Monday, March 16, 2009

Emerging nuggets

Part of my severance package includes two months of services from a career services firm. I was offered this at my last layoff as well, but never had a chance to try it out. Seeing as how much longer my unemployment could last, I figured I might as well explore what the firm had to offer.

The two months of service include access to their online resources, free workshops, and eight hours of one-on-one career counseling. In the few weeks I've be "active" I've simply met with the counselor. I fully intend to start attending workshops now that other projects have wrapped up.

The first counseling session was a tug-of-war. While I'm sure she is generally knowledgeable and helpful, I didn't feel like she had a good grasp of my industry. For years, I've read resume advice about how each bullet point of a job description should detail how a responsibility translated into metrics, i.e. how did you make or save the company $$$. With a majority of jobs, I can understand this. A sales job is pretty obvious, did this, sold $$$. If you're a computer programmer, created this program, translated into %xx increase in customers or website hits. In manufacturing, an employee could improve a process to complete production faster or negotiate a vendor contract to decrease costs. I digress... the point is that my job, my area of expertise is difficult to measure most of the time. It's more of a consultancy type role where my analysis and conclusions help support other people's decisions and provide direction (when they listen). My work does not lead to a direct outcome in most cases.

She kept pressing me saying there had to be a way to rewrite my resume statements to show how my work translated into tangible results. I pointed out a couple places on my resume where my statements matched her request, but they didn't seem to meet her expectations. I honestly thought about it a bit and could not create a satisfactory outcome. It was frustrating that my explanation of my work could not convince her that my resume holds up well as it is. At one point she even asked if I had been using this resume and how many responses I had received. I told her that prior to this job loss, I had received a call for almost every job I'd applied for. Needless to say she didn't seem to have a response immediately ready after hearing my answer.

I also expressed my feelings that there are times when these formats seem full of crap to me. I'm not the type of person to use a bunch of business jargon to make me sound important. When I've reviewed resumes, I can see the difference between someone who appropriately uses business terms and some one who's simply copied them to make their job appear bigger than it is. Maybe I'm hurting my changes at landing a job, but that's not my style.

To be fair, I asked a couple of colleagues about their resumes. I explained my impression of the resume guidelines. It was a relief to hear they had similar feelings about the stance of career counselors. For most jobs, it's a helpful and certainly can strengthen a candidacy. I just don't like being pushed to do something because it's the *only* way.

In the following visit, we agreed to let my resume remain as is for that particular career track. She probably thinks I'm just being impossibly stubborn, but I know my resume works. Why else would I get two phone interviews. On the other hand, I will acknowledge that I need to have a couple alternate versions of my resume that are less specialized if I want to have a shot at jobs that are less analytical and outside of my current profession.

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