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December 12, 2017

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Are Your Job Hunting Skills Rusty?

Dear Joan:

I have recently been the victim of a downsizing. It’s been difficult to mentally deal with it, since I’ve been at the same company for more than 15 years and I haven’t looked for a job in 20 years. The last job I got, I didn’t even have to find—it found me. Someone I know recommended me and I interviewed and got the job.

I was a good worker at my last job but the company lost so much business due to the downturn in the economy, they had to let our whole department go. I will get a good recommendation (my boss told me) so I’m not worried about that, at least.

So now I am facing a job hunting situation and I’m pretty rusty about the whole process. Can you give me some pointers to get me started?

Answer:

You are going to need a resume that sells you—not just a resume that lists your jobs and responsibilities. And you will also need to do some aggressive networking.

Your first task is to write a resume that positions you as a results-oriented candidate, with a successful track record. This is not the time to be modest. Think in terms of “CAR stories.” CAR stands for Challenge, Approach, and Results.

For each responsibility you had in past jobs, ask yourself, what challenges you faced, how you approached that challenge and what your results were. Here is an example: “Changed sales support from an outdated reliance on email and phone, to an intranet-based system. Distributors credited this change with 10 percent increased sales during the first six months in operation, due to more immediate product information and faster response to input and inquiries.” The CAR story can be in any order, but you must always include the R=Results. (Contrast the CAR story format with the typical responsibilities statement: “Implemented a web-based intranet communications tool.” No comparison.)

You will likely have to do some editing, since you have many years of experience. The trick is to have lots of CAR stories to choose from and mix and match them to fit the jobs to which you are applying, and get in all on two pages. Yes, that does mean you should customize. One-size-fits-all resumes don’t lead to as many interviews as tailored resumes.

You can take the same CAR story and emphasize different components, to better match the job requirements in the position. So, if you find a good job posting online, for example, study the three or four main criteria and select the CAR story that best illustrates how you match what they want. Let’s say they are looking for someone with team leader experience. In the CAR story I used above, you could tweak it to emphasize how you worked with a team to get those results. Example: “Lead a cross-functional team challenged with developing an intranet-based sales support system. Despite initial resistance, the team successfully launched the distributor’s sales support system, under budget and on deadline.”

Once you have the resume finished –or even 80 percent finished—it’s time to take it on the road. Call and email your colleagues, friends, vendors and suppliers from your former job, former managers…anyone who can give you their opinion about it. Ask them to be honest when they evaluate it. This achieves several purposes. Not only are you getting great advice on how to market yourself; you are starting the networking process.

People will become vested in your job hunt if you ask their opinions and advice. Ask who you should be meeting with and what online sites would be best for building your network and searching for jobs. Ask them to refer you to people they know for more advice and input. Don’t ever ask anyone in your network,” Do you have a job?” You don’t want to pressure them and all they will do is back off. If your resume is filled with CAR stories, and you talk about your CAR stories in your informational interviews, people will want to help you by introducing you to even more people.

Most people still find jobs through people who introduce them to other people—not by sitting home surfing the net and sending out resumes. If you find the idea of “networking” daunting, just think of it as starting with the people who know you and building out in concentric circles from them. There are probably Six Degrees of Separation between your closest associates and your next employer.

- Joan Lloyd

Do you need answers to tough job hunting questions? Are you looking for some added punch to help you stand out from the crowd? Joan Lloyd’s has developed job hunting tools that can help you to maximize your job search:

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