Friday, October 21, 2011

No Finding the Right Answers? Are You Asking the Right Question?

A  job  seeker sought me out for a consultation last week.  She was feeling lost (not uncommon) about what direction she should go in.  She’d not had any luck turning anything up; her resume hadn’t gotten her any response and she was wondering if she should get another degree or a certification in something and if that would help.  She wanted feedback on her resume.

No response to the resume is a common problem  But the solution isn’t always the same -  aside from probably needing their resume fixed.  Fortunately for her she sought some answers to her questions instead of just running pell mell off into some solution that seemed sensible. to her

The first problem was her resume (which she’d had done professionally.) And after all my questions, part of my solution to her was to refer her to the two people I consider very good at what they do (and I endorse very few professional resume writers).  Despite having seen over half a million of them and the results people have achieved with ones I’ve done, I’ve chosen to no longer do them.

Her resume was functional rather than chronological – a good choice for her though it was poorly done.  It was hard to read.  The bullet points had no bullets.  They were job description statements instead of ones that really highlighted what she could do and had achieved.  Her jobs were concurrent but only the years were listed, not the months.

She had a hodge podgy of job titles, although a steady employment record, and an advanced degree and the result was that you couldn’t tell what she’d done, you couldn’t tell what she wanted, and the degree said “expensive” so the result was that after about 3 seconds, her resume went in the “no” pile.

It was clear to me that her strengths were leading things behind the scenes; making sense out of chaos; pulling a hodgepodge of details together into one organized, cohesive grouping and establishing a prioritized timeline; talking to the different parties and making sure that all groups were represented in a manner that was equitable, agreeable, and satisfying to those involved, etc.

The resume conveyed none of that.  Nada. Zip. Zilch.  So my first piece of advice was to tell her to make sure the new resume writer knew that’s what needed to be conveyed on her resume.  So that handled the resume problem for now.

But an extra degree or certification, such as a PMP, wasn’t necessary – at least not now.  She was more a project manager in theory rather than in an industry requiring that certification and using that title, and not every industry does.  Sometimes project manager is a functional part of another title rather than a formal title and formal job description.   People with this skill (and I’m not one of them) are always in demand – but you have to know that it’s your “thing” and be able to convey that.

So rather than running off to school, I counseled her on how to use for research to pull things up to research titles, industries, requirements etc in searching for opportunities that had those skills as the essence, but in which the industry or company or context varied.  That’s considered looking horizontally rather than vertically.

The purpose of this exercise was to see what the varied titles were – and as I was doing this on Indeed while talking with her, the titles varied greatly – and if there were any trends.

Project Management positions that require PMP certifications are usually vertical – IT; setting up a complex, company-wide safety program (usually manufacturing, nuclear technology, oil & gas, etc); things like that vs a more horizontal focus, that is, companies looking for someone with project manager skills – event planning, marketing communications liason, student development coordinator – all of which pulled up and necessitated a closer look.

I showed her what steps to take, how to asses each result, etc.  Based on her results, then she’d know if she needed to go back to school and  she could decide if she wanted to do that.

As for the advanced degree and the random assortment of companies and titles – that was easy to pull into one coherent sentence for her to utilize by means of an explanation, but it put a great deal of emphasis on the cover letter, which is where it needs to be handled, and not through a generic one.

I see this problem with so many job seekers and I’m always thankful that the ones who seek me out for a consultation do so.  I applaud them for it too because it means they’re thinking things through clearly enough to not just run knee jerk into the night in some random – but seemingly plausible – way to solve whatever they perceive to be the problem.

But if all she’d done was had her resume redone, her strengths still might not have been uncovered and highlighted.  Or if she’d gone and gotten a degree or certification in something, it could have been unnecessary – especially as she didn’t even know what she wanted to do in the first place.

If she’d done that and started all over again, she still wouldn’t have had the primary questions resolved and furthermore, the hiring authorities would still be rejecting her resume, not the least because of the advanced degree and how it was interfering with their perception of her because she wasn’t shaping the perception she wanted them to have.

Finding a new job is a skill – and it’s really not a skill many job seekers have, which is why so many of them are operating at about 25%.  Issues they think are one problem are actually an entirely different problem.  If you haven’t properly defined the issue, whatever action you take isn’t going to provide a satisfying resolution or put you any closer to your goal.

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