Jul 082011
 

My girlfriend Vivian and I were having coffee at our favorite downtown coffee shop. Vivian was looking for work, and she was frustrated to the point of tears.

“I can’t tell you the number of ads I’ve responded to, and nothing. I haven’t gotten one response!” she wailed. “What am I doing wrong?”

“Sweet pea, you might as well drive down the street and throw your resumes out the window,” I said. “These days, more than 60 percent of jobs are found through networking for information. I can’t think of a better way to find a job in this crazy economy.”

I suggested that she begin by listing her contacts. Her contacts could include:

  • Past employers, coworkers, direct reports, suppliers, and salespeople
  • Friends
  • Her parents’ friends and her friends’ parents
  • Family members and neighbors
  • Community contacts in groups such as social clubs, sports teams, and civic organizations
  • Professional organizations
  • Former professors and alumni groups

“Once you compile your list, commit to contacting a set number of people each week and ask for a brief appointment. Most clients set a goal of e-mailing five people a week.”

I reminded her that the primary objective when networking for information is to learn. As such, her first duty is to listen. I recommended that she ask these questions:

  1. How did you get started in the field?
  2. What attributes, skills, and education do you think someone needs to be successful in your field?
  3. What advice can you give me about my job search?
  4. Would you keep an eye out for me for any appropriate openings?
  5. Who else would you recommend that I talk to?

“During the course of the interview, you’ll want to share your unique selling proposition and no more than three criteria from your ideal work environment list. Your ideal work environment is an environment that encourages you to be your best. You may need to adjust your unique selling proposition depending on the person’s responses,” I advised.

Finally, I suggested sending a thank-you note to each person. In that note, she should reinforce her unique selling proposition and provide a few details about the position she’s seeking. She should also ask for the person’s help in identifying suitable openings and referring her to other people to talk with.

Finally, I suggested following up with referrals right away, within twenty-four hours if possible. “Stay in touch with your expanded network throughout your job search. A phone call, e-mail, or handwritten note every six to eight weeks should do it. When you do land a job, send a thank-you note to anyone who helped you. In it, express your desire to return the favor.”

Vivian looked overwhelmed. I saw that I’d given her too much information all at once. Smiling, I said, “Let’s take it one step at a time beginning with your list. Are you ready?”

My girlfriend Vivian and I were having coffee at our favorite downtown coffee shop. Vivian was looking for work, and she was frustrated to the point of tears.

 

I can’t tell you the number of ads I’ve responded to, and nothing. I haven’t gotten one response!” she wailed. “What am I doing wrong?”

 

Sweet pea, you might as well drive down the street and throw your resumes out the window,” I said. “These days, more than 60 percent of jobs are found through networking for information. I can’t think of a better way to find a job in this crazy economy.”

 

I suggested that she begin by listing her contacts. Her contacts could include:

 

  • Past employers, coworkers, direct reports, suppliers, and salespeople

  • Friends

  • Her parents’ friends and her friends’ parents

  • Family members and neighbors

  • Community contacts in groups such as social clubs, sports teams, and civic organizations

  • Professional organizations

  • Former professors and alumni groups

Once you compile your list, commit to contacting a set number of people each week and ask for a brief appointment. Most clients set a goal of e-mailing five people a week.”

 

I reminded her that the primary objective when networking for information is to learn. As such, her first duty is to listen. I recommended that she ask these questions:

 

  1. How did you get started in the field?

 

  1. What attributes, skills, and education do you think someone needs to be successful in your field?

 

  1. What advice can you give me about my job search?

 

  1. Would you keep an eye out for me for any appropriate openings?

 

  1. Who else would you recommend that I talk to?

 

During the course of the interview, you’ll want to share your unique selling proposition and no more than three criteria from your ideal work environment list. Your ideal work environment is an environment that encourages you to be your best. You may need to adjust your unique selling proposition depending on the person’s responses,” I advised.

 

Finally, I suggested sending a thank-you note to each person. In that note, she should reinforce her unique selling proposition and provide a few details about the position she’s seeking. She should also ask for the person’s help in identifying suitable openings and referring her to other people to talk with.

 

Finally, I suggested following up with referrals right away, within twenty-four hours if possible. “Stay in touch with your expanded network throughout your job search. A phone call, e-mail, or handwritten note every six to eight weeks should do it. When you do land a job, send a thank-you note to anyone who helped you. In it, express your desire to return the favor.”

 

Vivian looked overwhelmed. I saw that I’d given her too much information all at once. Smiling, I said, “Let’s take it one step at a time beginning with your list. Are you ready?”

Jul 082011
 

Vivian was despondent. Two days earlier she had learned that she was going to be laid off. “I haven’t written a resume in more than ten years,” she cried. “I don’t have a clue on where to begin.”

Vivian had come to me for advice. In addition to being everybody’s gay best friend, I help professionals package, present, and promote themselves. I’m told I’m pretty good at it.

“Sweet pea, you’ve got to stand out,” I began. “Research shows that only one interview is granted for every two hundred resumes received. Plus, most employers rarely take more than fifteen to twenty seconds to review a resume.”

Vivian groaned.

“No worries. You can distinguish yourself in five ways.” I rattled them off. “First, customize your resume for each position. Next, focus on employers’ needs, not your own. Third, use bullets often and begin each with an action verb. Fourth, create your resume in MS Word so that it can be easily e-mailed and posted on the internet. And finally, conduct a test to ensure that it can be faxed.” I’ve given this advice many times.

I continued. “Always include a cover letter, and remember that cover letters give employers their first impression of you.”

I told Vivian about my first cover letter; I wrote it when I was just out of college. It was so good I still use it today. It begins, “The attached will prove that I can do an excellent job for you and for me. It will demonstrate…” I then list three bullets summarizing my unique selling proposition. Unique selling propositions are skills, attributes, experience, or education that sets you apart from your competition.

I end the letter with a handwritten P.S. that directs the reader to an item in the resume. The P.S. reads, “I think you’ll be particularly interested in…”

When it comes to writing resumes, I don’t profess to be an expert, but I do advise clients to begin a resume with a summary of qualifications composed of three to five bullets that showcase their unique selling propositions.

They should follow this with a section entitled “Accomplishments.” In it, list no more than seven to ten bullets that outline the top accomplishments in your career. These should be proofs that reinforce your unique selling propositions.

Proofs can be case studies, results, statistics, testimonials and other stories, but the best proofs contain problem-action-results. Begin by stating the problem that existed in your workplace; then describe what you did about it; and, finally, present beneficial results. This is not a time to be modest.

    Here’s an example: Turnover had reached an all-time high at 36 percent. I conducted a confidential survey of all staff, drafted a list of twelve recommendations, and presented them to top management. Ten of the recommendations were accepted and implemented. Turnover decreased by 76 percent within six weeks.

“Trust me, sweet pea, these first two sections are crucial. It’s the top half of your resume that will determine if you get an interview or not.”

“This is so helpful, Randy!” Vivian said. “Now I’ve got a place to start.”