Friday, October 21, 2011

Job Hunting Advice for a Midlifer

One of my clients is a midlife guy whose resume makes him look unqualified for the position he aspires to: operations manager at a 10-50-employee high-tech company.

Here are a few of the strategies I offered him:
  • With your networking contacts, use a one-page bio rather than your resume. The bio allows you to highlight your strengths. Your resume lays too much bare for everyone to see.
  • Like most geek types, indeed most men, you've put all your work effort into working and into getting more skilled, and no time building what alas seems more required than ability: a network. So rather than continue only to tap your existing network, which you describe as having already been queried enough, you must take the time to build a new network, which includes, not just formal networking events, joining clubs, taking positions on small boards, etc, but making conversation with people you meet everywhere, from the supermarket line to the people waiting at the barber shop.
  • Having limited experience in your aspired-to job, you must do some reading and informational interviews with respected people in those positions. That way, you'll be able to discuss how the job is well-conducted. For example, as an operations manager, you should be able to richly discuss the ways in which you'd manage upward and downward, your approaches to getting buy-in on technical implementations from the not-very-technical people who will be using it, etc.


Grace said...

I create anywhere from 3 to 15 resumes a week. If your resume lays it out too bare, then you need to change your resume. To quote Penelope Trunk, a resume is not a biography but a marketing tool. Personally, I think most people should stay away from a chronological resume which highlights job hopping and gaps. I prefer a combination resume that highlights what needs to be highlighted and downplays (or ignores completely) that which is unattractive. You don't have to lie on a resume, but you can be very selective.

Marty Nemko said...

Alas, many if not most employers will view askance if not simply toss out a resume that does not list the job chronology. They're well aware that skills resumes are used to hide a candidate's flaws.

Grace said...

Chronological resumes are great if you have a consistant work history and no major gaps. But if you have worked in various industries or have taken time off for whatever reason, strictly chronological resumes make these flaws stand out like Donald Trump at Occupy Wall Street.

On combo resumes, positions are still listed chronologically but within groupings. Sections are created that display the most relevant information. If I want a baking position, and I was a baker two jobs ago, a strictly chronological resume might bump my baking experience to a second page that an employer might never read. Starting my resume with a new section entitled "Baking Experience" that includes dates will list my relevant, albeit older, experience while still displaying my other positions and dates under "Additional Experience".

I don't like skills resumes that don't have dates listed. This is the first clue that you are trying to hide something. I only use these resumes when listing the dates would bring up more questions than not listing the dates. In these circumstances, I have to give even more attention into employer/industry research and describing duties and skills that will make the employer interested even with the questions. I think functional/ skills resumes should only be used as a last resort.

Regardless of style, if a resume is not generating interest, it needs to change. I've seen too many people drag out their job search because of their unwillingness to evaluate and adapt their strategies. They cling to what they feel are their perfect resumes at the expense of actually getting a job.

Marty Nemko said...

I've found that a bio is often a good approach when a resume will make you not look good compared with the competition.

Grace said...

Is a written bio really well received? Have your clients had success with it? I guess I'm unfamiliar with using a bio, but the idea doesn't appeal to me (yet). It seems less professional than a resume and a little more like shameless self promotion. When talking with networking contacts, wouldn't a well crafted "Tell me about yourself" answer (which is essentially a spoken bio) suffice? How is this bio different from a cover letter with a human side? If you have discussed this in an older blog post, forgive me. I guess I need to research this more.

Marty Nemko said...

A bio is better than a resume that reveals gaps, employment that isn't right on target with the job applied for, etc. Skills/hybrid resumes are just too often ridiculed as an obvious obfuscation. In reality, no matter how you giftwrap a not-excellent product, it's still a not-excellent product.


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