About 20 years ago, I was selected for my first assignment as a career advisor at Professional Re-employment, Outplacement & Staffing Services, known as PROS. Our clients included downsized professionals and executives in hundreds of occupations.
I was bewildered. How do I learn about jobs in all these occupations so I can help my assigned clients find new positions? Our Career Advisement Supervisor told me “you’ll learn from your clients.”
This is how I have approached career advisement, coaching, resume writing, and online profile writing. It has been a fascinating journey because I have learned so much about what people do in their day-to-day working lives.
The most important lessons I’ve learned, though, are the lessons that matter to you—the messages they had to convey for their resumes and interviews to be successful. These 4 lessons include:
- Select a job target you are qualified for,
- Highlight concrete accomplishments,
- Education is golden, and
- All work is honorable.
The evidence here is, of course, anecdotal. Nonetheless, I have drawn on 20 years of experience with people from all walks of life that have sought career advancement. For example, I have observed that job-seekers with unclear or non-existent job targets commonly have more difficulty in the job market.
Select a job target you are qualified for.
My most successful clients are those that have selected their job targets and then apply for jobs they meet the requirements to fill.
Recently, an Army veteran searching for a higher-paying and more challenging assignment got a better job the day after he started using the resume we developed together.
“Jerry” was working as a remote IT project administrator for a major pharmaceutical company. He wants to be an IT project manager. I asked him to study whether he met the requirement for a project manager job. IT project managers, we both found, often have years of software development experience that Jerry lacks. So, after some discussion, we agreed he should use the term “project administrator.”
It worked. He gave his revised resume to his temp agency. They immediately reassigned him to a business analyst position where Jerry says his salary is much higher. A business analyst position could also be a stepping-stone to a project management assignment.
A young woman I worked with recently earned her graduate degree and was making little progress in her job search. Her resume needed work, but this was not the biggest problem.
One of the things I ask new clients to send me is an example of a job posting they are applying to fill. “Dalia,” (not her real name) had a recent MS degree from a top school of international affairs and wanted to work at the UN or a non-governmental international organization. (NGO)
Her target organizations were reasonable, but Dalia was not qualified for the specific jobs she was applying for. One job, for example, required 3 to 5 years of experience in a similar job with the UN agency. She was a new graduate with no UN agency experience.
Dalia made progress when she redefined her job target. The new target was an entry-level development assignment at an NGO or other non-profit. She gained experience in this area while in graduate school, and found a full-time development assignment at a non-profit in Texas.
Highlight concrete accomplishments.
Successful clients have helped me fill their resumes with specific accomplishments that demonstrate use of hard and soft skills.
A client we’ll call Dessie comes to mind because she had outstanding credentials, many years of experience in her field, and a specific job target. Her resume, though, emphasized her responsibilities as a lobbyist and political campaign manager at the state level. It did not emphasize her achievements.
We asked Dessie to document her accomplishments. She had a solid record of getting legislation passed, growing grassroots movements, and getting candidates elected.
Dessie told me she spent one afternoon sending out her new resume and talking to her contacts. She started her dream job less than one month later, and continues to work there despite the pandemic.
Job-seekers also must demonstrate “soft skills” such as teamwork. It is critical that you use concrete accomplishments to demonstrate soft skills. Nearly everyone lists teamwork as a skill, for example, so employers probably won’t search for it because every resume will be listed. Instead, we demonstrate quantified accomplishments that demonstrate teamwork.
Jerry, for example, facilitated Agile SCRUM remote team meetings. He achieved meeting attendance 67% above company standard. This documented accomplishment is a lot stronger than listing teamwork skills.
Demonstrated accomplishments get results for my clients where listing soft skills or asserting that they were responsible for certain tasks would be weak.
Education is golden.
Your education often determines whether or not you will be considered for an opportunity. It also impacts the salary you will be offered. We have noted in a past blog post that there is a well-documented correlation between education and income. The more education you have, the more you are likely to earn.
First, make certain you meet the education requirements for a job you are applying for. A recent client wants to work for the Innocence Project and was not making progress with her applications. We found that many of their jobs require a law degree. Eventually, we identified a department that does not require a law degree, so she is now applying for jobs there.
Additional factors come into play once you meet the basic educational requirement for the job. Last week, I spoke with a recruiter who told me he searches LinkedIn for job-seekers that have attended schools his clients have hired from successfully in the past. He has also found that people are more willing to help job seekers that attended the same school, even if they attended years apart. This strategy can be beneficial, he says, even if you are now attending and have not received your degree yet.
For several years, I was a work readiness facilitator for a welfare-to-work program serving people with disabilities. Here, I observed that the biggest barrier to employment for many clients was not their disability. Instead, it was their lack of a high school diploma and literacy skills.
All work is honorable.
A lesson we are all learning today is that all work is honorable. Many of us did not give much thought to the people that serve us in our daily lives, such as grocery store workers, delivery drivers, nurses, and medical technicians.
This was not a revelation to me. I learned it at the welfare-to-work program when I spent a great deal of time coaching and resume writing with job seekers doing service work. I realized that someone has to answer the customer service line, clean the store restrooms, and deliver the products.
Many of us feel we just do our job every day. We do not recognize our own accomplishments or give ourselves enough credit for the contributions we make to our organization and its clients. Give yourself credit for what you contribute, whether you schedule sales appointments, drive the CEO’s car, or open one of their stores on time every morning. It counts! Take stock of all your education and business achievements as you prepare for advancement in the post COVID-19 era. Do not sell yourself short. Contact us using our free consultation link below for some suggestions on pulling it all together into a successful career marketing campaign.