Friday, March 26, 2010

I hate customizing a resume

Hi blog followers. This is my first entry in our Notes from the Job Search Blog. I'm a career counselor, but also a technical writer of many years experience, so I’ll try to not write like I’m creating a Help topic. I'll make the writing more conversational. Not an easy feat for a guy trained in Journalism and spending most of his working life writing in a terse “just the facts” style.

I thought I’d start off writing about how much I use to hate writing a customized resume and how much easier it is to do one with our Work-Life Database™.

I hate customizing a resume

As an unemployed technical writer, I want to get my next job very much. But what is weird is that I dreaded getting a hot job prospect. What was that? I dreaded having an opportunity to get a good job? And I’m not alone. In our job-search groups, we hear this all the time. The dread comes from knowing that soon I’ll have to go through the painful process of creating a customized resume specific to the job description. Write a few customized resumes and you’ll know what I mean. It is a long, emotionally-draining, frustrating exercise. After 4-5 hours, I produce a resume and send it off to an email address or web site. I call this sending it into the Black Hole because, as often as not, I get no acknowledgement that I submitted the damn thing.

But I no longer dread getting a hot job prospect. I can now produce a customized resume in about a half hour. And it is far less painful. Follow our process as explained below and you’ll only have to go through the pain once.

We still use resumes

Knowing that the best resume is one that is dropped off at HR after you’ve been hired, and that the best way to get to a hiring influence is through an introduction, submitting a resume to a company is still a way that many people get hired. It is still effective.

But the generic resume has gone the way of the typewriter. It won’t get you by the HR Department and it won’t get you an interview. But a customized or tailored resume has a much better chance of getting to that hiring influence. It is what is expected and is much more likely to get you that interview.

Most of us have gone through the painful process of creating a one-off customized resume for a specific job. We have reports of people taking up to eight hours to produce one. 3-4 hours is not uncommon. It is then sent off to a web site never to be seen again and is very frustrating to go through that process just to have no one notice or care. A process most people are only willing to do 3-4 times at most. Many just start sending off a generic resume that has no chance of competing for that job. Others quietly retreat to their caves and hope the world will present them with a decent job.

What is a better way to do this painful, but necessary step? Develop a Work-Life Database™.

Only feel the pain once with the Work-Life Database™

With a Work-Life Database™, you go through the pain only once. Using the Excel template we make available to our participants, go back through your whole working life and start documenting the good things, the accomplishments in the many different roles and jobs you’ve had over the years. In the accomplishments’ column write a one or two sentence description of some accomplishment you had in that role. Write it in a manner that can be used in a resume. Start with an action verb, don’t use personal pronouns and detail the accomplishment.

I think you’ll find that this task will gain momentum and that you’ll find that as you travel back through your history you’ll remember more and more and start adding whole jobs that you had forgotten. I went all the way back to my paperboy days delivering PI newspapers in the Wedgewood neighborhood of Seattle.

My next blog entry will be about how to write the Work-Life Database™ in a simple and quick manner.

Monday, March 22, 2010


One of the joys that the last year has brought is the chance work with a very dynamic and diverse group of professionals, one of whom is also my brother Mike.  Mike has been participating since last June and over the last six months has become more and more of a full partner.  Well it looks like he's about to take one more step in that direction as he now has permissions to add to this:  the Notes from the Job Search Blog.  I could spend a lot of time telling you about him, but, I'll let him do that himself.  He has some things to say about resume's so that should be coming right away.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Networking Workshop

I never said how our networking workshop went. In an earlier blog, I compared "networking events" to Jr. High dances with everyone circling the other side and no one being completely comfortable. People dropping resumes into boxes and hoping someone might contact them. The goal of our event was to eliminate that.

We were lucky enough to have Sandy Jones-Kaminski volunteer to help. I've written about her book (I'm at a Networking Event, Now What?) previously. It's a terrific little book, so pick it up if you get a chance. Sandy brought the wisdom of that book to the event. She debunked the "Four Great Myths of Networking" and then gave us very specific words to use, and they worked. Among other things, all of the resumes disappeared, then people engaged with each other. The conversations were distinctly appropriate as well. People spent enough time to understand if they could genuinely help someone, exchanged enough information to know if they had something worth finding more about, then found the next person to chat with. It was great.

Matt Youngquist of Career Horizons was our co-host and he just brings terrific value.  If you don't already follow his blog, it's worth the time.

We are doing this again. Next time is May 11th and while there will be some changes, the basic format worked. We will work on adding additional value, but being able to help people get better at networking is still the goal. I'm excited about it and hope you can join us.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010



I’ve been trying to write a blog entry on interviewing for about a month. It’s not that I don’t have a lot to say on the subject, we spend three weeks talking about them in our groups as we go through our interviewing module and we have a three session private process that doesn’t include any of the same stuff. Maybe that’s the problem… Too much to say. :)

I guess the key is thinking of this as a sales process. We’re selling our work and time in exchange for the means to feed our families, buy our houses and cars. The best sales is all about listening, finding out what someone really needs then helping them solve the problem.

When we look for information on the web about interviewing, it’s totally intimidating the number of resources. There are millions of them(12.5 million on Google). Many, probably most, of those have some level of useful information. "Interview Questions",“The 50 most Common Mistakes”, “Five Questions you must Ask”, “How to Nail Every Interview!” etc. Honestly I’m as happy to break the process into it’s component parts as the next blogger, but this post is about the overall process and the idea is to keep it simple.

The best interviews look and act like conversations between two people trying to get to know each other and how to solve a problem. That’s it. One person asks some questions, the other one answers, realizes they don’t fully understand something, so they ask some questions, then the first is back at it. Etc. If it works right, both sides know a lot more about the opportunity and how the candidate would address it.