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Posts Tagged ‘job search skills’

Do the Next Thing

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

Whether it’s building a business or finding a job, the best advice is “Do the next thing.”  Too often, we do one thing and stop.  Then we wait for the reaction on that thing–the e-mail or phone call expressing interest, the dreaded form rejection letter, the suggestion that a prospective client wants to hear more.

Doing it that way means you spend a lot of your time waiting for what someone else may or may not do.  And waiting is a passive process.  So you lose momentum.  And you feel less effective because…well..nothing’s happening while you are doing all that waiting.

In other cases, you capitalize on one opportunity and call it good.  The chance to speak to a group or have coffee with someone who’s willing to mentor you.  Instead of using that as a springboard for doing more things, we consider ourselves done once we’ve written the thank you note.

Why do we do this?  I think it’s because it’s easier to handle life in little tidbits–to do one thing and then…well….rest.   The problem with this approach is that you start from the point of inertia every time and have to work up the moxie to do that one thing again and again.  You have to talk yourself into it and then get yourself going over and over.

If you look for the next thing with everything you do, you don’t have that acceleration challenge because you’re already moving.  You don’t have to talk yourself into it because you’re still finishing the last thing so you’re already in “do it” mode.

But even better, those “next things” can hold some pretty fun magic.  A year ago,  a career counselor on the other side of the country contacted me about reviewing my book on her blog.  Of course, I was delighted to send a review copy, and she did a wonderful write-up of what I had to say.   End of story, right?

Not really.  After I thanked her for the review, I decided I needed to check out her website more thoroughly.  Among the many things she offers there were links to TV shows she’d done interviewing people who had switched careers after 50 and were thriving.  One  interview in particular intrigued me, and I asked her to e-introduce me to that person.  She graciously agreed.

Then the “next thing” was to contact him.  When I did, I discovered he was looking for experts to write for his web-based business.  In particular, he was looking for somene to cover the business perspective of employing older workers.  That’s an angle I’d been trying to find a way to work for a year.  Perfect.  And that was it, right?  Nope.

The next thing?  Well, there were two.  Through that contact I met another expert who’s focused on people who start their own businesses after 50.  That gave me another angle from which to promote better use of our “retirement” years, another way to expand my knowledge base, and one more platform for increasing my visibility.

The second thing?  I got a request to be a keynote speaker for a conference on the topic because of the articles I’ve been writing from the business perspective.

Here’s the point:  None of these opportunities would have developed had I not gone beyond “thank you” with the woman who offered to review my book.  Stopping at the first thing means you’ll miss a lot of opportunities.

Doing the next thing gives you a sense of both control and movement.  When you are starting a business or trying to find a job–particularly in this economy–those are both vital and rare.

Do the next thing no matter what you are trying to do.  Go beyond the first thing–that has to be done–and see what else might be worth the effort.  It will increase your chances of success dramatically.  And it will be more fun than waiting for the phone to ring or the tone that announces a new e-mail to chime on your computer.

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Mary Lloyd is a speaker and consultant and author of Supercharged Retirement:  Ditch the Rocking Chair, Trash the Remote, and Do What You Love.  For more, see her website.

Dumbing Down Your Resume

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

The idea that you must “dumb down” your resume to be more appealing to younger hiring supervisors is nonsense.  When you have a lot of experience, knowing just what to highlight to showcase your value is a challenge. But young decision-makers are not dumb and “dumbing down” implies a sense of superiority that will probably bleed through in what you write–and in what you say if you get an interview.

You need to tweak it to be the most effective in can be every time you use it.  But that’s about focus and targeting what’s needed in that job, not pretending you are less than you.  It’s not that younger hiring decision makers aren’t smart enough or experienced enough to comprehend things as vast as your experience.  It’s that “your experience” isn’t what the hiring situation is about.  The company’s need is the focus of any hiring decision.  If you want to be in the running to do the work, shape your resume–and your cover letter, interview answers, and any other communication–around how what you can do matches what they need done.

Here are six questions to help you determine if your resume is saying a whole lot less than you think it is:

1.  Are you clinging to words, titles, and descriptions that focus on how great you were then?  Use words that make sense to the company you’re talking to now  instead.

2.  Are you clinging to multisyllabic  or out-of-date titles and terms simply because “that’s what it was called”?  Nobody cares if the title was actually “Managing Regional Partner for Customer Support, Retention, and Attraction. ” Even if that was the title, use the equivalent generic–Regional Marketing VP

3.  Are you phrasing everything you can in current vernacular?  Clinging to the words you used then instead of working from what’s current makes you look old–and out of date.

4.  Are you highlighting what you can do NOW?   A section that summarizes your strengths placed at the beginning of your resume helps with this.

5.  Are you name dropping to make yourself look good?  This plays to the ageist stereotype. Stand on your own laurels….but make sure they are relevant.

6.  Are you using jargon?  Communicating in plain language, even if you are in a highly technical field, makes you a stronger candidate.  Jargon changes rapidly, and you can appear obsolete simply because the term you used is no longer standard.    Use as little jargon as you can.  Same deal with acronyms.  Jargon makes those who don’t use it on their jobs feel inferior when someone else does–and that’s not what you want to happen when someone looks at your resume.

This is not “dumbing down” your resume.  It’s getting smart about what you are trying to do with it in the first place.

 

Writing a Killer 50+ Resume

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

Crafting an effective resume when you’re over 50 has extra challenges. If you get it right, the whole world knows you’re good at what you do.  If you don’t, nothing happens.

One of the benefits of experience is that you can make difficult things look easy.  That’s a problem if you end up needing to convince someone new that you’re the right person for the job.   People who’ve been effective over the long haul often lose track of what it’s like to not be that effective.   That leads you to talk in terms of the job instead of how you did it.  Working from that perspective presents you as a plain vanilla anybody.  So before you write one word of that resume you really needed to have done yesterday, think through these questions.

What makes you a uniquely valuable hire?  The vast majority of us have an extremely difficult time putting this into words.  That may be because you’ve been taught not to brag or it may be a case of assuming everyone can do what you’re good at.  Either way, your next employer isn’t going to know that you have exactly what she needs until you get the information out there where she can see it.  Your first shot in that effort is with your resume.

The current jargon for what you need here is “personal brand.”  Knowing what makes you a valuable employee and being able to put that in five to ten words is important in a job search.  Ideally, you will have practiced these words enough that you come up with them as if on autopilot when needed, even in an unexpected place like at your kid’s basketball game or in line at the grocery store.   Having the first few words come out automatically makes it easier to deal with the rest of the conversation effectively.

What’s a resume for?  A resume is a marketing tool.  This is not the place to tell your life story or to go on at length about the minutia of what you did in each job you ever held.  Those of us with a lot of experience can easily shoot ourselves in the foot on this. The stereoype of aging that our culture holds associates longwindedness with mental decline.  Use only what’s important and be concise.

What does my next employer need to know most about me?  You will be way ahead of the competition if you write your resume so that it addresses how you can solve the hiring manager’s problem.  The best way to do that is to highlight how you’ve helped your previous employers get what they needed done.  Just mentioning that you served as the liaison with the Building Department is nowhere near as compelling as saying that you developed solid relationships with them and got permitting accomplished quickly.

What are the differences between the job description and how YOU performed the job?  Quite often, these two things get confused by resume writers.   Talking about the job instead of your performance obscures the value of your experience.  The duties of the job are what’s written on a formal job description.  It might be something like “handles walk in customer traffic.”  How you did the job probably goes beyond that in some unique way.   Were you effective at helping people figure out what they needed?  At dealing with irate complaints?  At keeping track of clients’s preferences so they felt like they were “family” and became loyal to your place of business?

There’s a place for the job description language–in the experience section right under the company and job title listed.   Use no more than two lines for that description.  The rest of the space you allot for that job experience needs to focus on what you did particularly well.

How can I avoid being ignored because of my age?  The first step in this is to be sure you’re not setting yourself up with your own thinking. Are you making excuses for not learning new things (including technology!) because you are “too old?”  Are you telling yourself you don’t have the stamina you need for what you want to do next?  Neither of these things is a given consequence of getting older.  Change you lifestyle and stop telling yourself that you’re old.

In your resume,  pay close attention to your choice of words. Use action verbs and short phrases to project energy.  Consider an initial section that speaks in current terms–what you can do NOW–rather than putting everything in the past tense a chronological resume requires.  Avoid as many adjectives and adverbs as you can–they bog the writing down.

Having experience is a plus that has somehow become devalued in today’s job market.   You can’t expect to be valued for the seniority you had at another company.  But you can create momentum to propell yourself into your next job by projecting energy and making a clear case for how you can help the next company better than those who’ve had less of a chance to learn how to get things done.

 

Resumes for 50+ Job Seekers

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

Some resume advice given to those of us over 50 is misguided-and wrong.

At an AARP job fair I volunteered at yesterday, several job seekers told me stories of situations where they had ideal qualifications for work they were applying for, but they didn’t include it, because it was more than ten years in the past. They were under the impression that hiring supervisors were death on seeing anything but their most recent experience.

This is ridiculous. The strongest thing someone over 50 has to offer an employer is the breadth and depth of their experience. It means they know how to show up for work on time, solve a problem without creating a new one, soothe an irate customer, and so on. Negating that by limiting what you can talk about to the last ten years is lunacy.

This suggested strategy is probably stemming from a misunderstanding of advice that you include only the last ten years of experience on your resume to reduce the chances of ageism. There is some legitimacy to that. But it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t mention relevant experience at all. It just means you don’t need to list every job you ever had. (Remember when we didn’t have experience and we were desperate to list anything that looked like a job?)

If you are looking for work and have been in the workforce for a while, you need to be both creative and attentive in what you tell a prospective employer about what you can do. A key piece of a good resume writing strategy is to separate your achievements and strengths from the chronology of your work experience in how your format your information. That way, you can mention that you successfully owned and operated a car repair shop, even if it was twenty years ago, for example.

The most important thing to do with your resume is to give the person to whom you are sending it a clear idea of your experience at solving the problems they are trying to address. When you learned that skill isn’t anywhere near as important as that you have learned it.

Experience is GOOD. But knowing what part of the vast amount you have applies to the job you’re seeking is critical. Telling everybody everything won’t work. But neither does not telling the person who needs to know, simply because you did it more than ten years ago.  Use your head on this and stop  following arbitrary rules that well-meaning but misguided unemployment counselors offer.