Monday, October 4, 2010

Stories from NFJS -- Fred’s Story

This one is about Fred (not his real name). He joined NFJS as our Work-Life Data Base™ was maturing and he embraced it. What makes his story interesting is the consequence of this process.

Fred’s profession is software and hardware testing, with a strong element of audio technology thrown in. He joined us at the very bottom of the recession when more than half of the jobs being advertised were bogus and at least half of the rest required that you walk on water without looking for the rocks. One job description asked for a web developer who could answer phones, run purchasing and pick the laundry… and the only part I’m making up is the purchasing. Microsoft had just cut what they would pay contractors 10% across the board and was routinely demanding skills that were a full step above the pay they were willing to provide. I don’t ever remember a time when the economy was worse or when finding a job was tougher.

Fred sounded very realistic about his situation. He said that he was hoping for a new contract where his pay would be at least 80% of the last one. I’m very familiar with the skills he described and with the employment environment in that area having recently left the industry myself. When I reviewed his original resume, it sounded like that was a reasonable hope, but he better be capable of making more than a few house payments with his unemployment.

NFJS was just at the beginning of our resume section at that time. We spend four weeks of meetings going over the “How to”. It starts with the basic fundamentals of resume writing and ends with our Work-Life DB™. This is a tool that allows people to document their success and put it in a format that easily translates into a custom resume.

By far the most important part of all this is the Work-Life DB™. The first thing it does is highlight the most powerful stories in their work history. It helps the writer understand that they are not asking for charity. Great candidates are not asking for handouts, they are offering to help a company solve specific problems.

Back to Fred.

He understood all of this immediately, then he did the work. There are three parts that matter in this story. Number one: documenting your success. Fred went back through his history and wrote down what he was responsible for and what he accomplished at each of his previous positions. Number two: putting this information in structures that communicate effectively what he accomplished. And three: Using the language that companies expect and understand.

The result was dramatic: “Executed weekly test passes of more than 5,000 tests (Tux and Tuxnet) generating more than 100,000 results.” Became “Lead the XXXXX automation test lab for the development of XXXXX, maintaining more than 5,000 tests cases and managing the execution of test passes generating more than 100,000 results.” The first one is ok… the second one is excellent. The second one highlights the context in which his work occurred and claimed all of the responsibility Fred had. The first one names tools that are important to Microsoft, but only Microsoft. If Fred wanted to work somewhere else, then the hiring company would either scramble for Wikipedia or eliminate (this is the kind of thing Fred would have included when applying at Microsoft.)

Fred got the job!

The new resume has energy and it has relevance and it has the language that was being looked for by companies that do the kind of testing Fred does and is responsible for. The result of this work was that he got an interview for an FTE position at another company, then got the job! His new role is leading automated testing for both hardware and software for one of the products this organization produces and he got a 20% raise!!!

Yes, Fred is highly skilled and yes, he is in a role that is always looking for quality people, but when he joined NFJS, that was not clear, especially to Fred. As he dug into his experience, he developed an understanding that allowed him to identify, apply for and win a position he had been preparing for, for most of his professional career…. Even while the “economy” totally tanked.

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