Do Your Future Self a Solid
Going to work expecting to finish up a report and lead a meeting and having your workday end abruptly at 10:00 AM walking to your car with a box containing all of your workly positions, is jarring. What's even more jarring is the realization that now--SURPRISE--you have to find a new job so that you can continue your extravagant lifestyle of living indoors and eating on a regular basis.
For the whole of my professional career, I have worked in the field of corporate education in positions like software trainer, training specialist, sales training manager and instructional designer. Like many of my colleagues, I've also been laid off three times in my 20+ year career. (I know people who have me beat by at least a couple of times.) While fixating on the fear of losing your job is a horrible way to exist, there are a few things that you can do now--while you're happily, gainfully employed--that can help lessen the blow if you do happen to find yourself suddenly in need of a new position.
Build Your Professional Network
If you read any articles about effective ways to find a new position, leveraging your professional network is a key piece of advice. It's also harder to start networking when you have your proverbial hat in your hand and need something. It's better to start building your professional network before you need something. Your network is also much more than a job search resource.
LinkedIn is a great tool to help you build and connect with others. In the beforetimes (pre-pandemic), I would connect with people on LinkedIn after we had met in person. Now, I proactively connect with industry leaders, people I encounter at professional development meetings I attend via Zoom, or I ask to connect with people who share common interests with me.
I also interact with people on LinkedIn. I post content that highlights my industry knowledge, comment on people's posts, and share posts that resonate with me. Being a good "LinkedIn neighgbor", and building your network before you need to use it for a job search, is a great way to position yourself or future success.
Update Your Resume In Real Time
I was once laid off from a job where I had been for eitght years. When my position was eliminated due to corporate restructuring, putting my resume together again was a challenge since I had years of diverse work experience to document. At that time, I knew details about recent projects, but it was harder for me to piece together all that I had done, and salient details that would help me get hired elsewhere.
Fortunately, and in rather unusual fashion, I was given a couple of months of notice that my job would be ending. That gave me the time to review my calendar, and files, to put together detailed descriptions of what I had done. This helped me put together a master resume. This isn't the final resume that you use to apply for a position. This is the big huge ridiculous document that contains everything you've done ever. From here, you pick and choose details that you'll include in your for real applying-for-a-job resume.
In general, I've become more proactive about recording what I do. While these projects are fresh in my mind, I write down specifics on what I did, who I worked with, outcomes and tangible results. This helps me not only for a someday job search, but it also helps me position myself for additional projects and roles at my current workplace as the company grows and evolves. Keeping a detailed list of projects, responsibilities and skills you were able to use will make resume writing much easier when the time comes.
Learn New Skills
Once upon a time, I was planning on being a high school English teacher. While my current career path focuses on education, suffice it to say that I ended up in a very different place than I originally envisioned. With each role that I have had, my skill set has grown immensely.
When I look at how the world has changed since earned my undergraduate degree, it's amazing. One of my first training jobs was as a software instructor teaching people how to use the big scary Internet. My first few job searches were done relying predominantly on the want ads in the Sunday newspaper. At one company, we were on the bleeding edge of technology by using instructor-led web based training before training by webinar was standard. With advances in technology, the workforce, and worldwide economic factors, things are always changing, and to stay employeable, you need to keep up.
Don't wait until your job's future seems uncertain to start learning. Go to professional meetings. Read website dedicated to your field. Listen to podcasts on topics of interest. Look at job descriptions for emerging positions to see what kinds of skills are in demand. Keep updating your skills so you're not left behind when change happens around you. Be Amazon, not Nokia.
What Do You Think?
What other career advice do you have to share?
Managing Job Anxiety
Recently, I was at a professional development event learning about the finer points of corporate training. During networking time, I talked with a woman who had been previously laid off, then called back to work for the same company (which is rare for my chosen field). What was her biggest concern? In short, she was trying to figure out how to be happy in her new/old position and not constantly worry about the possibility of getting laid off again.
To Worry, or Not to Worry?
Here in the land of having been laid off from various and sundry positions 5 times over the course of my career, I know from being worried about job loss. Granted, the first time I was laid off, an involuntary job loss was outside of my realm of possibility since it had never personally happened to me. After that, though, once I knew it was a thing, there are many times I’ve worried about being laid off. Maybe it was concerns about market performance, or new management, or rumors about reorganization, or any number of other things that caused my anxiety to kick in.
On the flip side, the times I have been laid off, I have just plain not seen it coming. I’ve been busy dealing with my personal life otherwise falling apart, or too busy working on a must-succeed project, or coming back from vacation to realize that apparently, I was not long for those companies. While I do worry from time to time, instead, I now focus on how to proactively position myself for longer-term career success instead.
An Alternative to Worry
Way back when, I had two operating modes when it came to work: “I’m happy with my job” mode and “I need to find a new job” mode. “I’m happy with my job” mode included excelling at my day-job with a side order of inactivity. “I need to find a new job right this minute” mode is when I started to network, look for career opportunities, dust off my resume, highlight my skills, etc. Now I realize that I needed to change from those two to an all new “working professional” mode—which is a both/and way of being. As a working professional, I still excel in my current role, but I also remember to keep my skill set up to date, continue to make ongoing professional connections, and have a career plan B (and up through about J, honestly) just in case I need it. Regardless of my employment status, this mindset serves me well and helps me live my life without focusing on fear.
Learning and Growing
Once upon a time, I planned to be a high school English teacher. While I didn’t end up teaching in a school setting, I use that skill set to help adults who work for businesses learn the knowledge, skills, and abilities that enable them to excel professionally and personally. I’m a lifelong learner, and I literally learn for a living—and help others do the same. I’m always learning new technology, reading up adult education theory, and gaining insights from those around me. In addition to having a formal background in education, I also attend regular professional development meetings, and I constantly read in and outside of my field. I make sure I can speak intelligently about trends in business, education, and beyond. Staying current and continuing to learn and grow keeps me doing well in my current position and future ready. In an ever-changing world, continued professional growth is the best way to manage whatever happens next.
Building (and Tending) My Professional Network
People talk a lot about “networking.” Too often, I think networking is depicted as a superficial act that involves shaking a lot of hands at a nametag laden event where people dread the next day’s “would you like to buy something from me” calls. For me, as an introvert, I approach networking differently. My goal is to build mutually beneficial relationships with people. These relationships are an opportunity to share information, help one another out, and feel more connected.
I keep track of my network using LinkedIn. In the beforetimes (aka pre-pandemic), I would typically meet people in person first, then connect with them via LinkedIn. Now, after I interact with someone via webinar (at a professional development meeting or after we work together for the firs time), I add them to my LinkedIn network. I've also taken a more proactive stance on online networking out of sheer necessity. Regardless of how that connection comes into my life, from there, I’m happy to help a friend of theirs look for a new job, or talk with one of my connections about how they might want design their technical certification program, or answer a question about a job applicant who is a former coworker of mine. I expect to help people in my professional network out, and know that they will be willing to do the same.
Regardless of the role that I’m in, and even if it seems to be going well, I always have a backup plan, and a backup-backup plan, and then a couple more backup plans after those. After 5 layoffs, and the unique challenges of each, I have a broad sense of the types of situations (like figuring out the health care exchange and determining when it made sense to do short-term contract work) I may need to mitigate. This means being ready to manage possible adversity or taking advantage of opportunities as they become available.
In addition to being proactive with my network, some of the things I’ve thought through have made me better equipped for issues as they arise. Here are a few of the things I’ve contemplated:
What Do You Think?
How do you manage career anxiety? Include your thoughts in the comments.
As I’ve started to do more networking through one on one Zoom meetings, I have talked with many colleagues who are interested in switching jobs and are dusting off their resumes. After we talk a little about what type of a position interests them, I usually give them a little bit of resume feedback. As a many-time hiring manager, I have seen lots of bad, and lots of sort of okay, and just a few resumes that were really, really good. For me, I think a resume needs to answer three very important questions. Having a resume that addresses these questions gets you out off the no pile and into the “I am excited to talk with them” pile.
Question 1: Does this person want this job?
A few years ago, I was working on filling an instructional designer position on my team at a software company. I received one resume where the person’s career objective stated that they wanted to be a curator at a museum. The good news: this person knew what they wanted and made it very clear in their resume. The bad news: they didn’t want the job I had available.
Most (like maybe a good half) of resumes that end up in the “no” pile are so nondescript, they could be applying for any number of office positions. Once, when I was hiring a technical trainer position. I received a resume for someone who had a lot of experience in corrections working as a prison guard. The good news: this person had many potentially transferable skills. The bad news: I didn’t know if this person was interested in this particular role, or was mass applying for anything that wasn’t their current job.
For many people, it may be easy enough to tell if a person wants the job based on their past job titles. If they have always been a project manager, and this is a project manager position, or a senior project manager position, it’s a pretty good bet that they are interested in this job. Then there are the rest of us, who are decidedly less well-behaved. Some people have a lot of job titles that don’t necessarily logically flow together (like people who have changed careers). Others have careers where positions went from managing people, to being an individual contributor, to freelancing, to being at a VP level, to being an individual contributor again. No career path is wrong per say, but when applying for a job, be sure to make it clear what you are looking for now—and that it is, indeed, the open position.
Overall, do just enough tailoring on your resume that the hiring manager knows that you are interested in the available job and applied for it on purpose. Given how costly a bad hire can be, help the hiring manager know that you for real want to do the job in question.
Question 2: Can this person do the job?
Once I know a given candidate want the job, next, I look for some indication that the person has the skills to do the job. With some candidates, their work experience is neat and tidy and in the order one might expect. For example, they were a call center representative, then a senior call center representative, then a call center supervisor, then a call center manager. If they were applying for a call center manager position, from their job titles alone, I can be reasonably sure they can do the job. With that, adding in keywords from the job description and adding details about their previous education and work responsibilities as they relate to this specific position, it’s not a stretch to think they are qualified.
If the candidate didn’t have a lot of experience in a similar role, I’d expect them to describe what they did in previous positions and show how their work experience prepared them for this role. For example, if I’m hiring for an instructional designer position, the job description might include something like “collaborates with subject matter experts to assess training needs and create learning materials for client-facing courses.” If someone with a background as an elementary school teacher applied, they should show how their previous work experience relates to the available position. For example, they might include “collaborated with subject matter experts in the media center to assess training needs and create learning materials for a course for parents on encouraging their children to read more.” Without emphasizing those transferable skills, I might not be convinced that they could perform the tasks required.
Overall, be sure to make it as obvious as you can that you are able to do the core tasks that the job requires.
Question 3: If they take the job, will they be happy and stick around?
Filling an open position takes a long time and is a huge gamble. The goal is to find someone who wants the position, can do it, and who will want to be in that position (or a part of your organization) for a good, long time. Never, with certainty, can you be happy that a candidate will take the position if offered to them or stay in that role (or with your company).
This part of resume assessment is really teeing up the phone screen, and honing the questions I’ll need to ask. Will this salary be in line with their desired salary range? Will they be happy working from the office or working from home the amount required? Will they work well with the level of structure and formality at this organization? Will they want to travel as much (or as little) as is needed with this job? Are they going to be happy managing or not managing people? As a hiring manager, details in the resume is helpful as a starting point for those questions.
What Do You Think?
What do you think? What questions do you think a resume needs to answer? Include your insights in the comments.
From "To Do" to "To Done"
Like many adults, I have what feels like a never-ending to-do list. No matter how much progress I make, I often dismiss what I have accomplished because I'm too busy focusing on all of the things I haven't done.
A couple of years ago, I had a boss who encouraged me to make a success list on a weekly basis. This was a great way for me to remind myself that I am making progress--even if it doesn't always feel like it's the case. In addition to my weekly success list, I decided to take personal inventory and do a quick list for the past year.
This Year's Success List
1. Added daily yoga to my wellness routine.
2. Applied for 21 jobs and had 12 interviews.
3. Bought running shoes I absolutely love and ran my first 5k.
4. Celebrated my 10-year anniversary with my husband.
5. Connected with over 100 new colleagues on LinkedIn.
6. Cut my daily commute time by 1 hour per day.
7. Decided to quit doing roller derby for a while to focus on being a roller derby mom.
8. Didn’t totally freak out when my daughter was on a two-week trip to Asia with a school affiliated group.
9. Enrolled my daughter a drivers ed class and started my role as a driving coach.
10. Found an awesome new chiropractor.
11. Got a new FitBit and finished 3 StepBet challenges.
12. Got our cat, Zippy, through ear surgery. (Now she has one ear hole, but two cosmetic ears).
13. Learned how to slow down on hills in inline skates. (Next year I hope to have a little more style in my slowing down.)
14. Logged over 80 gym visits.
15. Outlined a book on job searching and job transition.
16. Published 18 blog articles.
17. Ran over 70 miles and inline skated over 250 miles on outdoor trails.
18. Saw “Die Hard”, “They Live”, and “When Harry Met Sally” at the Parkway Theatre.
19. Skated my first inline 10K event and didn’t die, then skated my first inline marathon and finished in under 3 hours.
20. Started a great new job as the Director of Training at a software company.
21. Survived my second position elimination in 2 years and found a great new job in less than 2 months.
22. Tried spinning and enjoyed it.
23. Vacationed in New Orleans.
24. Watched all the episodes of Will and Grace and Friday Night Lights.
25. Wrote my very first knitting pattern.
What About You?
What is on your success list for this past year? Include your thoughts in the comments.
My Life in the Learning Business
I have always worked in corporate training, and I have a penchant (a gift, perhaps) for working for organizations that reorganize, get bought out, or otherwise restructure. For a lot of companies, when times get tight and push comes to shove, learning and development positions are categorized as a “nice to have”, not a “need to have”. Consequently, I know my way around a layoff, and I’ve had to become adept at all things job search as to keep my expensive habits of eating and living indoors.
Recently, for the fifth time in my career, I found myself unexpectedly in a position where I needed to change jobs. The last time around, my position was unexpectedly eliminated on the day I returned from vacation. That was about two years ago, and I was not expecting to have to do this again quite so soon. However, life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans. I also know that of all the times I worried about an impending layoff, I have never seen it coming when I was directly impacted. Consequently, I’ve learned to try to be successful in whatever professional position I have, while also knowing that I need to be to seek out an alternate position given the ever-changing climate of business.
My Job Search by the Numbers
In a previous blog article, entitled “Job Search Insights by the Numbers”, I listed the statistics associated with my last job search. This time around, things moved a bit more quickly than I initially expected. Keep in mind, too, that about half of the jobs for which I applied have not responded. In their defense, I was on and off the market pretty quickly. It’ll be interesting to see who I hear back from eventually. With that, here’s how this job search shaped up:
Differences from Previous Job Searches
My last job search lasted 147 days. That's right. It was exactly 100 days longer. So what were the differences between then and now? What magic did I use to so quickly land a great new position?
Time of Year
Fortunately (as I look at the bright side), I knew I needed to make a change in late September. I’ve found that being unemployed over the holidays nearly guarantees about an extra month or two of job searching (or more likely, waiting). In fact, my longest two job searches included the holiday season, lasting 180 and 147 days respectively. The best advice that I have is to take some time off from job searching over the holidays. This time around, when I estimated the possible length of my period of unemployment, I surmised that I would either secure a new position before Thanksgiving or I’d most likely be waiting to start a new role until February or March of next year. Getting a jump start, even by a couple of weeks, made a big difference.
During layoffs one and two, I lived in Madison, Wisconsin. While I love Madison as a city, as someone whose chosen profession is corporate training, I knew that I needed to move to a larger job market or consider doing something else for a living. In the middle of my second big period of unemployment, I started targeting companies in Minneapolis. Even with the challenge of relocating (and managing all of the other areas of my life that were in transition right then), finding a new job took under five months. Being in the greater Twin Cities area, even with me being more selective on where to apply, I still had a lot of options. This gave me a better chance of one of the positions I applied for moving me along to the interview stage. It also made it easier for me to manage my job search related anxiety by applying for additional positions each time I was concerned about not hearing back from one potential employer.
I started using LinkedIn seriously in 2006. Since then, I’ve connected with coworkers, members of professional development organizations, colleagues with whom I’ve interacted, and pretty much anyone who I encountered and found interesting. I stay active on social media sharing useful content and attend industry meetings on a regular basis. Having this robust professional network and assisting individuals in my network when they are job searching or exploring new fields of interest, has helped me immensely. When encountering a position that interested me, I immediately looked to my network to see who might be able to put in a good word for me and help me get pulled out of the initial pile of candidates. I have also had more than one “informal interview” with a possible referer so they feel comfortable recommending me for a position. Since people are putting their reputations on the line, I don’t take their assistance for granted.
I’m at the point in my career where I know what kinds of jobs interest me. I have good formal education, recent job titles that are well aligned with roles for which I’m applying, and I’ve stayed current on the industry. While having someone refer me for a position helps, I know that I still need to be a well-qualified candidate. Those qualifications are what help me get from a courtesy phone interview to being considered a viable candidate for an open role.
Pure Dumb Luck
There is a certain amount of planet alignment that happens whenever something good manages to actually happen. In this case, a company in a field that interests me (software) had an opening for which I was qualified, and I had a former coworker who was willing to refer me for the position. The quotes “The harder I work, the luckier I get” comes to mind as does “luck is preparation meeting opportunity.” Sometimes, timing is everything.
What Do You Think?
What are your tried and true job search strategies and secrets to success? Include your thoughts in the comments.
Earlier this year, when talking with a friend about her job search plans, I mentioned the idea of a “personal brand.” She asked me what I meant by that, which caused me to do a little soul searching. I realized I had bought into the idea of the value of having a strong personal brand while working with mortgage loan officers and real estate agents—two audiences who are all about getting their face out there to attract business. I took a step back and started thinking about how to better articulate the why and how of a personal brand.
Role of a Brand
As a consumer, a brand is a shortcut that helps me make a buying decision. If I want a good cup of coffee in an unfamiliar city, I find a Starbucks. If I need to buy a book, I typically go to Amazon, and for an audio book, I’ll visit Audible. If I want durable shoes for outdoor activities, I’m looking for a pair of Keens. There are also brands that are so prominent, they have become part of our lexicon. People Google instead of doing an online search, use Kleenex rather than tissue, and pick the version of Coke they want at a restaurant. Those brands mean something whether it’s quality, range of items available, or a predictable experience. Brands help us jump to a quicker answer instead of having to weigh multiple options for every single buying decision we make.
A Personal Brand
A personal brand is a similar idea. Instead of branding a product, though, it’s intended to help shortcut the decision-making process to promote someone’s credibility or value. When I think of the epitome of a personal brand, I think Oprah. Oprah tells us what pop health gurus to listen to, what books to read, who to vote for and more. Oprah has a television network, and a magazine and an empire. Everyone knows who Oprah is and what she’s all about. This is personal branding at its finest.
For the rest of us non-Oprah's, we also have a personal brand. When people meet one another in-person, oftentimes, we check out one another's online presences. In the work world, it's usually LinkedIn and potentially Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (among others). Whether you're looking for a job, or connecting with a professional colleague, having an online presence is nearly a given. Make sure that presence is one you want people to be aware of (because they'll find it one way or another) and that it positions you in a positive light.
My Personal Brand
My personal branding aspirations are not at the level of Oprah. (My television network and magazine are on hold for now.) For me, my personal brand is showcasing my skills as a trusted professional in the learning and development space. I want to be known for sharing industry related information on adult education, conveying lessons learned, and communicating my personal insights. My goal is to position myself as a real life human with day to day challenges who is also someone you’d trust (or hire) when it comes to helping adults learn information to enable them to succeed.
I started to pay attention to my personal brand when I realized I wanted to start sharing my insights in blog entries. For me, a personal brand was an embodiment of what I wanted my blog to be about. In short, my blog is my way of sharing my learnings with others who could benefit from my trials and tribulations. Using the colors in my professional headshot and a fun photo of coffee, my personal brand was born.
When I think of what my brand includes, I think first of how I present myself online as well as in print. For me, that means I have a professional social media presence on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram. On each site, I used BrendaLearns as my username, my professional photo as my avatar, and a consistent description on each site. I also have a background picture on my social media sites that showcases the same color scheme (shades of red and gray). In addition, this color scheme is included on my blog at (you guessed it) www.BrendaLearns.com. On my resume, I include a red line on the left side, which continues to emphasize my personal brand. In addition, my business cards feature the same color scheme and background image to keep my personal branding consistent.
Have Something to Say
My focus of my blog is sharing my key learnings with others. It’s about helping others navigate life’s trials and tribulations by enabling them to benefit from some of the things I’ve either researched or learned through experience. Whether it’s helping people think through personal finance questions, figure out how to navigate a job loss, train for an inline skating marathon, or just helping people learn in general, I am wired to want to help people learn and grow. I want to share information in a way that is understandable, and even fun.
Likewise, that same spirit is embodied in my social media presence, I want the world to associate my personal brand with someone who is knowledgeable and helpful. This is why I share articles on helping adults learn, leading strong teams of high-performing (and happy) individuals, and other business insights. I also share articles and posts that show that I’m human, too. I have 2 cats (Zippy and Meathook), a daughter who is into roller derby and learning to drive, a strong interest in inline skating, and a love of quotes that are at once funny and thought provoking. Without having something to say, and getting comfortable being human in front of others, having a personal brand is not worth much.
What Do You Think?
What do you think about personal branding in general and the value of having a personal brand? Include your thoughts in the comments.
There are several days each year where people typically look back and assess their lives. This could be the anniversary of a death, a holiday full or memories, or your birthday. For me, the day I look back at my life is Groundhog’s Day.
February 2, 2006
Early in 2006, my life was at a crossroads. My then-husband and I were in the process of getting divorced, and I was figuring out how to transition from a house to two houses and what co-parenting my 2-year old daughter would be like. The one stable thing I had was my job. I was happy to have one thing that I could count on not changing.
…and then February 2 happened.
That morning, I went to work. I took a few minutes between meeting to create a spreadsheet to figure out if I could afford to buy a condo I’d looked at the night before on my own. As I saved, I got a tap on the shoulder that I had an impromptu meeting. I grabbed a pen and a legal pad and walked into a conference room full of executives who informed me that position was eliminated due to restructuring because of the company being acquired. I was in shock. I returned to my desk, deleted the spreadsheet of my financial plans (which in just a few minutes had become irrelevant), told my coworker Brad “I’m gone,” and found myself sitting in my car with a box containing all of my formerly workly possessions.
From the parking lot of my ex-workplace, I called my soon to be ex-husband to tell him that I was now unemployed. His only response was “huh.”
Then It Got a Little Worse
That weekend, I was on a road trip to visit some of my high school friends for a fun weekend of reminiscing and going to the Snowflake Ski Jump. On my way there, a local cop pulled me over for speeding. As I sat there, I glanced at the notification I’d just received from unemployment sitting in my passenger seat—the one that said I’d receive less money than the previous time I’d been laid off—meaning I wouldn’t be bringing enough money in to cover my half of the mortgage. As the officer came to my window, I could feel the tears well up. I could not get a ticket, too. I would cry (as I often heard people threaten to do), but this was no empty threat that would come to bear only through theatrics. I was legit going to fall apart if this happened.
This moment—sitting in the car with indications of my life failures greatest hits smacking me in the face, was a low point in my life—second only to my dad’s unexpected death.
Then It Got a Little Better
Fortunately, I think because of my street cred, which included being a native of a town nearby, I drove away ticket free. One thing had gone okay. Then I got to see friends, connect with new people, and spend more time with my daughter. I also had the time and space to figure out what to do with myself now.
The Transition Begins
It was an ugly, ugly few months.
I applied for countless jobs. I put our house up for sale. My daughter’s dad (new language from Mom’s House, Dad’s House) and I decided to move in tandem to Minneapolis, Minnesota from Madison, Wisconsin. I looked for jobs, made business connections, and stayed with friends on the way to and from my regular trips to Minneapolis. I didn’t sleep well for months. A tree fell down in my front yard the day of my open house, so I figure out how to have a giant tree removed while driving on I-90 from a job interview.
That May, I found a job, a pre-school for my daughter, a new place to live, and reconnected with one of my best friends from high school. Later, her dad found a job and moved, too, with his new girlfriend (who was a lovely person who was good to my daughter). Then, I totaled my car, dated and broke up with a couple of people, and got Shingles three times in a row. Some days, after work, I would lie on my floor and look at the ceiling in my apartment, my low-cost therapy as I adjusted to all of the life changes. I adjusted to my new normal after going through every major life change (save a death in the family) I could think to experience.
Then It Kept Getting Better
In October, on the same day, I was approved for a car loan and found out that my house in Madison had new owners. Over time, I made two great friends from my job and still spend time with them regularly. I got comfortable in a new city. I started dating someone who was great—then bought a house with and married that guy (who my daughter still calls “Mikey.”)
I got laid off again and got another good job, then got laid off again and got an even better job. My husband and I celebrate our 10th anniversary this year, my daughter is doing well, and my best friend and I get together most weeks to catch up. Life is pretty damn good.
A Frame of Reference for Gratitude
Sometimes, I see people who don’t seem happy with what they have. The strange upside of having gone through rough times is that it gives you a frame of reference. It reminds me to be grateful for the house that I love, my husband sitting in the living room with our two cats in his lap, my healthy, happy teenage daughter (including her brown, purple and blond hair), and my challenging job that I absolutely love.
’m grateful for being active, able-bodied, and having a strong sense of well-being. I am grateful for heat in the winter, air conditioning in the summer, and automatic garage door openers. I treasure mother/daughter movie night, trips to the skating rink, and even playing chauffeur on the girl’s friend outings. I value my roller derby skates, my outside roller skates, and my inline skates. I appreciate my cats, Zippy and Meathook, and the combination of disdain and affection they have for me. I am genuinely grateful for it all. Groundhogs Day is my annual reminder to remember all these things.
What Do You Think?
What reminds you to take time to be grateful? Include your thoughts in the comments.
'Tis The Season
I’ve been laid off 4 times, twice in the fall. In fact, last year at this time, I was “in transition” searching for a new opportunity. Being in job transition is rough. Being in job transition during the holidays—especially the week before Christmas through the new year—is downright futile.
I’ve read a ton of articles touting the benefits of job searching during the holidays--and I mean a lot, a lot of them. Reasons to keep going abound. No one else will be applying! You’ll get a leg up on other applicants! Tons of people are trying to fill positions before year's end! In spite of the articles I read that encouraged me to persevere, in retrospect, I would have ignored that advice and deferred to my own best judgement.
I look at the sheer number of articles on self-care during the holiday season. If the holiday season is hard all by itself, add the stress of unemployment and there are a whole ton of reasons to be extra sure to take care of yourself.
My Best Holiday Job Seeking Advice
Here’s the best advice I didn’t take: take time off from your job search during the holidays.
The Challenge of Applying for Jobs in December
Even in a fast-moving job market with ridiculously low unemployment, it takes a bit to find a job. Just given the linearity of time, there will be a gap between when you apply, interview, and get an offer you’d like to take. This process can feel like it takes an eternity when people at these potential employers are focused on working. During December, with people taking time off for all things holiday, finding gainful employment moves even more slowly. Take a break and let yourself move more slowly, and deliberately, too.
During my last job transition, which lasted 5 months, the most frustrating period was a couple of weeks after Thanksgiving until the end of the year, the last two weeks of December were the absolute worst. Aside from the darkness and winter weather, the sheer sucking void of job prospects hit me hard. In short, nothing came from my job searching at that time. I was either submitting applications to jobs that no one was going to pay much attention to for a couple of weeks, following up with employers who had other priorities, or bothering former colleagues for recommendations when they were in the throws of Christmas programs and family get-togethers. The job search picked up again the second week in January when people had their heads back in the game at work.
Take Time for Self Care
My advice to you as a job seeker? Take a holiday break. Go do things you’d like to do when you’re gainfully employed, but that are harder to find time to do. Go to a noon yoga class. Get together with friends for lunch. Read a novel with no obvious professional development benefit. Go to a matinee. Visit a museum. Walk around the mall on a weekday Take some time for you. Take a break from pounding pavement on your job search and just breathe. You’ll feel better for taking some time for you, and for not feeling like you’re working hard and getting few results.
Just like we all need vacation time to recuperate from our day jobs and be able to do good work, we also need to take a break from a job search so we can have the mental space to regroup. Take a couple of weeks off—like the week before and the week after Christmas—and reset. You’re future self will thank you for this act of self care.
What Do You Think?
What has your experience been applying for jobs in December? Share your insights in the comments.
From Job Applicant to Hiring Manager
Six months ago, I was in transition and searching for the next great position in my career. Now, I'm at a great company, in a job I love, and I'm in the process of hiring two new employees to be a part of the team I'm creating.
Having researched resume format and tweaked my resume again and again, and then sifting through the pile of resumes of people possibly interested in working for me, I have gained new insights into how to make your resume most effective.
Your Resume Goals
First, let's talk about what success looks like. In it's most simple form, the goal of your resume is to get you a job. However, let's break that down a bit and look at the first mini-goal in that whole process--getting a recruiter or hiring manager to want to get in contact with you to find out more. Let's focus on how you get to that critical first step.
The Initial Sorting: Yes, No or Maybe
As a hiring manager, I really want to hire someone amazing. Each time I see that I've received a new application, I'm little kid excited that this might be just the right person to round out the team and do the work that I need done. On that initial scan, I'm deciding which camp you fall into.
Yes, yes, a thousand times yes!
Sweet. They look like a great candidate! Let's contact them immediately to find out more!
No. Just no.
Ugh. Work experience doesn't seem related to this role. Long, rambly resume. No thanks.
I'm just not sure.
Not great, but may be worth exploring--or maybe not. I'm going to have to think about this.
Questions Your Resume Needs to Answer
As a hiring manager (or recruiter) who scans every resume submitted for the two positions for which I am hiring, I am looking for answers for the following critical hiring questions. Answering yes to most, if not all, of these questions, gets you into the "yes" pile.
Question 1: Does this person have the skills needed to do this job?
Does their work experience and education line up with what is needed for the position? Do they have the technical ability and interpersonal skills to succeed? Have the job responsibilities they have had previously positioned them well for what is required of this position? Did they paraphrase the job description and help connect the dots between their qualifications and the available position?
Question 2: Does this person actually want this job? Or are they looking for any old job?
Is the job application personalized at all? Do they look like they are mass-applying for jobs, or like they actually want this position with this organization? Does their summary of what they are looking for match what the job is? Does this position seem like a logical step from their current position? If not, did they explain that this makes sense for them? (Like emphasizing how their background in manufacturing has prepared them for this job in your industry?) Do they live in the city where the job is, or mention that they plan to move? Do they emphasize how their skills will help them do the job? Do they mention wanting to work for a company like yours or doing a job like the one that is open? Is this job really their thing?
Question 3: If they took the job, would they be successful?
Does the content of their resume or summary align with what the open job requires? Are things like the level of responsibility, travel percentages, expectations for remote work or managing or not managing people what they want to do? If they have worked at larger companies with a slower pace, will the fast-pace of a start-up energize or overwhelm them? Can they be self-directed, or follow directions, as will be dictated by the role? Does this fit in with their career trajectory? Are they taking a job that isn't really ideal for them? If so, are they going to leave right away to take the job that is a better fit? Does the improvement in job responsibilities, work culture, industry or opportunity create an environment that they will really enjoy? Have they addressed any of these possible concerns in their resume or cover letter?
Getting to the "Yes" Pile
While there is no magic formula to create the perfect resume for every situation, here area few resume best practices that can help you get to the "yes" pile. Here are a few characteristics of what I think "good" looks like:
Tip 1: Include a summary front and center.
Whether you call it a "professional highlights", "summary of qualifications" or something else, this section is the Cliff Notes for the rest of your resume. This targeted, concise summary should be tailored to the job. As a resume screener, this helps me know if I should bother to keep reading. For me, not having this quick paragraph really hurts your chances of moving on. It's like having a long, dry user manual handed to you with no table of contents. Give me a your quick elevator speech on what you bring to the table so I can see if the book is worth continuing to read. Address those critical questions so I know it's worth the time to connect with you personally.
Tip 2: Keep the length to two pages.
I have seen far too many 3 page and up resumes. One key skill I'm looking for is the ability to summarize and prioritize. Skip your street address, references, and information about the high school you attended. Get rid of the extras that add length, but not value. Your resume, which may need to cover 5-30 years of relevant work experience, is one way you can demonstrate your ability to discern and highlight the most important points.
Tip 3: Be clear, specific, and precise.
Write in coherent bulleted points or sentences. Include relevant industry keywords without overusing jargon to try to impress. I'm hiring educators who need to be able to take a complex topic (everything relevant you've ever done) and show me the parts that will be most directly related to the job. This includes formatting. Make sure I can, at a glance, tell your job titles from the company names from your job responsibilities. Use white space to make it readable. Show me that you can make even complex content easy to navigate.
What Do You Think?
What other tips do you have for getting your resume into the "yes" pile? Include details in the comments.
First, Let's Celebrate!
I have great news! My job search has come to a successful close. As of this week, I have accepted a full-time position as an instructional design manager with a software company. I’m excited about this role and happy to get to change gears from being tastefully boastful about how good I am at working to having a job where I actually get to do some paid work. I’m way pumped up about this opportunity and the fun challenges it will bring. Hooray and woo hoo both!
A Note About My Observations
I’m including several numbers in this article. Keep in mind that while I pride myself in my ability to count and do basic math, I’m dealing with a very small sample size. (See the “Learn More” section for issues that can be caused by having a small sample size when it comes statistical information.) This article can only barely be called “research” and is more appropriately described as me sharing my personal experience. With that disclaimer, on to the numbers!
Now, Let's Look at the Numbers
As a bona fide Excel nerd, and meticulous planner, I have kept detailed records on my job search journey from layoff through my exciting new job. Here are a few statistical highlights of what on earth I did with myself since my position was eliminated oh-so many months ago.
How Long Will This Take: Job Search Length
Please, Please Look At My Resume: Job Applications Submitted
Now We're Talking: Interviews
I Know People: Referrals and Impact on Interview Likelihood
I Will Never Work Again: Low Points During The Job Search
Everything Works Out: Lessons Learned During the Job Search
What Do You Think?
What are your job search insights? What worked well for you? Share your ideas in the comments.
Brenda is a dynamic training and development leader and an innovative learning experience designer. Brenda also enjoys learning all the things.