FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Happy New Year, job campaigners!
Yes, I did say campaigners.
For those of you who have attended one of my workshops – private sector or federal, available for registration by calling 334-245-3368 – you know that I’ve a certain disdain for the terms, “job seekers” or “job searching.” And the reason is quite evident.
Nobody really enjoys searching for that needle-in-the-haystack-type of career. Having that mindset implies that you’re merely reacting to jobs that happen to appear on your job radar screen, hoping for a hit or a tug on your line, asking you to come in for an interview.
But campaigning for a career, now that’s a completely different kind of approach. It’s the approach I want you to adopt in 2021.
Conducting a job campaign is a proactive discipline, much like political candidates do while on the trail for their respective elected offices. It’s an activity that devotes a certain amount of time every day doing the right things – preparing a targeted résumé, practicing a customized elevator pitch, getting your interview wardrobe in order, etc. – to land that career in which you can thrive!
I’m going to cover a couple of those activities in this article to give you a leg up on your competition: the résumé and the interview.
THE TARGETED RÉSUMÉ: A MARKETING PIECE
The majority of folks I see on a weekly basis balk at the thought of creating a dynamic résumé for a position. They don’t look forward to composing a document that highlights all the things that they’ve ever done in every job they’ve ever worked.
For them, the résumé represents a giant they need to slay. The problem: no ammunition to bring the giant down. The typical excuses: “I don’t like talking about myself, Mike.” or “I just don’t have enough work experience to include in my résumé, Mike.” or “I’ve never written a résumé before and I don’t know how to get started, Mike.”
Typical excuses, but not insurmountable. Let’s begin by dissecting this beast called the résumé, and let’s do it in a few easy steps to get started.
* It’s a marketing piece. The first step is to stop calling these documents “résumés.” Yep. You heard me correctly. The very word strikes fear into the hearts of the average person. Rather, reframe your thinking and call these documents marketing pieces.
Just like a television or magazine ad trying to sell you a needed product or service, you’re trying to sell yourself to the prospective employer, right?
* Focus on the job announcement. The second step involves focusing on the job announcement and rounding up your skillsets that are directly or indirectly relevant to the announcement. I can’t emphasize this enough.
For example, you don’t want to be talking about your skills in flipping burgers when you want that great information technology job.
So, list your IT-related knowledge, skills and abilities, and triage them from most important to least important. This goes for any job or any specialized or general vocational field.
If you need an in-depth look at what these are, consult www.onetonline.org for the proper verbiage to use when describing your skill sets.
*Push ‘em to the top. Third, push these skill sets to the top of your document. Research has proven if you don’t capture the attention of the hiring manager in the first three seconds of the résumé read, they will skim your document at the clip of 6.7 seconds. They’re not even reading what you have to say about yourself.
Your mission is to excite and engage the reader in those critical three seconds by citing job relevant deliverables – things you excel at doing. Job-relevant skills that channel readers’ attention away from their pre-formed agendas and into your story.
To illustrate, here’s an example.
- DIANA PRINCE
- (334) 123-4567 firstname.lastname@example.org
- Study Associate and Analytical Chemist
- - 8+ years professional and academic laboratory experience
- - Specialized in environmental and pre-clinical testing
- - Singular expertise with molecular, microbiological, and bioinformatics tools
- - Well-versed in fundamental bacterial research methodologies
- - World-class mentoring and collaborative abilities in team or individual settings
- - Demonstrated aptitude for supervising and instructing student lab workers
- - Laboratory analysis expertise (data evaluation with GLP preservation)
- - Bilingual (Polish, English)
* Talking about your work. Now, for the meat of your document. Work experience. There are no hard-and-fast rules governing how you cite your varied experiences.
However, here’s some basic guidance. After you list your applicable position, when you worked – private sector résumés require only the years, not months and years – organization, city and state you can provide a brief two or three line paragraph that cites your job duties in the active voice, followed by some accomplishments.
Do not use trite terms like, duties included, or responsible for – tell the employer what you actually did on the job.
For a comprehensive list of these active voice verbs, dial in https://ocs.fas.harvard.edu/files/ocs/files/hes-resume-cover-letter-guide.pdf.
Follow the same pattern when talking about your on-the-job accomplishments. Two lines per accomplishment are more than adequate here. Employers want to know not only what you did, they also want to know how well you did your job. These stories separate you from the rest of the applicant pool, giving prospective employers an idea on your success potential with their organizations.
To illustrate, here’s an example.
- Deputy of Operations 2000–2004
- SPECIAL OPERATIONS COMMAND, Tampa, FL (USSOCOM)
- Senior Operations Analyst providing common operational picture and database configuration management for Headquarters, USSOCOM at the Joint Operations Center Force Tracking Position.
- Increased the mission support rate from 77% to 95%, saving the command $1.5M while coordinating and tracking scheduled training provided by the HQ Special Operations Command Internal Training Branch.
- Or, you could give singular focus to your accomplishments, confining your job duties to one line. How can this be done? Let me show you in the following example.
- Senior Ground Accident Investigator 2014–Present
- UNITED STATES ARMY, Fort Bungfungbadung, New York
- Critical safety investigations ½ Direct reports to senior leadership ½ Risk management
- Significant Accomplishments:
- Deployed on short notice worldwide and served as Board President and Senior Investigator on 19 Army-level catastrophic mishaps.
- Identified, published, and briefed root mishap causes, generating immediate lifesaving changes to systems world-wide.
- Tested and fielded new mishap classification system for Army-wide accident reporting.
- Introduced and incorporated new automated and collaborative technologies into the Army mishap investigative process.
- Edited and published 2 Army regulations covering mishap investigations and all supporting instructional publications.
* Your education and training are not boring add-ons. That’s right, you heard me. So why are you treating them that way? By all means cite your education and job-relevant training on your résumé, but don’t forget to add in an accomplishment story or two. For example, if you were inducted into an honor society, or a fraternity or sorority, list it under your education as a significant accomplishment, like this: “Inducted into Phi Beta Kappa for outstanding academic achievements,” or, “Graduated Magna Cum Laude, GPA: 3.98/4.0.” Don’t ever assume readers will understand what these academic achievements mean – spell it out for them.
Following these simple steps will help you create a dynamic marketing piece that will catch the eye of potential employers, motivating them to call you in for an interview.
THE INTERVIEW: A GRILLING SESSION OR OPPORTUNITY?
Many tell me that a job interview is perhaps one of the most stressful events they have ever experienced. Running a close second is public speaking.
While there have been many technological strides made in personnel recruiting, there is one item that cannot be upgraded: the job interview.
Oh, sure, some employers resort to creative means by which they interview candidates for positions. Skype and FaceTime interviews are becoming increasingly more popular because there’s still that element of being seen —they see you and you see them. However, many human resources departments and hiring managers still prefer the in-office interview.
What are some things you can do to prepare for that much-anticipated job interview?
Try the following on for size.
* Know what’s on your résumé. I’m not trying to be Captain Obvious by mentioning this, but folks who struggle to answer questions posed by a manager are the very same folks who cannot recall their résumé’s specifics.
So, review your past! Know the basics on that document, such as where and when you worked a certain job, how long you worked there, what you did in that position and what stands out as credible achievements in that position.
* Use your accomplishment stories. If you’ve followed my guidance on writing a powerful marketing piece – résumé – you’ve probably cited some significant achievements under each work experience.
My mentor, award-winning author Jay Block, has this to say about accomplishment stories in résumés, “A résumé without achievements is like a report card without grades.”
So, when the interviewer – or interview panel – asks you a situational question, such as, “Describe a time when…” or “How you would handle this if…” your answer should make potent use of an accomplishment story.
For example, you can say this, “I’m glad you asked that question. As you can see on my résumé, I have had a lot of experience handling x, y and z. As a matter of fact, I faced a similar challenge in my work at ABC Company….”
At that point, you should follow the C-A-R technique in your answer.
- Challenge: What was the challenge you faced on-the-job that stretched your abilities?
- Action: What did you do about it? Use active voice verbiage in describing your actions.
- Results: What were the results you achieved by addressing the challenge by your actions? Did you improve a process, increase sales, decrease costs or enhance a system? Be sure to use meaningful quantitative measures –dollar amounts, percentages, numbers, stats – when you describe these results to the employer.
*Practice, practice, practice! No collegiate or professional athlete arrives on the playing field without having devoted countless hours to practicing their skills during drills and scrimmages. Likewise, you should never venture into any interview environment without going over expected interview questions.
I could devote several more pages to this topic! For the sake of limited space, I’m pointing you to a couple of trusted job interview tips.
- Smile! As a part-time voice talent, I understand the value of a smile when communicating a certain message with enthusiasm. Try it and you’ll find your energy levels increase and your message’s positivity comes through with greater effectiveness.
Now, I’m not saying you should smile for smile’s sake. No. You need to smile with sincerity at the appropriate times during the conversation. Remember this: the interviewer or interview panel really wants to like you. A sincere smile delivered at the right moment makes your like-ability quotient skyrocket!
- Relax! It’s normal to be nervous during interviews. But there’s a difference between being nervous and being nerve-wracked. The latter implies that your system is out of control with an adrenaline overdose.
Look at it another way. The proper infusion of adrenaline helps to keep us situationally aware and in control. Helen Hayes, the famed actress of Broadway and the big screen, was once asked if she still got nervous during performances. Her response was priceless! “Of course I get nervous. Of course I get butterflies in my stomach. I’ve just learned to train them to fly in formation!”
So, how can you relax and be interview-ready at the same time?
Identify your nervous ticks – and control them. Habits like bouncing your knee, over-gesturing, increasing the pace of your speech, using useless filler words – all of these are typical nervous habits that we can control.
Perform some simple isometric exercises. You don’t have to be a yoga expert to know that some flexibility exercises – isometrics – actually tone down nervousness. Focus on those that relieve stress on the torso and practice them before your interview session.
- Maintain good eye contact. So many folks are comfortable with looking away from the interviewer when answering questions. The English proverb is so true, “The eyes are the window of the soul.” When you look away during an answer, you’re communicating the negative messages of discomfort, uncertainty and even skirting the truth. If you’re in a panel interview, make certain you address your answer to the person who originally asked the question, and then make brief glances to the rest of the panel’s members.
So, there you have it – the basics of résumés and interviews all wrapped up in one read! For more career-related information or assistance, call employment readiness at 334-245-3368 or visit https://rucker.armymwr.com/programs/employment-readiness.
Now, go out there and experience success in your 2021 job campaign!