–Text from Career Thought Leaders Consortium “Findings of 2010 Global Career Brainstorming Day: Trends for the Now, the New & the Next in Careers.”

QUESTION: What does the current job-search and employment landscape look like and what are the trends and best practices that we currently experience?

Resumes, Cover Letters, LinkedIn Profiles & Other Career Marketing Communications

  • Google has replaced the resume as the preferred introduction to job seekers. Dick Bolles, author of What Color is Your Parachute? and a true pioneer in the employment industry, was recently quoted as saying, “Your Google results are the new resume.” Today’s recruiters are using Google searches and LinkedIn to source candidates instead of trolling job-board databases.
  • It’s essential to keep it short. Forty years ago, resumes were one page listings of an individual’s work history typed, of course, on onionskin paper. Ten years ago, resumes were two, three, or four pages long, extolling a candidate’s qualifications, successes, deliverables, value, highlights, traits, and more. Today’s resume replicates the earlier trend as we work to keep it short (one to two pages; rarely any longer). However, today’s resume also incorporates all of same elements as the longer resumes – qualifications, successes, value, and accomplishments; it’s simply written tighter, cleaner, and leaner. Shorten two sentences to one. Eliminate an extra bullet point. Summarize all of the tech skills into one line. You can do it!
  • Culture fit more important than ever. As recruiters and hiring managers work tirelessly to identify the right candidates for their organizations, one of the most important criterion they use today is culture fit. They want to know if a job seeker will perform well within their company, within their management structure, within their communications infrastructure, and so on. Resume writers, career coaches, and others are working harder than ever today to communicate a strong message of culture fit when writing resumes, letters, and other job-search communications.
  • Resume “extras” require extra thought. With all of the focus on writing short and to the point, what do you do when you’re working with a client who has lots of great information – important information – but it’s never going to fit onto one or two pages? This might include publications, public speaking engagements, media appearances, technology qualifications, projects, consulting engagements, international experience, or more. Today’s savvy resume writer knows to briefly mention these items, include enough substance to make them valuable additions to the resume, and then include the rest of the information in an addendum.
  • Web portfolios are here to stay, but are they? If web portfolios had ever really caught on, they’d be the answer to what to do with all of the extras. With just a click or a tap, a hiring manager would be able to move seamlessly from educational qualifications to professional experience to honors and awards to executive consulting engagements, and down the list through each component of a candidate’s experience. However, as career professionals, we’re well aware that web portfolios have not caught on as so many of us had anticipated. By now, many of us thought they would be mainstream. Today’s reality is that only a small percentage of job seekers use them, either because they’re too much trouble to create and maintain, but more likely because recruiters and hiring managers simply don’t spend the time to review them. They would rather glance at a resume, skim a LinkedIn profile, or do a keyword search through their ap plicant database. That’s today’s market and the one in which we need to work right now.
  • Resume branding is a must, particularly for professionals, managers, and executives. A personal brand is an authentic differentiator that identifies and communicates the unique value of an individual clearly and concisely and with 100% accuracy. Once someone’s brand has been uncovered – through a coaching, counseling, or resum E-writing process – it should then be clearly conveyed in every communication of that professional’s career portfolio – resume, career bio, cover letters, thank-you letters, LinkedIn profile, and everything else. One consistent brand equals one consistent message of value and a resume that gets noticed, an interview that gets scheduled, and a job offer that’s made.
  • Brands extend beyond resumes and job search. Today’s professionals, whether in active job-search mode or happily employed, know they need to continually work on building their brands, expanding their brand messages, and building stronger networks, online and off. They know that it’s best to have all of the pieces in place (i.e., contacts who understand them and their value) before they ever need them because our employment landscape continues to remain challenging, to say the least.
  • Core Competencies section returns to the resume forefront. Using a Core Competencies section near the top of a resume is something that many resume writers have done for years and years. However, for others, it had fallen out of vogue. Today, it’s making a resurgence because it coincides with the 140-character mentality of keeping everything as succinct as possible. Plus, it’s quick and easy for a visual review and works great for automated keyword searches.
  • Resumes rich with STARs, CARs, OARs, and SOARs get the most attention and drive the most action. If you’re not familiar with these acronyms, STAR means situation, tactic, action, results; CAR means challenge, action, results; OAR means opportunity, action, results; SOAR means situation or opportunity, action, and results. This type of information adds remarkable value to today’s resumes by instantly communicating proof of what a candidate has learned and can immediately apply to the hiring company.
  • Testimonials add power. One of the strongest elements you can add to a resume today is a testimonial in which someone else extols a job seeker’s skills, talents, achievements, and value. Professional resume writers use testimonials quite often – in resume headers and footers, in shaded boxes, in summary sections, under job descriptions, and in other places where most appropriate. Many of us believe that these give job seekers a truly competitive edge and a lot of credibility to substantiate their value.
  • Visuals and graphics add power to a resume. Today’s resumes often incorporate visual images, graphics, tables, charts, icons, logos, text boxes, borders, and shading (although generally not all of this in one resume). These enhancements are practically a must for people in visually creative professions for their resumes to demonstrate their design talents. For just about all job seekers, these visuals provide an instantly competitive edge because they’re distinct and get noticed and, bottom line, that’s what resume writing is all about … getting noticed from the crowd. Be appropriate and judicious in your use of these enhancements and be consistent from document to document, website to online resume, business card to stationery.
  • Objectives are beginning to r E-emerge … or not. As always, the subject of putting an objective on a resume was the subject of fierce debate. Resume writers focus their words on communicating a candidate’s value and not on stating what the candidate wants from a company. However, resume reviewers (hiring managers and recruiters) want to know – in an instant – what position(s) the candidate is qualified for. That leaves a wide chasm between the two and is much of the reason for the perpetual discussions about objectives. A huge percentage of today’s resumes solve that problem by beginning with a headline that clearly communicates “who” the candidate is and “what” they want. An example headline for a sales professional is “Multilingual Sales Executive & Key Account Manager.” Resume writers are happy with the wording and presentation of headlines, and hiring professionals can instantly f ind the information they want.
  • Paper resumes can still be your clients’ best bet. Hand-in-hand with the use of visual enhancements such as borders, tables, and logos is the concept of paper versus electronic resumes. Today’s answer is simple … there is a place for both. Although we may not use the paper resume as often as in years past, in some circumstances it is the very best option and that’s not expected to change any time soon.
  • Resumes must answer the “right” question. In years past, resumes were focused on what job seekers wanted. Not anymore! The focus of every resume must be on what’s in it for the hiring company. What value will they get by hiring this applicant, and how quickly?
  • Cover letters cannot overcome incomplete or weak resumes. For decades, studies have shown the same results… one third to  one half of the time, recruiters and hiring authorities don’t read cover letters. As such, resumes must stand on their own and include critical information that, if left out, would exclude them from consideration for a particular opportunity.
  • E-letters have different rules. E-letters are continuing to replace traditional cover letters as electronic messages have become the dominant method of business and job-search communications. Although designed with the same objective as a traditional cover letter – to introduce the job seeker and incite interest in the resume (and the candidate), E-letters have a few important distinctions. First, the E-letter is contained in the email message and not sent as an attachment. Of even greater importance is the physical layout of the E-letter; namely, the critical content of an E-letter must be above the scroll line (just like in a newspaper when journalists want their stories above the fold line). Understanding that, you can now appreciate another big difference between the two. E-letters are very short and direct, becoming more so with each passing day. Traditional cover letters remain  one third to  one half to one full page.
  • Resumes are no longer the introductory tool they used to be. There is no doubt that the resume remains a vital component for most job seekers and, in fact, still is the primary tool job seekers use to generate interviews. However, in today’s more complex, more sophisticated, and multi-channel job- search market, at times the resume is presented after the initial introduction or network contact, rather than as the first point of contact – and that’s okay. Career professionals must teach clients to use their resumes and other career marketing communications wisely and appropriately.
  • Career bios can often be an appropriate introduction tool. This is particularly true for managers and executives in transition or considering transition. Giving someone a resume communicates the message of “I’m looking for a job,” whereas a bio is more low-key, great for sharing at informational interviews and making new contacts. Today’s bios are written in a diversity of styles and structures, with the single goal being to position an individual for their next opportunity. Bios can be written in first or third person and can be structured in sentences or phrases. They can focus on skills or achievements or both; showcase technological or artistic expertise; have bulleted highlights or not; include some personal information or not; include educational credentials or not; feature a photograph or not (it’s a nice touch and definitely personalizes each interaction). Just as with resume writing, there are no steadfast rules.
  • Microsoft Word is the “right” resume software and format for today. Word is the dominant global word processing software and is the standard upon which almost every Applicant Tracking System (ATS) is built. As such, job seekers today must create a resume in Word (.doc) format. The newer .docx format is not yet widely accepted, so rather than risk the chance that their file can’t be viewed or opened, job seekers should always opt for the lower-level .doc format. Plain text versions (saved as .txt files) are also important because they are the best format to paste into online job applications. Today’s technology has not yet reached the point where, universally, online applications can read Word files accurately and interpret them correctly, so everyone must also have the .txt version. Similarly, ATS and scanning systems are not all capable of reading pdf files, so unless specifically requested, a pdf file should not be used for onli ne applications nor with resume scanning and applicant tracking systems. Word is the single solution today.
  • Twitres is an interesting and advantageous technology innovation. Job seekers who are active on Twitter can use Twitres (www.twitres.com) to display their resume. All they need to do is upload a copy of their print resume and it will appear as the background on their Twitter page. This is a great tool especially for younger job seekers.

–Text from Career Thought Leaders Consortium “Findings of 2010 Global Career Brainstorming Day: Trends for the Now, the New & the Next in Careers.”

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Well…

In reality, some multi-talented people (what I call “Renaissance Personalities”) feel awkward about telling their friends and family that their “problem” of not feeling fulfilled in their current career originates in being multi-talented. After all…they reason, if you’re good at so many different things, why not just pick one and stick with it?

Other Renaissance Personalities feel selfish because it seems such a nice problem to have; “too many” talents.

Others feel like they need to see a mental health specialist. Or are told/forced by their loved ones to see someone about their “issue.”

And when you think career or aptitude tests will bring you solace – think again. I have yet to find the RP who has found the magic answer in a test. For obvious reasons; you’re good at – and interested in – highly diverse fields.

So here are the most common mistakes I see “newly discovered” RPs make, and of course I’ll tell you how to avoid these mistakes…

Still focusing on career direction, believing there is one magic solution that fits your personality.

I can’t blame you – that’s what we’ve been taught to do throughout high school and in society. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” It starts there.

Even though there are a few lucky bastards that get to combine multiple passions into a so-called “umbrella career,” it doesn’t mean you’re there.

They say that even non-RPs change careers on average 7 times throughout their lives. For RPs, career focus is a work in progress that will never end.

An RP who emailed me last week is on to her 16th career!

Here’s how to avoid the mistake of focusing on a single solution…

You will have to get used to the idea – better yet; get comfortable with it – that you’ll have a lot of changes in your professional life. And you won’t be able to figure it all out from today until retirement.

It’s a changing world; professions disappear, others are born. Technology develops at insane velocity. We’re all getting more global and linked together.

For most RPs, the real question of what to do next is a combination question:

What are the different things I want to do?

Which of these do I want to do for money? (And which do I keep as a hobby?)

In which order am I going to pursue the things I want to do?

Answers to these questions will vary widely, even among RPs.

You see, there are vast differences among RPs.

This brings us to another major mistake I see RPs make: Not recognizing that there are many different types of RPs, each with their own preferences.

Here’s how to avoid this mistake…

Read up on the many different types of RPs in my free report (see below) and in Barbara Sher’s “Refuse to Choose.”

For example; some RPs like to skim the surface of a topic and then move on, not staying in any particular field any longer than necessary.

Yet others like to specialize – contradictory as it may sound – and move on to the next thing after maybe 10 years. What makes them an RP is that they tend to move on to something completely different. Also, they’re not motivated by money or status. Once they reach success, they feel “done.” And thus move on. The challenge has been mastered.

Some RPs make the conscious decision to engage in all their passions in their free time. Not commercializing your passions can be a big advantage too. These RPs pick a rather simple, steady job that doesn’t cause them stress or require long hours. This way, they have enough time, energy, and money to enjoy their true passions in their own time, on their own terms.

A more esoteric “mistake” I see RPs make is not fully accepting and embracing their trait. This is such an important aspect that I spend a lot of time on it in my Renaissance program.

Especially after believing for such a long time that something is awry with you, it’s hard to let the truth sink in, namely that you’re simply a multi-talented, multi-passionate person.

Here’s how to avoid this mistake…

Keep at it. Reread the Barbara Sher and Margaret Lobenstine books. Keep reading my newsletter and blog, and others on the topic. Try to connect with other RPs. Talk about it with supportive people.

The more you keep the whole concept front of mind, the more it will feel normal to you and the more ingrained it will become that you too are very normal!

It just takes some time and practice.

Bottom line: have patience with yourself! No one said it’s easy to create a Renaissance life but the important part is that it CAN be done! And it can be exciting and fulfilling, as long as you’re willing to accept the ongoing nature of it. This is why it’s important to have support around you. Hopefully from your loved ones to begin with and from a good coach at times to get you going in the right direction and gain momentum.

For a more in-depth overview of these – and other – mistakes RPs commonly make, download my free report “3 Massive Mistakes Modern-Day ‘Renaissance Personalities’ Make-And How to Avoid Them” on my website: http://www.CareerBranches.com – if you hadn’t already done so…

Do You Push Too Hard?

December 15, 2010

Have you given your job search or career change your all yet you’ve still got nothing to show for?

When people come to me and tell me this, it typically comes down to 2 things:

  • They either thought they did all the right things but in reality they lacked a solid strategy. Or any strategy.
  • They pretty much did all the right things – and may have even enlisted the help of a coach or counselor – but their attitude wasn’t right.

I want to talk about the second scenario.

So let me explain “attitude.” Or maybe “intention” is a better word.

When you look at the people who land new jobs, despite a bad economy, the thing they typically have in common is an upbeat outlook. Or at least a non-desperate one.

While this is something that is partially personality-based, you can teach yourself to adopt a more positive perspective on something that can seem very daunting, such as a job search.

Whenever you act based on fear and desperation, you start to rush yourself and you are more prone to making mistakes. Not to mention you’re giving off bad vibes. I don’t want to get all airy-fairy on you, but it’s easy to spot the difference between someone who feels good about him/herself and who has faith in the future vs. the person who feels panicky about securing their next position.

Is this tricky?

Of course it is.

When you’re suddenly out on the streets and you have a family to provide for, “zen” is not the most likely state of mind.

I see a lot of panic in the people that come to me after they’ve lost their jobs. (Again, a great reminder why it’s so vital to be prepared at all times with an updated resume and an active network. And to start a job or career transition when you’re still employed if you know you want to make a change. But that’s food for another article.)

So how do you go from panic to peace?

Sometimes, it’s by realizing what’s “likely” to happen, what the worst case scenario is, and what’s possible. Often, the worst case scenario is highly unlikely or not as bad as you thought. Or it turns out there are other options. For example; if you do stay unemployed and your benefits run out, you could take on any kind of job just to pay the bills, until you find something you truly like.

Some people get there by getting confident about their abilities and their value to employers. This is a great place to start from.

Others focus on their faith in God or the universe to help them in finding what’s right for them.

And sometimes, it takes going through the different stages of “mourning” – disbelief, anger, depression, acceptance. Not necessarily in that order. Can you see anything good coming when carrying out a job search during the phase of disbelief, anger, or depression? But once you hit acceptance, you open yourself up to new possibilities.

The thing is…when you operate from a feeling of hope and faith and positivity, you are also better able to see what’s right for you and make better decisions all along. When you’re in a panic, you’re more likely to make rush decisions that turn out to be not the greatest after all.

Having said all this…what I hope you get from this article is that devising a solid job transition strategy is a must but the great results will come when you combine it with an attitude based on calmness and faith (primarily in yourself but also in things turning out just fine for you).

I’m curious…have you experienced either scenario?

Do You Say This?

December 8, 2010

“No one hires during the Holidays.”

I hear this quite often.

Yet it’s not true.

In fact, because this seems such a stubborn myth, you can be assured of less competition!

Here are some tips to make the most of your quest during the last few weeks of the year:

  • Employers may be easier to reach during the holiday season because it’s quieter in the office. Take advantage of this and make a personal connection with key people at the companies you’re interested in.
  • Attend the holiday parties and get-togethers you get invited for. No better time to mingle and meet new folks in a relaxed atmosphere. It’s like networking in overdrive.
  • Send holiday greetings (cards, little gifts, an email update – whatever is appropriate) to the people in your network. A great way to thank those who have helped you throughout the year and to give them an update. This is all part of maintaining your network.
  • Remember the contacts close to you: your family and friends. It’s not what they can directly do for you, but who they know. An often-forgotten source of leads! They may also invite you to their holiday parties (see above).

Best of luck! Some of my clients have landed their dream jobs during the holiday season. You just never know what’s around the corner…

Liz Murray was in the news again the other day. She’s the “from homeless to Harvard” girl that had a movie made about her unbelievable story and that recently released her first book “Breaking Night.” The book is her memoir of growing up with her drug-addicted parents in New York City…about being on the streets of New York after losing her mom to AIDS at the age of 15 and ultimately making it into Harvard…and graduating. Today, she’s an international speaker, among other things.

It’s the ultimate success story. She’s been honored left and right by the likes of Oprah and, oh well, the White House.

Yet…I was wondering something.

What is harder?

Turning your life around when you seem to have nothing going for you and you’ve hit rock bottom (like Liz), or making drastic changes in your life when your situation is neither dire nor great?

The obvious answer seems to be that a person in Liz’s situation would have the toughest time making something of their life. Right?

But here’s what I’m thinking:

When you’ve hit rock bottom, you have nothing to lose. The only way is up. Clearly, you have a lot to gain. And your desperation can be a big motivator to get – and keep – going.

When you’re living in mediocrity, you still have plenty to gain, but also to lose. You may be discontent, but not desperate enough to make big changes in your life.

So I got thinking about the millions of single families in the U.S., struggling to get by. Some of the single moms and dads go on to pursue higher education and realize their career dreams, ultimately providing a better life for their families.

Others barely manage to hold on to their jobs and be there for their kids.

Yet their efforts and achievements aren’t dismal.

You’ll hardly ever hear about them…there’s no big media story in it…no huge contrast such as going from homeless to Harvard. Yet they make sacrifices every day, push themselves beyond what they thought was possible, and keep their families together.

Maybe they put in just as much – or more – effort into keeping their families afloat compared to what it took Liz to rise above her situation.

Then there are the folks with successful careers who seem to have it all. Many of them are unhappy in their professional life though. Yet they have lots to lose. They may have others who depend on them. Certain things are expected of them – such as hefty mortgage payments each month. They may have grown up in relative wealth, therefore not having developed the perseverance and coping skills that Liz couldn’t help but nurture out of necessity. So when it’s time to make a drastic change, these successful folks aren’t necessarily the best prepared. Which means they experience it as something very difficult.

Of course, no comparison to the difficulty of being abandoned as a child and having to fend for yourself, but remember – I’m playing devil’s advocate here.

Liz’s story is the classic American success story. We all love these stories. And clearly, the contrast in her life is enormous; could she have been much worse off as a kid?

I guess what I’m saying is: congrats to Liz – can’t help but love her – but I’m here also celebrating all the invisible “stories” of people and families that transform their lives and take big risks, but that we’ll never see on 20/20 or Oprah. I’m celebrating the efforts of millions of people who weren’t exactly born with a silver spoon in their mouth either but who, against the odds, made something of themselves, no matter how basic.

Last but not least, I love Liz’s “it’s unlikely, but possible” statement. This is what she told herself when she entered a writing contest that ultimately got her into Harvard. It was unlikely that she’d win the competition, but possible.

It’s powerful to be operating from the “possible perspective” vs. the “unlikely viewpoint.”

Where do you tell yourself that something is unlikely, or even impossible? Could you instead focus on the possibility, even if it’s small? Let’s try.

Here’s my invitation to you: If you have a story of struggle and the changes you made in your life that may not have been very visible to those around you, I’d like to hear about it!

This is your chance to share it and perhaps let it serve as inspiration to others who may be in similar situations. I’d love to hear your story!

If, on the other hand, you’re thinking of making some shifts in your professional life, or started making them but got stuck, email me at Ilona@CareerBranches.com to see how I can help you get moving towards reaching your goals.

This week, I have another question for you…

How did you get your last job(s)? Was it through networking? By responding to an ad? Through an online posting? Or did you “cold call” on a company?

Instead of an article, this week I have a question for you…

“Which two job or career transition activities do you spend the most time on? Be specific!”