Friday, September 24, 2010

Stories from NFJS

My desperate hunting for blog ideas has been solved!

I mentioned that I joined a “support group for reluctant bloggers” in an earlier blog and this week I was able to get to there for the second time. While participating, I had an epiphany as another member talked about the stories of her clients and their success, I realized that I haven't written a single story about the participants from NFJS and what's happened to them. Once that penetrated my thick skull, the hard part is choosing. While I’ve been doing Notes from the Job Search for a little more than a year and a half, the principles I use evolved over 30 years, so the stories end up going back a long time.

Here’s a story about a young soldier reentering the civilian world

Somewhere along the line I learned the value of separating the activity a candidate does from the product they work on. About 3 years ago a young friend of mine sent me an email asking for help. This young man (I’ll call him “Jim”) went to college majoring in Computer Science on an ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corp) scholarship, graduating in 2002. Well surprise, surprise, he was immediately activated and spent the next four years on active duty with the last two being in Iraq as a transportation officer. He mustered out in 2006, took a year off and had been looking for work for six months prior to reaching out to me. In those months, he had received nothing more than an automated response while submitting more than 100 resumes for various jobs in the IT industry. His goal company was Microsoft and he hadn’t even gotten an automated response from them.

I asked him to send me a copy of his resume and upon reading it understood the problem immediately. His resume was completely built around his experience in Iraq and he was applying for jobs as a project manager in IT.

We got on the phone together and I had him describe what he was responsible for. As he was doing this I kept asking him to avoid talking about trucks or transportation and spend more time focusing on his personal responsibilities. So when he said something like, “I had to get trucks filled with medical supplies from town A to town B on a weekly basis while making sure that we had supplies coming in from the States that would allow us to meet our schedules.” I helped him transform that into “developed schedules for multiple teams, coordinating multiple interdependent projects to deliver requirements on time and on budget.” Which is in fact a description of what he did, minus the references to Iraq and the Army and trucks. It is also describing his behavior in IT terms rather than Army terms.

One of the many great things Jim brought to this was an openness and ability to learn very quickly so the time necessary for him to completely re-write his resume was less than a week. When he submitted this new resume he started getting personal responses within the first week, interviews within a month and he received a Microsoft offer (that he took) within 3 months.

The principle Jim implemented was simply describing his experience in terms of what he personally did, not what he did it on, using terms his target audience understood. He did not drive or load trucks, he did plan, develop “critical path analysis”, and coordinate multiple interdependent projects. When put in terms that automated systems expect and that IT recruiters understand, the quality of his experience became obvious, as did Jim’s desirability as an employee. It also helped him understand how to communicate his experience during interviews in terms understood by the people interviewing him.

Most important, it got him the job!

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