Wednesday, July 30, 2008

If the job fits

The hard truth about job hunting is that the best job in the world may not be the right job for you.

After your write an excellent resume and cover letter, after you apply for that job that looks good on paper, after you research the company and complete your interview preparation, after you ace the interview -- then you need to know what you want out of the job, the bosses, the workplace, and the company. You need to be able to ask questions that will tell you whether the company's answers match up with what you need to be an excellent employee. And you need to have the strength to walk away if the answers don't match.

Conversely, you need to be ready to hear that you won't be getting the job. Because after you write and excellent resume and cover letter, and after you ace the interview, you may still not be the right person for the job based on any number of criteria that your interviewer can't quantify. Or you might be 99 percent right for the job, but another candidate is 102 percent right for the job.

In other words, it's all about fit.

It's difficult to determine whether a position will fit you when you have only an hour or so to talk with your potential boss. It's a bit like going on a blind date and getting married after dinner! Both you and the hiring manager are trying to make the best decision possible in a high-pressure situation, and much of it hangs on the intangible concept of fit. To a degree, "fit" is like pornography -- job seekers and hiring managers feel that they will "know it when they see it." And much like dating, sometimes the attraction is one-sided.

Job seekers, the best way to determine whether a job is the right fit for you is to listen to what your gut says. If you've done your research before the interview, and asked your important questions during the interview, then you have done all you can do on that score. The rest of it is in the hiring manager's hands. If the hiring manager determines that you're not the right fit for the job, believe it, and move on.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Resume writing: How to get started

Career Hub, a blog written by a consortium of resume/career counseling professionals, is one of the top blogs out there in this field. I have relied on the site's information heavily during my own job searches, and I recommend the group's free e-books to all of my resume clients.

Billie Sucher, a career transition consultant, recently wrote a Career Hub post that sums up what you need to do before you write a resume -- and it has nothing to do with making a list of the places you've worked. Every word she writes here is pure gold!

Whether you're writing a resume yourself or you plan to work with a resume writer, you need to read this post and answer Billie's questions before you can begin. The five questions are:
  1. What is my purpose for doing a professional resume?
  2. What are my top job targets or goals?
  3. What is the brand message I wish to deliver to my reader?
  4. What conclusion(s) do I intentionally want my readers to draw after reading my resume?
  5. Have I devised a good strategy that makes it easy for the reader (aka stranger) to understand me, my purpose, and my most relevant, essential and supportive credentials that best qualify me for the job opportunity?
It is not enough to want a job these days. Companies want to hire people who are committed to and passionate about their work. Job seekers need to want to work in a specific field, or for a specific company, or both -- and they need to be able to explain why. The resume is the first place you can show that passion.

In order to have a resume that works for you, you need to know what you bring to a position and what you want out of it. If you answer Billie's questions and share those answers in how you craft your resume, you will get interviews -- and the answers to her questions will help you answer similar questions during the interviews.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

I'm back

I had planned on shutting down my blog for the rest of 2008. But things have changed, as they do, and I'm working on changing with them.

My Mom died on May 8, 2008. I was holding her hand. She went in peace and without pain, and I'm glad for that. What happens next, for me and for my family, is the hard part.

In the wake of my Mom's death, I'm doing what all the experts say you shouldn't do: changing my life. I'm taking some time off from working this summer, to feel my feelings and figure out what I want my life to look like for this next little bit. Part of my thinking has led me back here, to this blog, and back to writing.

I left an 11-year journalism career in 2006, and since then, I have worked as an administrative assistant in advertising and human resources. What I have learned from those experiences is that, overwhelmingly, I am a writer. I can be an assistant, because I'm adept at managing details and organization (and love doing both), but I respond to all work situations with questions -- as I did as a journalist/writer/editor. It's not just how I think, either; it's my best skill. I'm good at it, and I do love to do it. I seem to have gotten over the burnout that plagued me even a few months ago. I want to do this again.

I also want to nurture my interest in HR, recruiting and the entire job-hunting process. For the last year, I 've been reading the HR bloggers listed in my blog roll, and they've taught me a tremendous amount about all things HR. I hope to add my voice to theirs through this blog.

Make a Change Resumes began as my resume-writing business venture. I'm not writing resumes for hire just yet, but that could come. I'm restarting this blog with the hope of sharing tips and information on resume writing, job hunting, interviewing and closing the deal. My goals and focus could change over time, but that's the beauty of life -- it's all about making changes.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Blog suspended for one year

Hi all,

My recovery from emergency back surgery has gone well. I'm almost fully healed -- I can touch my toes! It's very exciting.

However, I have decided to shut this blog down until January 2009. I've realized that I need some time away from writing. I was a burned-out writer in 2006 when I left the newspaper industry, and somehow, I haven't stopped writing since. So I'm taking some time off in hopes that my excitement for blogging will be renewed.

Also, as some of you know, my mother has been battling lung cancer for 16 months now. She doesn't have too much longer to go, and as I no longer live in my hometown, I'm trying to travel more to see her. I have a feeling that 2008 is going to be emotionally taxing in a way that won't leave much time for extra-curricular career activities.

I'm writing you this note to explain my absence, as I do not want to delete this blog entirely, which means that anyone who uses Google can find it. There's some good information here for job-hunters, and I hope that if you stumble across this blog that you'll find information that helps you. I've loved working on this blog, and I hope I'll return next year.

In the meantime, enjoy the archives and recommended links!


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Another blogging hiatus

Not long after my last post, I wound up in the hospital after emergency surgery on my spine. Everything went well, thank goodness. The downside is that I'm not to sit upright for much more than an hour at a time during this stage of my recovery. So I haven't been able to do much writing.

Hopefully I'll be able to return with some consistency by early December.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Recommit to what you want

It's easy to let exhaustion and complacency derail your job hunt.

It took me three years of on-again, off-again work to leave newspapers and embark on a new career. I would go through cycles of enthusiasm about what I could do next -- start a pet-sitting business! start a personal-shopper business! freelance as a writer and editor! move somewhere new and find another writing job! -- and do my research, only to give up when I was hit with a big assignment at work or a personal crisis. Other times, I made the deliberate decision to stick it out where I was, because the money was good (and I had bills to pay) and the devil I knew was better than what might be Out There.

Sound familiar? I've seen this happen among my friends and clients as well. It's human nature. But a successful job hunt requires commitment, dedication, determination, and hope; without those, you'll have a hard time motivating yourself to keep with it. It also doesn't hurt to have a catalyst or a reminder of why you want a new job.

My job search finally took first place in my priorities when I received a new work assignment that I just couldn't stomach. It was one of those assignments that was historically given to people to help move them toward the door. I took the hint, buckled down, worked my contacts, and within two months received an offer that would teach me a new field (advertising) and give me the excitement I was longing for. (I quit that job seven months later, but that's a story for another post.)

Advice for job-seekers recommends that you work your job hunt like it's a job in itself -- something you do for 20 to 40 hours a week, perhaps every day, with measurable goals. This is difficult to do when you already have a full-time job to juggle with your family life, chores, your community work, your time for yourself, etc. In the end, you need to decide what's most important RIGHT NOW. If your job hunt never makes it into that slot, maybe it's time to put your energy into making your current job the right place for you to be.

As readers of this blog have probably noticed, Make A Change Resumes has not been at the top of my priority list for some time now. I spent the summer working two jobs, six days a week, 50+ hours a week, in order to make ends meet. I was too scared to let go of the second job that brought in money I could count on, in favor of working on my business and my blog, which might not bring in any money for a while. I made excuses to myself all summer, and then over the weekend, I had my decision made for me: I was fired from my second job (in a bookstore, which paid little more than minimum wage) because my exhaustion, and my restricted work hours due to that exhaustion, were things that the store manager no longer wanted to accommodate.

Sometimes it takes an outside catalyst to help us make the changes that our hearts want us to make. I'm grateful to my managers at the newspaper for helping me out the door, and I'm grateful to the book store manager for doing what I could not bring myself to do. I liked working at the book store, but what I really wanted to be doing was blogging and working with clients on their resumes. Now I can. I am recommitting myself to Make A Change Resumes, and I'm excited about it.

Are you ready to recommit to what you want?

Monday, September 03, 2007

It's the little things that matter

Have you listened to your outgoing voice mail lately?

If it's funkier than, "Hello, you've reached X, leave a message," etc., then you might have a problem getting a job.

Kris Dunn, the HR Capitalist, has a great post that explains how your voice mail message makes a difference when he's recruiting:

If I am calling a candidate off a resume and get voice mail, I treat it like a freebie. Good energy and kind of dynamic sounding in your voice mail greeting? Cool, I'm more interested than I was when I called.

So check your voice mail message and change it if you need to. Your friends will forgive you for having an uncool message, and you'll get interviews and maybe even a job out of it. Not a bad deal.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Become a LinkedIn expert

I've said a few times that I'm still learning about LinkedIn and how to use it effectively. What with my new jobs and move, I haven't had much time to breathe, let alone time to delve into the site.

Thank goodness for Web Worker Daily, which has a story listing 20 ways to use LinkedIn productively.

Now I have just one story to read instead of surfing LinkedIn for an hour! The same goes for you, too.

Now you have no excuse -- why aren't you on LinkedIn already?

Sunday, June 17, 2007

What not to write: Real-world examples

Recently, my "day job" in human resources gave me the opportunity to review resumes that had been submitted to my company. The experience has left me in awe of what job hunters don't know about writing a resume or a cover letter. Wow! Given all of the resources available these days, both in print and online, there's no reason for a job hunter not to understand what companies are looking for.

Dear readers, I want you to have every opportunity to land the job of your dreams, and the first step is submitting resumes and cover letters that are worth reading. In that spirit, I present to you the following examples of what not to write, and why:

1. Objection! The "objective" section of a resume, which Microsoft Word ever so nicely supplies on its resume templates, rarely adds value to your resume. But when the heading says "Objection" -- in 20-point type, no less, and at the top of the page -- it's really not doing you any good at all! There are two lessons to be learned from this example: First, always have someone else proofread your resume to catch mistakes such as this one. Second, do away with the "Objective" section all together. Replace it with a "Summary of Qualifications" section that tells a potential employer what you have to offer. Your resume needs to tell a potential employer what you will do for the company, not what the company can do for you. An "Objective" talks about what the company can do for you. So get rid of it.

2. "
I consider myself: multi-tasked." I found this grammatical mistake in a cover letter, and it made me shake my head. Grammar in the English language can be difficult to master, but this mistake could have been easily corrected by having someone else edit the letter, or even reading the letter out loud before sending it. (That's a great editing tool, because reading something aloud gives you the opportunity to hear how it will sound to the reader.) The lesson here is to keep your cover letter simple, using declarative sentences in the present tense. Write it the same way you would say it -- you aren't trying to write the Next Great Novel. Simple is better here.

"My leadership skills and abilities will help aid the driving forces in a team-oriented environment, maximizing the productivity within a corporate structure." Say what? This sentence, also from a cover letter, is just plain gobbletygook. There's no content there! I think the writer was trying to say that he or she works productively as part of a team, but I'm not entirely sure. You should KISS your cover letter: Keep It Simple, Silly. Reading this sentence made me think the worst of the job candidate -- that if he or she was padding a simple sentence like this, then as an employee would he or she put a lot of effort into looking like he/she was working when he/she really wasn't? At the very least, the sentence made me think that the writer thought I'd fall for the idea that "big words" means "intelligent." A word to the wise: Recruiters and hiring managers aren't stupid. Tricks don't work on them, so don't bother. Just be yourself.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Richmond professionals: Check out the HYPE

I just heard about a new networking group for young Richmond professionals, ages 21 to 40ish:

Helping Young Professionals Engage (HYPE) is a new program geared towards young professionals. Its goal is to bring together young professionals (21 - 40-ish) in the Greater Richmond Region through social, educational and professional development programs and networking events.

The group is holding two events in June and one in July, according to the Web site.

HYPE is sponsored by several big businesses in Richmond, most likely to work toward retaining talented professionals so they won't go off to the "big city." I love Richmond and think that it's a great place to live and work, so hats off to the businesses to realize that they need to help young employees find their niche here.

I don't know if my schedule will permit me to attend an event anytime soon, so if you check out HYPE, let me know what you think.