Deb at firstname.lastname@example.org.