A career change is an important investment. Job seekers complete training programs and conduct job searches only when programs are finished. How do you know that it will be feasible to find a job in the field you have targeted for your career change? One way you can get a better idea is to do a short, easy labor market analysis for your career change.
Step 1: Find the titles for the position you would like to research for your career change.
Make a list of job titles for the type of career change you are seeking. You may research these at the library, ask a counselor, or check on the Web. One often-consulted site is O*NET OnLine. For example, O*NET lists reported job titles for computer programmers: “Programmer Analyst, Programmer, Analyst Programmer, Computer Programmer, Software Developer, Applications Developer, Computer Programmer Analyst, Internet Programmer, Java Developer, Web Programmer.” If you are considering a career change to a programmer position, you could use any of these that are applicable to your search.
Step 2: Decide on your personal requirements for the position.
To which cities are you willing to travel? What salary ranges will you consider? Are you available to travel or work nights and weekends? Do you have any restrictions from your physician that might need accommodation? What other requirements do you have? These requirements are the factors you will consider when analyzing the results of your career change research.
Step 3: Using the job titles you identified, locate a minimum of five job postings that meet your requirements.
Actually, find as many as possible because you may be unable to reach some of your contacts. Some sites where you can locate postings include CareerBuilder, Monster, and Yahoo HotJobs. Indeed.com pulls listings from multiple sources. You can find additional postings on company Web sites, professional association sites, or local job banks. After you have collected the postings, research the telephone numbers of your targeted career change postings through a search engine such as Google or Bing or in an online phone directory.
Step 4: Contact the employers and recruiters.
Ask to speak to the recruiter or hiring manager for the particular position. Tell employers that you are considering a career change and would like to find out about local employers’ hiring requirements for XYZ positions. To keep the pressure off the recruiters, explain that you are not applying for a position at this time; you are simply seeking general information before investing yourself in a career change. Some contacts will be happy to help, though others may hesitate, especially if the contacts are not knowledgeable about the particular position and have been told not to transfer calls. Once you reach a contact, ask the following questions as relevant to your situation: (1) What are the hiring requirements for the position? (2) Has the company ever hired a candidate from (insert the college or training program that you are considering)? (3) What are the physical demands for the position (if applicable)? (4) How many of these positions has the employer filled recently? (5) What are typical starting salaries for someone with the qualifications you would have at the time you plan to apply?
Step 5: Analyze your results.
Compare your own requirements with your results from your employer interviews. How do they match up? If they don’t, are you willing to live with the differences?
If you can find at least five positions for which you could be considered, you have good reason to believe that you could successfully make a career change into your chosen field at the present time. You may also wish to check on the future projections for this field at O*NET OnLine.
If you are not satisfied with the results of your career change analysis, you will need to decide how you want to reframe your job search plans. Sometimes a change to a different state or region would result in a better market for the type of position you seek. If you are unable to target your job search so your results are satisfactory to you, you may want to consult with a career change counselor for other options.
If everything sounds good, then you have some assurance about your career change. Either way, you will have gained greater insight into your chosen path.
Even with U.S. unemployment rates decreasing in many areas to less than half what they were in January 2009, the job market still has three candidates for every job open.With that in mind, you still want your resume to be the most competitive that it can be to get the best interviews.
Moving past the other candidates
How do you get ahead of the other candidates? The most important strategy to make your resume competitive is to target it as closely to the job as possible. If you were a teacher and you are now applying for a position in educational sales, for example, you want to make your resume look like the resume of a salesperson besides showcasing your consultative expertise as an educator.
Making a case for yourself in your resume
How do you accomplish that if you have no experience in sales? One way might be to make a case for yourself by emphasizing how you have used your consultative and persuasive abilities in the past. Have you ever done cold calling? (If not, now might be a good time to volunteer to call for a fund-raising campaign.) Another tactic might be to emphasize your motivation and determination to make goals. Still another might highlight research skills you could apply to generate leads. If you add enough broad strokes and details about how you fit into a sales role, a portrait of a salesperson will eventually emerge in your resume.
Getting help with your resume
If you have any special challenges to overcome in the job market or if you simply want to make sure that you have a shot at the best interviews, you could benefit from making contact with a certified professional resume writer. The Professional Association of Resume Writers has a database where you can search for a certified writer (http://www.parw.com/cgi-bin/search.cgi?h=1). It’s one of the easiest ways to shorten your job search.
Want to make a resume that employers will love? Make a resume burger! (Don’t worry if you’re vegan. We don’t have to put animal protein in this burger.)
The ideal resume burger is very different from the average job candidate’s resume. Most resumes are lean on achievements with either supersized summaries or none at all and heaped high with condiments in the form of job descriptions. Looking at many resumes, you’d think the condiments were supposed to be bigger than the protein patty itself.
The Patty: Achievements
You want the main part of your burger to be achievements. What did you do that was different from what another person might have done in your job that got the needed results? What did your manager praise about your performance? What did your clients love about you? Why will your colleagues miss you when you leave? Tell what you did and the results for each position, preferably set off by bullets. Use proper resume action verbs for each entry. This part of the resume is the protein, the most important part of the meal and the part that will tell employers why they want to hire you.
Condiments: Job Descriptions
Each entry for a job can start with a job description, but keep it brief, as though it were catsup. Job descriptions are boring. In most cases, the hiring manager will know what you did on the job if it’s a relevant job. If you’re changing fields, the manager won’t care what you did in the job, but will be more impressed by your unique contributions, which will say something about who you are.
The Bun: Summary, Education, Skills Lists, Affiliations
Pull your burger and condiments together with a bun. The top of the bun will be a brief summary of what you offer that the employers are seeking. Don’t forget to precede this summary with a statement including the position title of the job you are seeking as a keyword. You can follow the summary with a keyword list under an appropriate header such as “Areas of Expertise.” The bottom, below the condiments and protein, will be your education and any affiliations you might have, along with technical skills if you have not already included them in a separate list at the top.
Now You’re Good to Go
Voila! That is your resume burger, ready to draw the hiring managers in with its delicious fragrance.
Recently one of my clients could not recall everywhere she had worked, much less the dates of employment. Of course, most of the time we need only go back ten years or so on our resumes so the earlier positions won’t matter so much. On the other hand, some employers, such as the public schools, may ask for detailed information going back many years.
An option for those who don’t have details about past employment is requesting the records from Social Security. My client plans to tap Social Security’s records.
If you plan to utilize Social Security records in preparing your applications, get your request in well before you need the information. According to B. J. Jarrett, a spokesperson for the Social Security Administration, the process currently takes up to four months because of the numerous requests received from the public.
You can access the form for the Request for Social Security Earnings Information on this page:
For detailed information about employment history, the fees range from $15 to more than $80, depending on how far back you want to go. For example, if you ask for 40 years of work history, the fee will be $80.
The great thing is that with the records in hand you will find it easier to complete your applications. Even if you decide to generate your own list of details without the help of Social Security records, you will find that getting prepared with a list of details about your past positions will go a long way toward facilitating the online application process.
The other day I found myself thinking about how professional resume writers must sometimes intervene to stop certain clients from defeating themselves in the resume-writing process. I think a better understanding of the process might help many people to understand better what they should be seeking.
Certain questions can be a first cue that a client does not understand the process involved in producing a resume. Here are some requests I believe clients should never make to their resume writers, along with explanations for each.
#1 Can you finish this resume more quickly than the stated deadline?
The writing process is exactly what the phrase says it is, a process. The process involves research, analysis, writing, revision, and quality control checks. By asking the writer to cut time out, you may be removing time and/or steps that will help to build a better product. I would advise clients never to ask a writer to cut out parts of a process for which they have paid good money.
#2 Can you get this finished over the weekend?
See #1. Do you want your writer to rush so he can make it to the wedding he and his family are attending on Saturday?
#3 I think the price is above my budget. Can I get a break?
In general, writers base prices on overhead and the amount of skill and time they put into the work. How would you be inclined to react if you showed up at work one morning and were informed you’d be getting paid less that day?
#4 Can you take the position titles out of my resume? I don’t want to tie myself to a specific job.
When your resume goes into the database, the recruiters will search for it using keywords, much the same as you search for things in Google. The keywords they use are most often position titles. Without these titles, the employer will not find your resume.
#5 Can you target the resume to two unrelated positions?
Hiring managers and recruiters tend to go through resumes very quickly. Sometimes this process is called the 30-second test because the employers spend no more than 30 seconds glancing at each resume. If they see a career that appears unfocused, they may toss the resume aside quickly. In other words, if you are seeking a job in marketing, your resume should look like the resume of a marketer, not the resume of a teacher, even though you may have taught school for most of your adult life.
These questions all stem from a misunderstanding of processes. Once the client understands the processes involved, that client is in a position to collaborate better with career professionals, and I hope this post helps you achieve a better understanding and a stronger collaboration.
Last week in the New York Times, columnist Thomas Friedman advocated for building innovation skills into K-12 educational curriculum. Many innovative educators believe that the US educational system is still focused on building the skills we would have needed to work in a factory in the early 1900s. Friedman pointed out that the traditional well-paid job is now becoming a relic and that going forward we will need to focus on building skills in innovation and entrepreneurship.
How will the new types of careers affect the resume? I predict the resume will become even more oriented to marketing the job candidate, the candidate’s brand, and the unique value and services the job seeker has to offer. We have already seen the resume moving in that direction with more targeting and focus on the needs of the employer, rather than those of the candidate. Now I see the resume taking on the role of marketing the client to a specific audience in a media-rich way, linking to multiple social media to allow the employer to connect to the candidate’s world immediately, and blurring the differences between candidates and their businesses until they meld into one.
In a sense, I think we’ve come full circle. Our pre-industrial civilization boasted many individual entrepreneurs in the trades, who undoubtedly needed to be innovative to survive. The future will be in some ways a return to the past, but with candidates requiring new kinds of marketing collateral to present to both local and international audiences as they become more and more entrepreneurial in the age of electronic media.
Today’s resumes rarely include objectives at the top of the page. Prior to the 1990s, objectives appeared on resumes with greater frequency and indicated what the job seekers wanted from a career and an employer. Now resumes tend to focus on how the candidates will meet the requirements of employers instead of what they want the employers to do for them.
What do candidates need to do to show how they meet employers’ needs? A title and a summary with keywords will go a long way toward establishing what the job seeker has to offer.
Rarely will anyone read the entire resume of each job candidate who applies for a position. That means that applicants must prepare a resume that engages attention immediately. By making the job target and qualifications clear at the beginning of the resume, the job seeker has the best chance of doing so.
In addition, employers often scan resumes into databases nowadays. That means that recruiters and hiring managers will enter keywords to search for appropriate candidates from the many resumes that have been submitted. To ensure that their resumes will be found, applicants must anticipate which keywords are relevant and most likely to be searched. Then these words should be included within the resume so that resume will be found when the employer searches for candidates with that job seeker’s qualifications.
Bearing these factors in mind, it is easy to understand the reasoning behind the new type of resume. What used to be an objective focused on what the candidate wanted is now focused on what the job seeker has to give. In some ways, you can say the objective has not really disappeared, but it has been transformed to be more useful to employers.
Let’s consider the following conversation between the Resume Writer and the client:
“Did you bring your projects in on budget?”
“Yes, within 5% or less.”
“Yes, but it was just my job. That was what I was hired to do.”
“Did others always bring them in within 5%?”
“No. In fact, the Vice President showed up at my office one day to ask why my projects were always on budget while no one else’s were ever within the goal of 5%.”
“What did you tell him?”
“I explained my strategies, and he took notes.”
“Wow, that’s great.”
“The way I see it, I was just doing my job.”
“Did the company make any changes based on what you said?”
“Yes, the company revised procedures and processes.”
“That sounds impressive.”
“It was all just part of my job to me.”
What achievements just seemed like part of your job that might impress a potential employer? Ask yourself what you did that made a difference at work. We all have our strengths, every one of us, but we all sometimes have a hard time recalling what we did. What we do just seems ordinary to us. Nonetheless, if we fail to document our attainments, employers have no means of differentiating us from our competition.
If you need help with remembering the great things you’ve done in your career, you may want to find a professional resume writer who has the training to help you sort these achievements out and get them on paper.
Everyone loves picking up new skills for free, especially those that will help us fuel the momentum of our careers. From time to time, I’ve worked as a writer for Mike Maetz of Maetz Consulting, and earlier this year, I took Mike up on his free webinar on using LinkedIn. Honestly, I think it was the best investment I have made of my time in this past year.
Topics Mike covered included attracting employers to your profile, completing the profile with the critical elements, composing your summary, growing your network, contacting those in your network, and several other key principles to making use of the LinkedIn network. I have applied many of Mike’s suggestions, and the results of my LinkedIn activities have improved substantially.
You will find a link to Mike’s profile with information on his upcoming webinars here: http://www.linkedin.com/in/linkedinguru1 If you take the webinar, please post here to let me know what you thought about it.