Read the news online any day and you are bombarded with stories about unemployment levels in the United States reaching and surpassing record numbers. I venture to say most of us whose jobs have not been directly affected by the economy at least know someone who has lost their job due. Many people still employed are nonetheless dipping their job search toes in the water as they worry about their current employers’ viability.
On a daily basis I am introduced through my network to numerous technology professionals who are amongst the jobless, each seeking some silver lining in what is clearly a stormy job market. What I offer each of them is the plain, un-coated truth of what they can expect and what they need to do to differentiate themselves from the rest of the pack. Often, this is not what they want to hear, but understanding what you are facing in this job market is important if you are going to be successful in navigating through it.
This is the first in a series of blog posts that will share some of that plain truth with you, and offer some of the tools, information and tips that will help you pilot your own successful job search. The series will be geared towards the Information Technology (IT) industry and job market, but really can apply to any job search. The perception in the IT segment of the market is that there are no jobs out there. The reality is quite the opposite as there are still numerous opportunities in IT, but they call for specific skills and expertise, not to mention offer lower salaries and the chance to compete with a stampede of candidates vying for the same position. Every candidate is facing increasingly stiff competition from other highly qualified individuals and it is those people who are best prepared for the job search that will ultimately find success.
For truly the first time in a depressed market, technology jobs and spending is not the first to go on the chopping block. Clearly budgets have been slashed, and people have lost their jobs. But when you look at the IT marketplace, you see companies realizing that in order to make money now and in the future, technology is the force that is driving improvements in daily workflow, process, and productivity. Therefore, organizations that are cutting back across the board are looking to their technology team last and with a less severe cut than other areas.
So, as a job seeker, what can you do to get the right job for you? Let’s start with your resume.
Your resume is your business card; it is your introduction to prospective employers, and certainly should not be your autobiography. It is meant to be representative of who YOU are and there are countless services out there who will prey on your belief that you have to have the world’s greatest resume. They will charge you an arm and a leg, and sometimes your first born child only to produce something for you that looks and reads great, but isn’t you. DON’T WASTE THE MONEY!
Writing and updating your resume is a deeply personal journey that anyone seeking a job must undertake, as it will help you better understand who you are professionally and what you offer prospective employers. What you find out about yourself in this process is also typically the answer to the “tell me about you” question in interviews. Plus, read on and you’ll learn how you can have multiple professionals critique and sometimes help edit your resume for FREE!
What should the resume look like? There are plenty of templates available on the web, or ask a friend or colleague to see their resume as an example. There are many different formats that work well so find one that you are comfortable with. I highly recommend you do not use templates that are built with spreadsheet-like cells and tables. Many companies, and most of the online job boards, use automated software for uploading your resume to internal systems and most can’t recognize tables and sections.
When printing out your resume, use normal plain white paper. You don’t need fancy paper or colors to get someone’s attention. Maybe back in the day of stamping an envelope and mailing your profile to a company this worked, but now I look at such resumes and see someone fluffing and trying to draw attention away from their actual skills and experience. Choose one font (Arial, Times New Roman, Verdana all work well) and do not mix & match different fonts in the resume. You can utilize font sizes to subtly distinguish between different sections of your resume if you choose, but this also can be accomplished through the use of bold and underlined lettering.
The resume has essentially 3 sections: Summary, Experience, and Education/etc.
The “Summary” section is a brief description (2-3 sentences) of who you are professionally, followed by a list of your technical skills and abilities. This entire section really should be no more than a half page.
Next is your “Professional Experience.” Trust me, no hiring manager or recruiter wants to see 4 long narrative paragraphs about each job and/or project you have worked on. It might very well be interesting reading, but no one has the time to read through it in detail and if we wanted to read a novel, we would go to a library. Instead, briefly describe your role and responsibilities and what your employer does/makes/sells/etc. (2-4 sentences). Then bullet-point your specific accomplishments and achievements (I recommend no more than about 5 such items). If you worked with specific technical skills on a project or projects, you can then list that technical environment as well.
Following professional experience, highlight your “Education,” including college and any other programs/courses that would be of specific help in the job you are seeking. Also, list certifications and other accomplishments outside the realm of your work experience that would be an added benefit to prospective employers.
Lastly, your contact information at the top of your resume is extremely important. DUH! But many people make the mistake of over or under doing it. List your home address (at least city of residence), along with the best number to reach you at (don’t list multiple phone numbers) and one email address. That email address should be something simple that includes your name. If your email address is something like email@example.com, you might want to get a new email address for your job search.
After you have a draft of your resume, go back and re-read it. Then do it one more time and correct any spelling or grammatical errors. Nothing turns an employer off faster than someone who couldn’t be bothered to spell-check their resume before submitting it. It also tells the employer you are not someone who pays attention to detail.
Once you are satisfied with your resume draft, ask friends or family to review and edit it – you’ll be cross-eyed from looking at it yourself so many times that a fresh set of eyes will notice any grammatical or other errors you and your computer missed.
Now you have your resume but would like a professional to look at it. Go ahead and post it on a few job boards, and in no time, you’ll have recruiters contacting you. We will talk all about recruiters in a later posting here, but recruiters work with resumes every day so who better to know what does and doesn’t work? Pick a recruiter or two that you trust (better yet, get a referral for a good recruiter from a friend or colleague) and most of the good ones will review your resume and offer you strong constructive feedback. In some cases, recruiters and headhunters will actually offer to rewrite your resume for free!
Check back soon as we discuss marketing yourself in a jungle of job seekers, recruiters and websites all promising to get you that great new job.
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