Career Planning

#PressforProgress @ Work

I was delighted to contribute to an article on The Mighty Women for International Women's Day. The question was "How do you think women can best "press for progress" in their career?"

What a massive, important question!  And it was hard to answer as women do still face a number of obstacles to equality in the workplace, but I gave it my best shot.  You can read my response here. 

To your career success, 

Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story where she has helped hundreds of her clients successfully transition to work they love. She supports her clients to uncover their strengths and communicate to get what they want in the workplace. 

Connect with Kristin at kristin@careerstory.ca or sign up to get her monthly career and job search tips straight to your inbox.

10 Essential Steps to Maximize Your Informational Interviews

If you love learning and like meeting interesting people, informational interviews are the way to go about building your career.

An intentional career-focused conversation can expand your ideas, help you identify new career possibilities, and provide a way to keep up-to-date on what’s happening in your target industry.

Many people arrange informational interviews only when making a career transition, but honestly, they should be an integral part of your investment in your career.

Back in 2015, I completed a counselling certificate. It was a good program that taught me decent practical skills. But I sometimes wonder where my career and business would be if I had invested those 3 hours a week into networking and informational interviews instead.

I talk about what questions you can ask here. There are no perfect questions – instead, ask about the things that interest you. One of the most meaningful questions I ever asked in an informational interview 10 years ago was “How do you see your work making a difference in the world?”  

But the questions aren’t the only thing you should pay attention to when doing informational interviews.

Today I want to focus on the other essential elements that occur before, during, and after the meeting that can help you make a good impression and improve the process overall.

1. Make a Good Impression Before the Meeting: When you initiate an informational interview, be mindful of your communication through the process of arranging the meeting.

Be prompt, enthusiastic, and thankful in all your interactions. And always double-check your spelling and grammar in emails.

2. Send a Reminder: You can send a reminder email the day before your meeting to confirm the time and location. 

3. Attitude: Go in with curiousity and a willingness to listen. People will be more impressed with an openness to learning than your intelligence. And do not try to convert the informational interview into a pitch for a job – this will do more harm than good.

4. Research: Do some research on the person you are meeting and where they have worked in the past.

5. Dress: Dress professionally, even if it's a coffee meeting. 

6. Time: Be early, but not too early. Arrive 10 minutes before your suggested meeting time.

Coming early is especially important if you are meeting at a coffee shop or restaurant. Get a table before the other person arrives so you don't waste time searching for a place to sit. 

If you committed to keeping the informational interview within a certain timeframe, then be sure to wrap up by the appointed time.

7.  Offer to Pay: Offer to buy the person's coffee or lunch. They may decline, but it's a nice gesture and a great investment in your future.

8. Prepare, but be Flexible: Put together thoughtful questions, but don’t put too much focus on the questions at the expense of building the relationship.

People love giving advice and talking about their careers. Be sincerely interested in the person and their journey. This is hopefully the start of a long-term relationship, not just a one-time meeting.

9. Send a Thank You Note: After your meeting, send an email to the person, thanking them for their time and identifying any information that you found particularly useful. 

10.  Stay Connected: Connect with the person on LinkedIn. Look for ways to help them when you can.  And let them know where you ended up, even if it was a while ago since you met up.

For me, informational interviews and networking meetings have turned into jobs, contracts, and client referrals. And as much as that’s awesome, what I really love about the process is the chance to connect with interesting people and build genuine, long-term relationships that benefit us both.  

To your future career success, 

Kristin 

Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story where she has helped hundreds of her clients successfully transition to work they love. She supports her clients to uncover their strengths and communicate to get what they want in the workplace. 

Connect with Kristin at kristin@careerstory.ca or sign up to get her monthly career and job search tips straight to your inbox.

 

Five Amazing (and Free) 2018 Planners You Should Download Now

With the New Year here, I'm spending some time to get myself organized and focused for 2018. 

As I'm working through this process, I found a few resources that I have found helpful: 

I'm currently working on Claire Buswell's An Illuminated Life reflective planner. It's so good. I'm not done yet, but it's forcing me to think about what worked well in the past year and what I envision for my 2018. 

I've been following Anna Runyan's work at Classy Career Girl for a while. She has put together a free 90-day Planner that is both beautiful and functional. It also includes thought-provoking questions to help you get clarity on your goals for 2018.  

And my network highly recommended Danielle Laporte's The Desire Map which looks pretty awesome. Lots of good food for thought surrounding your goals and desires. 

If you are looking for a household planner, I like this one from The Organized Dream or Home Printables Blog

Happy planning, 

Kristin 

Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story where she has helped hundreds of her clients successfully transition to work they love. She supports her clients to uncover their strengths and communicate to get what they want in the workplace. 

Connect with Kristin at kristin@careerstory.ca or sign up to get her monthly career and job search tips straight to your inbox.

 

How to Find Your Dream Job in 2018

If you are at a point in your career where you feel stuck or stagnant, 2018 could be your year.

Land Your Dream Job in 2018.png

The year when you take control of your career and make choices that bring you more career satisfaction and fulfillment. 

The year when you walk away from that toxic work environment and start taking better care of your own mental and emotional well-being. 

The year when you step out and start courageously pursuing your dreams. 

The year when you channel that ambition and get serious about moving along in your career. 

No matter where you are at, there's always a chance for a new beginning and a fresh start. And the opportunities are endless.

The time is now. Don’t wait until things aren’t working to improve your job search. By taking a proactive approach early on, you will save yourself time and headache in the long run.

18 Ways to Land Your New Job 

Ready to land a new job? 

Here are my top 18 suggestions for how to transition to a new job this year. 

First of all, make sure that you have a clear focus on the work you want or type of company that you want to be employed with. If identifying that is your struggle, consider investing in some career coaching to gain the clarity you need. 

Secondly, diversify how you look for work. Most job seekers spend their time applying to online job postings, but this method is only about 30% effective. 

In a survey I conducted of 60 hiring managers, I found that hiring managers sourced new candidates through multiple methods including their company website, job boards, LinkedIn, online resume banks, and networking. (Read the rest of the survey results here: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3). 

Get Prepared

Preparation is key to making a good impression on a future employer. 

1. Get your marketing materials in order: Invest in developing a resume, cover letter, and possibly business cards that clearly outline the work that you can do.

2. Update your LinkedIn profile: LinkedIn is the standard when it comes to a professional online presence. Make sure your profile speaks to the work you can do. Start connecting with people in your industry or at the companies you want to work for.

3. Evaluate and clean up your social media presence. In my survey, I found that 74% of hiring managers will always or often (over 50% of the time) check out a job seeker’s social media presence. Tighten up your privacy settings if you have content you don’t want employers to see.

4. Assess your skills. As you review job postings and talk to people, determine if your skills are still competitive. If you need more training or skill development, start working on closing the skills gap as soon as possible.

5. Browse job boards regularly to identify jobs you might want to apply to. Also use these boards to do market research on the types of positions, qualifications, and skills that employers are looking for.

6. Post your resume to job banks: You can post your resume online on sites like Indeed, Monster, or CareerBuilder. (Tip: Don’t include your entire address for privacy reasons – just the city and province is fine)

7. Start preparing for interviews: You never know when you might get a call for an interview. Begin reviewing common questions and thinking about your responses.

8. Practice talking about yourself: It’s not easy for most people to talk about themselves. Put together an introduction script that you can use in casual or networking situations.

Get Focused

Many people feel helpless in the process of finding work. They wait for an employer to post their perfect position. But the best way to go is to lay the groundwork BEFORE the position is posted. 

9. Decide what companies you want to work for: Don’t wait for a job posting to come up. Make a list of 40 companies that you are interested in working for.

10. Regularly check company websites for postings: Once you have your target companies, go directly to their websites on a weekly basis to keep tabs on any upcoming positions.

Make 2018 Your Year (1).png

11. Follow companies on social media: One of the easiest ways to stay up-to-date on company news or new positions is to follow companies on social media. I personally use LinkedIn and Facebook for this. 

12. Send an introduction email: Many companies want people who want to work for them. If you are interested in a particular company, reach out to someone at the company and introduce yourself.  

13. Demonstrate your professional expertise. Build up evidence of your professional expertise.  You can blog, comment on online industry groups, or publish to LinkedIn, just as a few examples. 

Get Connected

People hire people. Though employers source candidates in a variety of ways, networking does still play an important part in the recruitment process. 

14. Tap into your network: Networking continues to be critical in landing work. Start talking to the people you know and tell them what you are looking for.

15. Talk to your references: Let your references know that you are looking for work and that they could expect a call. Don’t forget to ask them if they know of any opportunities, too.

16. Develop new relationships: Look for ways to meet new people through social media or face-to-face. Attend events such as workshops, parties, networking mixers, or community groups.

17. Get information: Conduct informational interviews with your network. But don’t stop there. Identify who else you want to talk to and reach out to start a conversation.    

18. Connect with your professional association, union, or sector council: Ask for advice on how to connect with employers and if there are any events or programs you should attend.  

Don't spend another year at work that is not right for you. Make 2018 the year that you step out and take control of your career direction. 

All my best, 

Kristin 

Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story where she has helped hundreds of her clients successfully transition to work they love. She supports her clients to uncover their strengths and communicate to get what they want in the workplace. 

Connect with Kristin at kristin@careerstory.ca or sign up to get her monthly career and job search tips straight to your inbox.

I Don't Know What To Do With My Degree In...

Got a degree, but don't know what to do with it? 

Career Coach_Vancouver.png

If you are like 90% of students at any given university, you went to school to better your career options and improve your ability to find work. However, come graduation, it can be difficult to determine the direct correlation between a degree in Geography or Arts & Humanities with the jobs that are out there.

If you need a little help brainstorming career possibilities, I want to share two of my favorite resources. 

Based on the Canadian National Household Survey, researchers in Ontario looked at survey participant's education and occupation. From this, they created an interactive graph that maps out people's education and identifies which industries people now work in. With the exclusion of Health Sciences and Education, participants were widely dispersed throughout various industries, regardless of their education.

My second brainstorming recommendation is using LinkedIn's alumni finding function.  Simply head over to your alma mater's page on LinkedIn and click See Alumni. From there, you can type in your degree and LinkedIn will provide information on industries and top employers who hire people with your type of degree. 

Don't get stuck thinking that you only have a few career options. There's a whole wide world out there, waiting for you to explore. 

To find out more about our story-based career coaching, please click here

Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story where she has helped hundreds of her clients successfully transition to work they love. Kristin is passionate about supporting her clients to uncover their strengths and communicate to get what they want in the workplace. 

Connect with her at kristin@careerstory.ca or sign up to get her monthly career and job search tips straight to your inbox.

 

6 Secrets to Moving Into Freelance or Flexible Employment

Want to set yourself up for future career success?

Then you should get comfortable with finding contract, independent, or freelance work. In a study conducted by Intuit, research suggested that 40% of the workforce will work in some type of on-demand or freelance work by 2020.

For some, this concept is exciting. A chance for continual learning and varied work duties. For others, moving into flexible forms of employment can be daunting. Regardless of where you are at, you can start to take some steps to prepare.

Think of Yourself as a Business of One. One of the first steps is to stop thinking about yourself as an employee, but rather as a business of one. Like a business needs to be clear on what it offers, you need to be clear on what you bring and who you can help. Know what your brand is.

Career coach, Rebecca Beaton, says that when her clients can't articulate the value they bring, it translates into a struggle to find work. The ambiguity makes it difficult to build up a targeted resume, create a website, or even network.

Know Where to Look: Finding on-going work opportunities is often a challenge. Fortunately, several freelance sites exist, such as UpWork and Freelancer. But you will have the most success finding the sites specialized towards specific industries. For example, TalentMarketplace facilitates the recruitment process for project managers, analysts and coordinators.

Network Your Way There: But Beaton suggests that networking still is the #1 way to land new contracts. At the heart of it, people want to work with people they know and trust. So, spending the time to get to know others in a genuine way is key. Go for coffee, initiate a phone call, engage over social media, or attend networking events.

Build Professional Credibility: Building up visibility of your expertise is critical. LinkedIn is the ideal tool to showcase your professional background - think about it as being your “business of one” website. Make sure that your LinkedIn profile is rock solid. It should include a professional profile picture and clear content. Depending on your industry, you may also want to put together a separate portfolio site. If you are new to freelance or contract work, share your expertise through writing or speaking.

Keep Your Skills Current: To stay competitive as a freelancer, you must drive your on-going skill development. Conduct regular skills audits. You can do this by reviewing LinkedIn profiles of people in your industry or scanning job postings to identify what qualifications employers look for. But most importantly, talk to people. This will give you the most insight into market requirements.

Start Properly, but Quickly: But before stepping into contract work, Steven Ruggles, co-founder of TalentMarketplace, suggests talking to a lawyer or accountant to get your business infrastructure in place. He also recommends taking a “lean start-up” approach. Using this approach, you quickly launch your product or service into the market. Then as you get feedback, you adjust your offering until it aligns with what employers or customers want.

Even if you are happy with your current employment, you can serve yourself well by getting some of these building blocks in place to ensure your long-term career success.

Best of luck. You got this. 

Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story where she has helped hundreds of her clients successfully transition to work they love. She supports her clients to uncover their strengths and communicate to get what they want in the workplace. 

Connect with Kristin at kristin@careerstory.ca or sign up to get her monthly career and job search tips straight to your inbox.

 

3 Ways to Make Better Career Decisions

Looking back, I wish that I experimented more in my career.

About 10 years ago, I wanted to transition out of the Human Resources field. I decided to finish my business degree with the intention of moving into management.

I had it all reasoned out. I liked to work with people plus I also valued responsibility and autonomy. On top of that, I enjoyed home renovation and decorating projects.

Of course, looking at these skills and aptitudes, one career choice seemed clear. Working as a manager at a Home Depot.

Somehow I managed to convince someone to hire me as a manager at Home Depot after finishing school.

First day on the job and I knew that it was a poor fit for me. My back hurt. Helping people select dishwasher options bored me. And I didn't look good in an orange apron.

Looking back, this seems like such an absurd career choice. But thing is that it made sense on paper.

The more I work in the career field, the more I am convinced that we focus too much on making cognitive career decisions. And I believe that we need to move towards making more experiential career choices.

What I should have done was taken a part-time job at Home Depot while completing my education. Or I could have taken on management related responsibilities within my current job. And I should have asked for advice from people who were working as managers.

But I didn’t. And instead, I learned my lesson the hard way. I lasted three months before I found another job.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, trying to make a career change, here’s what I would say to you.

1. Experiment. Let’s say you want to start a career in computer science. Before investing in many years of education, look for ways to test out if this is the right step for you.

For example, you could take on a self-directed programming project. There is enough information on the internet to learn basic programming.

When you work on it, do you find yourself absorbed or bored? Can you imagine doing a job like this for the rest of your life?

2. Talk to People. Do not decide on a career choice in isolation. The tendency is to base decisions on internet research or self reflection. Before you make any serious decisions, have an in-depth conversation with at least 5 people who are in this role. Ask them what their average day is like. What are the job prospects like? What is the work environment like? When I visit my computer engineer husband at work, the office is quiet. The silence would drive me crazy, but he enjoys it.

3. Don’t Make Education Your Default: If you can, get entry-level work before committing to education. This will give you a true sense of what the work is like. And you can develop some key relationships that can help your hiring prospects down the road.

Once you are in a job, find out what training or education your field values. Be wary of advice you receive from school admissions advisors, especially at private schools. They have a vested interest in your enrollment. If you do need further training or education, make sure your field of interest recognizes both the training and the school.

What about you? How have you made your past decisions? What do you wish you did differently?

All the best. You got this. 

Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story where she has helped hundreds of her clients successfully transition to work they love. She supports her clients to uncover their strengths and communicate to get what they want in the workplace. 

Connect with Kristin at kristin@careerstory.ca or sign up to get her monthly career and job search tips straight to your inbox.

Four Essential Ways You Can Prep for Your Next Career Transition

Recently, a friend told me that she felt pressure to make a “big move” in her career.  She initially started gearing up to look for a new job. But over the next few weeks, she started to have second thoughts and decided to pause her job search. Her friends seemed disappointed that she had not taken more dramatic action. 

But making a big move isn't always the best path. Sometimes, it making a dramatic move can actually cause more harm than good. There is something to be said for a patient, thoughtful approach to making a career move. 

I shared this analogy with my friend.

I sometimes drive by the construction site for a new mall near my place. For months and months, all I see is this huge pit as they build the foundation. It seems that nothing is happening, but the reality is that a lot is happening. I just can't see it. A solid foundation is critical! Once the foundation is done, the framing will go up quickly. This is the exciting part - seeing the building suddenly take shape.  

4 Essential Ways to Prep For Your Next Career Transition.png

When we think about our careers, it's often wise to focus on our foundation before making "big moves." It may take time, but once you make the move, you know you will have a solid foundation to support you. 

Here are a few ways that you can build your solid career foundation. 

Get Work Experience: You need to get some solid work experience behind you to be credible to a future employer. If you hop from job to job, employers may feel that they cannot trust you. (That being said, you also need to know when to move on. )

If you feel that you are getting stagnant at your current role, look for ways to broaden your experience. Perhaps, the company would be open to an expansion of your role or to you taking on a special project.

Improve Your Skills: Pay attention to the skills necessary to do your job well. Do not rely on your employer to build those skills for you. Instead take responsibility and start to look to develop your skills yourself. 

There are plenty of low-cost ways you can develop skills. Perhaps it's through a volunteer job, a course, or online training. 

Update Your Training: I'm seeing a creep towards higher and higher levels of certification required for jobs.  If you are missing training or certification to move ahead in your career such as a Bachelor or Masters degree, start working on it now. You want to make sure that you have what it takes to land your next job. 

Build Your Network: Career expert, Jayne Barron, says, "You need to build your network before you need it." One of the easiest times to network is when you are working, not unemployed.  If you build a strong network now, you are helping yourself out in the future. 

So what are you doing to build your career foundation these days? 

Best of luck. You got this! 

Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story where she has helped hundreds of her clients successfully transition to work they love. Kristin is passionate about supporting her clients to uncover their strengths and communicate to get what they want in the workplace.  

How to Rock Your Next Career Conversation with Your Manager

Career Conversation with Your Manager.png

Several years ago, I had an epiphany.  I realized that the only person responsible for my career was me!  It sounds so simple, right?  But for a long time, I had expected the company to be responsible for my progression.

After three years of no performance reviews, I realized I had a choice. I could wait for my manager to talk about my career development in my future performance review.  Or I could take the initiative to start the conversion.

So I wrote an email to one of the leaders in the organization, asking her to have lunch with me to talk about my career.  I was scared to hit the “send” button, but I am glad that I did as she agreed to meet. And over sushi, we talked about the direction of the company and my goals for career development.

We identified some key areas of skill development as well as ways that I could incorporate my new skills into my work. Moving forward, the company gave me some flexibility with my schedule to attend classes. They also paid for few of my professional development activities.  And my manager was always open to any new projects or ideas that I brought forward. 

Begin with Reflection and Research

Even if you do have regular performance reviews, you can still initiate a career conversation outside of review time. Before starting the conversation with your manager, you need to take some time to think about what you want to get out of this conversation. What is your end goal? 

A great place to start is through some personal reflection and company research. Here’s what you might want to be thinking about.  

  • What are the strengths that I can bring to the company?  What are some of my accomplishments thus far?  What areas do I want further development in?
  • What do I see as being the next logical step in my career progression at this company?  Is this what I want or do I need to explore other options within the company?
  • What skills and experience are in demand in my industry? How could I obtain them within the company or through my own efforts?
  • What training or professional development are necessary for me to progress in my career? 
  • Can I build my skills through taking on additional work or a special project at work?
  • Where do I need improvement and how to do I get there? Is there one area that I consistently seem to struggle? 
  • What do I foresee as being key priorities for the company in the future? How could I add value?

Before your meeting, you may also want to put together some supporting documents of your work such as client reviews or work samples.  When you are ready, book a meeting with your manager. Be sure to let them know why you want to meet. In my email, I included a few of the questions that I was looking to have answered.  This allows your manager time to think and check into company policy before your meeting.    

Hopefully, your manager will appreciate your initiative and be supportive of your career progression. But at the end of the day, know that you are ultimately in charge of navigating your career!

You got this. Best of luck. 

Kristin 

Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story. She loves working with clients to help them successfully transition to good work. She believes that no one should dread going to work in the morning. Her focus is supporting her clients to increase their confidence and learn how to communicate to get what they want. Connect with her at kristin@careerstory.ca to start a conversation. 

How to Help Someone in Career Crisis

Watching someone you go love through a career crisis is heart-breaking.  You see your child is struggling to find a focus after high school.  Your partner is working at job that they dread going to each day.  You listen to the challenges your friend faces when looking for a new job.  

And you would do just about anything to ease the pain of this person that you care for.

It is tempting to think that you know what is the best course of action for this person. You just want to help. But before you begin dispensing advice, first take some time consider your approach: 

How Invested Are You in the Outcome?  We might have ulterior motives when it comes to dispensing the career advice. Does your household depend on your partner's income? Do you feel that your child’s occupational choice will reflect on you?

Your investment in the outcome is not bad - your loved one is lucky to have someone who cares.  But ask yourself if you are acting in the best interest of your loved one or yourself. 

Check Your Bias: When you want to help someone else, you first need to look at your own beliefs about work and career. What do you believe about career and how people find their career path? 

Based on our experience and family history, we may have a bias towards certain career routes. My family emphasized the importance of shorter term training through college and trades apprenticeships. My husband’s family all have university degrees. Some families may focus their children towards culturally esteemed occupations like medicine or engineering.  

Before you start making suggestions, take a look at your own assumptions and history.   

  • Do you think that the only way to get a good job is to get a degree?   Or do you think university education is over-rated? 
  • Do you think education is necessary to find work or should someone just get a job and then work their way up?  
  • Do you think some occupations are more esteemed than others or do you think of all work as being equal?  

You know what has worked for you. Be careful in assuming that what worked for you will work for your loved one. Despite good intentions, you could be pressuring on your loved one to follow a certain route that they are not well-suited for.

Be Objective: When we are close to someone, we tend to see them a certain way. When you want to help someone make a career decision, it’s best to take a step back and try to view them objectively.

  • What are their key strength? 
  • What are areas of skill? 
  • Do you see certain patterns or themes coming up for them throughout their career path? 

It might helpful for your loved one to hear your observations.  Yet, you need to make sure that they are in a space where they are willing to hear your feedback.

You might say something like:

I know that you are struggling with trying to figure out your career direction. For some people, it might be helpful to hear some feedback on what others might recognize as their strengths and skills.  Would that be helpful to you? I’d be happy to share my observations if you are interested.

Listen, Listen, Listen:  The struggle is real. If your loved one wants to talk, be there to hear. When I was trying to make a decision on whether I should quit my job, I talked to trusted people in my life. I don't remember what they said, but having an outlet to talk and process made a big difference. Through those conversations, I began to get clarity on what I needed. I was able to acknowledge the fear that was holding me back and the excitement I had for a new beginning. Even in the confusion of my career decision, I felt the support of my loved ones who would be there for me no matter what. 

Ask Good Questions: Being in career turmoil is like being in a fog. Everything seems unclear.  You can help your loved one make sense of things by asking some good questions such as: 

  • What would be important to you in a work environment?
  • What is the story that you want your life to tell?
  • Where do you find joy in your life?  What is life-giving and sustaining? 
  • What jobs did you enjoy in the past?  What made them enjoyable?
  • What are you learning from your current situation and how does that impact your future?
  • How would you define a successful career?
  • What’s the next step that you need to take?
  • How can I help you right now?

Avoid any type of questions that start with the word, “Why.”

Make Sure Your Advice Is Up-To-Date:  Advice and suggestions can be helpful. But make sure that your advice is up-to-date and relevant to your loved one's situation.  What worked for you 5, 10, or 20 years ago may not work anymore due to changes in the labour market. And applying for work varies widely depending on the industry and company. 

In particular, be careful with resume advice. A poor resume will result in getting screened out early on in the application process. If you are helping your loved one with their resume, make sure it meets industry standards.  Talk to someone in their industry or a job search professional. 

Brainstorm:  As you have ideas, be sure to share them with your loved one. When someone is in crisis, it can be difficult to come up with creative or new possibilities.  Share your ideas, but without expectation that your loved one will follow it!

Going through a career crisis is hard.  But your support can make all the difference to your loved one! 

 

If you or someone in your life is going through a career transition, Career Story can help! We provide affordable, professional career counselling services.  Contact us today at 604-614-3155 or info@careerstory.ca. 

4 Important Resume Tips to Get Results

When looking for work, resume writing is one of the first things on the “to do” list. But for many job seekers, it’s often one of the hardest parts!  A strong resume is critical to standing out in today’s competitive labour market so it’s important that your resume is working for you!

How can you tell if your resume is working?

Very simply, it’s the response rate that the resume brings.  If you are diligently sending out your resume and have not received any invitations for interviews in several months, it’s time to re-evaluate if your resume is doing the job that it’s supposed to.

A good resume will clearly share work and education history.  It will be well laid-out and easy-to-read.  But beyond that there are 4 important tasks that a resume should also be doing for you:

Answer the Question the Job Posting is Asking

Think of a job posting as being a question that the employer is posing to anyone who is interested in working for their company.  They are saying, “This is what we want…do you fit?” Your job is to thoughtfully answer the employer’s question, using your resume as a written way to evidence the qualifications that the employer is asking for.

Sometimes job seekers will resist changing their resume, believing that it’s the employer’s job to sift through their resume to figure out if they are a viable candidate or not. The challenge is that employers simply do not have time for this.  They may be reviewing hundreds of resumes so the responsibility is on you to make this process as easy as possible.

Yes, targeting your resume is more work and will take more time. But remember that there is a human being on the other side who is actually reading your resume at some point along the way.  And that person wants to find someone who wants to work for their company, not just someone who wants any job.

Highlight What You Bring

What is that unique combination of skills, experience, education and personality that you would bring to the job? One way to identify what makes you marketable is to ask yourself, “If I could have a face-to-face meeting with this employer and I had one minute to convince her to hire me, what would I say?” Once you have identified what makes you unique, prominently highlight it at the top on the first page of your resume.  This will create a sense of branding that will follow the reader as they review the rest of your resume.

The key here is to again make sure that the marketable skills that you have match the job that you are applying for.  Take a look at the job posting again and try thinking about your resume as a business proposal to work for the company.  Of the skills, abilities and attributes that you identified, what skills do you think would be most attractive to the company?

Reassure the Reviewer

Beyond skills, experience and education, employers also use your resume to get clues about your consistency and commitment to work.  Therefore, having dates on your resume is important.  If you do have a gap in your work history (like I do), you need to be thinking about how you will address that in your resume.  For me, that looks like a bullet point in my work history that explains that I have taken time off for maternity leave and to live abroad.

Though you may have a gap, think about what else you were doing during that time.  Did you volunteer, take care of a family member, work for a family business, blog, complete any training, travel or education or engage in any self-development?   If so, note it down on your resume. 

One of my clients suffered an illness that took him out of the workforce for several years.  But during that time, he provided some administrative support to his partner in her home-based business.  Even though he was not paid for this work, it was still work and we used it to fill in the gap period in his resume.  Another client took several years away from the workforce to support her child with a disability.  Based on her experience, the client decided to find paid work supporting individuals with disabilities and we built her resume to outline the skills that she gained through caring for her own child.

Tell the Right Story

Everyone comes with history, but you do not need to put everything that you have ever done on your resume.   Use your resume to share the part of your story that will help employers understand why you are applying to work at their company and how you fit their needs.

If you have something on your resume that is non-essential, evaluate if it’s necessary to keep based on the job you are applying for.   It is best if you can demonstrate a consistent timeline so don’t take anything off your resume that will leave big gaps.  But at the same time, there should be a reason for everything that you do choose to keep on your resume.  Did you do a one-day course in 1997 or take a 3-month contract in 2008?  It might be time to kick those off your resume so you can use the space for other more important things!

One example where telling the right story becomes important, is when you may have tried several different careers, resulting in a seemingly disjointed work history. How do you tell the right story then? The first key is to identify common threads between the jobs that you were doing.  And secondly, think about what all those experiences taught you. How are you going to be better at your job because of your past experience?  Then find a way to represent that in your resume!

To determine if your resume is telling the right story, try reading it from the perspective of an HR professional.  Remember, they want to see:

- Do you have the skills, experience and education to do the job?

- Is your personality a good fit for the company?

- Are you committed and dependable?

When you have been pouring over your resume for hours and hours, it can be hard to see if you have a consistent story.  This might be the right time for you to have someone else to read through it and provide some unbiased feedback.

Though writing a resume can be difficult at times, it can be a useful process to clarify what you have to offer while getting well-acquainted with what the employer is looking for.  By making sure that your resume is working for you, you will actually find work more quickly!

Kristin Vandegriend is a Career Coach and Resume Writer at Career Story. With over 10+ years of experience in HR and career development, she has successfully worked with hundreds of clients to find meaningful and sustainable work. Her passion is helping clients identify career paths and creative job search strategies that leverage and market their personal strengths and resilience.  Connect with her on TwitterLinkedIn or Facebook.