Career Change? 7 Tips to Sell Transferable Skills

new career directionCareer and industry changes require work. Your job as the changer and job seeker is to help potential employers understand how the work you have done before is relevant in your next industry or profession. It’s not easy, but it’s not impossible, either.

We have already seen some dramatic changes in the economic landscape in early 2014. Multiple retailers have announced closings, changes in direction, bankruptcy filings and acquisitions. All of these changes, which include consolidations and job losses, could have you thinking about making a move to another industry. Retail isn’t the only example, but it makes the point.

Here are some tips to make your marketing message more effective.

Scrub your message of old-industry language. If you are making a move from one industry to another, spend some time translating for your new focus. This will change from industry to industry, but there are likely a few words and phrases in your résumé, LinkedIn profile, letters and other messages that need to be tweaked. For example, “inventory shrink” in retail might be more understandable as “inventory control” or “physical inventory integrity” or “inventory loss prevention.” Do your research and make the changes. Speak the buyer’s (i.e., future employer’s) language.

Focus on results. Every business needs people who can drive strong financial performances. Dollars are dollars. Use some space to explain how you increased sales, operating profit, and profit margins. This plays well in any industry.

People are everywhere. Talent development is a universally appreciated skill. Have you worked to develop and promote people in your old gig? If so, talk about it. Coaching and mentoring skills, along with training ability, are also in demand everywhere.

Productivity and process improvement can’t hurt. Every organization has standard processes that it follows, and many have tremendous opportunities to improve for enhanced productivity and efficiency. If you have done it, talk about it. Efficiency, doing more with less, is vital everywhere.

Can you lead? What stories do you have about influencing others to follow you to achieve a common goal? How have you turned a business unit with your leadership skills? How have you created empowering, engaging environments? Employee engagement is viewed as a key productivity driver, so a compelling case in this area will help.

Can you bounce back? The word is “resilience.” Have you ever overcome a huge challenge that defeated others? Did you ever do something that you thought you and your team couldn’t do? Have you failed, learned and applied what you learned to excel? Again, these are great points that will be valuable anywhere.

Everyone has a customer. They might be called clients, and they might be internal or external, but every professional has someone depending on him or her to produce and deliver as promised. If you can make a compelling case of your ability to create an excellent customer service environment, you will be that much closer to a job offer.

Winners win. If you have succeeded before, you will do it again. If you can help a recruiter or hiring manager understand the significance of your accomplishments and how they will apply and add value at the new job, you win. Help them overcome the obstacle of fear associated with a career changer, and make them want you because you are too good to refuse.

===

Bill Florin is the President of Resu-mazing Services Company in Monroe, Connecticut. Bill is a Certified Employment Interview Professional (CEIP) and Certified Professional Résumé Writer.

 

Volunteerism: 6 Thoughts to get You to Yes!

Volunteering can do a lot more than fill the time (and your résumé) while you search for a paying gig. Here are six considerations to make volunteerism work better for everyone. As I write this, I also hope that it inspires you to help now.

Get into it. If you decide to volunteer, work hard to make a difference. Non-profits that give you the chance to contribute have very limited resources, including time. They don’t need someone who is not committed. They need help.

Match your volunteerism to your skills. If you are an accountant, look for opportunities to use your accounting skills. Are you a marketing person? That non-profit could probably use you to improve its social media program. The idea is this: you can make a large impact by doing what you do best. Someone needs to work the serving line at the soup kitchen – and that role is very important – but many can do that job, while few can audit the 2013 financials. What is the opportunity cost of a certified project manager cleaning pots in the kitchen while she could be managing an important initiative?

TIP: Check www.Catchafire.org for skills-based pro bono opportunities (I have done two projects through them, and they are great!). www.Volunteermatch.org is another resource for skills-based volunteer opportunities. Are you a member of a faith community? Check there, too. LinkedIn offers a new volunteerism page. Finally, some towns and cities have local volunteer opportunity directories. There is a lot you can do!

Getting out of the house will help you. One of the bigger problems of unemployment and under-employment is the isolation and feelings of inadequacy that come with it. Find a role that gets you out into a professional setting where you can interact with other people. The contact will help you and the organization, and it will give others the chance to learn more about you. Obviously, you will build your network, too.

Positive feedback fuels motivation. Think about it, who doesn’t like some recognition for a job well done? Here is a not-so-secret: non-profits can’t give you money, but they are very appreciative of all volunteers. They will tell you how much they value you, and that will make you feel great, and that will make you want to do more – and do it better – in every area of your life.

You will have fresh stories. Good stories are the secret to a great résumé and interviewing experience. When you can tell about an accomplishment in a compelling, convincing, high-energy way in an interview, the hiring manager will sense your genuineness and credibility. That can only help. Won’t it be better to have a fresh 2014 experience, rather than a stale story from a few years ago, when you sit and answer the questions?

Treat your volunteerism like a job. Your professionalism and skills use will make a difference in how you see yourself and how you sell yourself for a paying job. If you are using all of your professional skills to benefit the non-profit organization and its constituents, you will feel much better about selling the experience as valid and relevant when you market yourself for a paid position.

This could be #7, but I thought it too obvious to treat it that way. No matter how tough your situation , there are others in much tighter spots. They need your help. Go do it, and get ready to make your own list about the value of volunteerism.

One Failure, One Weakness

Everyone hates interview questions that focus on failure. We don’t like to admit to our weaknesses. We are trying to sell ourselves, after all, so why would we want to discuss any of that? The uncomfortable reality, though, is that you will likely be asked one or two questions that get you talking about something other than your victories. You need one failure and one weakness story ready to answer these questions and their variants.

The good news is that you really only need credible examples of one failure and one weakness. Most interviewers are not going to keep drilling for negatives. One great answer to illustrate each kind of question will serve you well, and you can spend the rest of your time and energy preparing your victory stories.

You might hear the questions like this:

“When did you fail to achieve your goals?”

“Tell me about a time that you missed a deadline.”

“Tell me about a time you had to bring bad news to your boss?”

“What are you not good at?”

“What weakness are you working on?”

Answering these questions is easy if you know how. Actually, it is a lot like answering a more positive question in that you want to tell a story with a positive outcome. The difference is that you are starting with a negative and explaining how you learned from it, made changes or compensated, and how you have learned and grown from the experience.

For example, you might say something like this:

Early in my tenure with my current company, I was given a project to revamp our customer follow-up processes. My boss estimated that it would take about two weeks to complete, but he gave me three weeks. My mistake was that I delayed starting the project for a few days. When I dug into the details, I realized that it was more like a four week project as there were people and resources needed that were not immediately available. (Failure Admitted)

After that experience, I made an important change. Now, I review the details of every project that comes my way as soon as it is assigned. I work to identify resources, potential roadblocks and any other concerns right away. (What you learned)

I never made that mistake again. I recently completed a $200,000 budget project two weeks early and was recognized with a “Chairman’s Thanks” award. (Example of Improvement)

To explain a weakness, give an example of how it manifested itself, what you learned, how you compensate or changed, and an example of success. Use the above framework to craft this answer.

Everyone makes mistakes and nobody is great at everything. Smart people reflect on and learn from them. If you can tell this story well, you will have nothing to fear from these interview questions. Think, prepare and practice for success.

There is a lot more interview advice available right here!

See Question 1: Tell me about yourself. — Question 2: Why do you want to work here? — Question 3: Tell me about your greatest accomplishment.

Question 4: When have you failed? — Question 5: Why did you leave? — Question 6: Where will you be in five years?

Bill Florin is a Certified Employment Interview Professional and President of Resu-mazing Services Company.

Annual Review Lemonade

Turn that big sour review process into tasty resume and LinkedIn lemonade.
Turn that big sour review process into tasty resume and LinkedIn lemonade.

Everyone hates annual reviews, right? Many are dealing with the process now, either writing their self-evaluations or thinking and writing about their employees (or both). The whole effort takes a lot of time, and many see it as just a necessary hoop that must be jumped through to placate the HR people to get to the raise on the other side. Here is another way to look at it: Use the time to capture the history of your best work.

Annual reviews are often the best source of information for people to use when writing résumés, LinkedIn profiles, and cover letters. It’s also a terrific resource to refresh one’s memory before a job interview. As a pro résumé writer, I love it when clients have reviews available as there will be solid and quantifiable information to include in the career marketing package.

Here are a few compelling points that should change your mind about annual reviews.

It’s a paid mini-résumé writing session. Think about the résumé creation process. You have to sit down and think about the work you have done and the accomplishments you’ve achieved. Isn’t that what happens when you do your self-review? You are writing about your year and putting your work in the best possible light to earn a big, fat, bell-ringing raise. Your employer is paying you to write this year’s section of your résumé.

You have access to information. When you write a résumé after leaving an employer, you may or may not have access to the data you need to tell your story. How much was that sales increase in 2009? You have access to information now that you can include in your review, and nobody will think twice about you researching it. If asked, you say, “I’m writing my self-review.” Done!

You get documented feedback from your boss. Many people complain that the only good feedback that they get is at review time. If that is you, capture this information and use it later if needed. Positive quotes can be showcased in a cover letter or (sparingly) in a résumé.

Get copies and bring them home. Be a freak about this! Ask for or make hardcopies of your completed, delivered reviews (with your boss’s comments and scores). Bring them home now and file them where you will find them later. Gather previous year’s reviews if you don’t have them.

Keep this in mind and use the annual review process as your time to document your year. Annual appraisal lemons can be squeezed into résumé lemonade later.

If you found this article helpful, please take a moment to share it. Also, be sure to follow this blog to get notifications of new stories. Thanks!

Bill Florin is President of Resu-mazing Services Company. After writing hundreds of résumés, he knows the value annual reviews in the résumé writing process.

Seven Critical Cover Letter Checks

checkmarkBefore you send out another résumé, either electronically or physically, check your cover letter. Is it doing all that it can to make the case that you are the candidate they should consider most closely? Work this list every time.

1. Does it exist? Sometimes people ask if a cover letter is needed. Look at it this way: if two résumés detailing equivalent experience and qualifications arrive, and one is accompanied by a well-written letter than sells the candidate, who is more likely to get the call? A great letter can tip the scales in your favor. Do it!

2. Is it a proper business letter? This isn’t an email. Nor is it casual correspondence. Use a formal business letter format that includes the date, inside address, a colon (not a comma) after the greeting, and a professional closing.

3. Do you state your purpose? Your first paragraph should clearly state the position for which you are applying, the location where you want to work, and where you found the position advertisement. If you were referred by a person, state it plainly.

4. Do you make a customized pitch? The most important purpose of a cover letter is to sell you for the position. Imagine that you have two minutes with the hiring manager to explain why you should be hired. Write this. Tie your reasons to the qualifications, requirements, and perceived culture of the company. Answer, “Why should I hire you?” Your cover letter should be customized for every position for which you apply. More work, but it’s worth it.

5. Did you address obvious questions? Relocations and long-term unemployment experiences that will be questioned should be addressed. Develop a one-sentence explanation. Something like this can work: “After a large reduction in force with my last company due to industry contraction, I am ready to bring my skills, experience and business acumen to your organization to be part of a successful future.”

6. Did you say “thank you”? You might find it hard to believe, but many letters get sent without the common courtesy of thanks. Don’t let that be you.

7. You proofread, right? Employers rightfully assume that if you are sloppy in your job search – when you have all the time you need to get it right – you will be sloppy as an employee. Simple typos can kill your chances (see The Thank You Letter of Doom for a real horror story). Don’t let it happen to you.

Do you have cover letter success stories to share? Tell everyone about it in the comments below.

Work your cover letter hard and the effort will pay you back. Good luck!

If you found this article helpful, please take a moment to share it. Also, be sure to follow this blog to get notifications of new stories. Thanks!

Your “Me Too” Résumé Isn’t Working

Anyone who has ever me_tooworked on the receiving end of a job announcement – they get to swim in the résumé tsunami – says the same thing. “I’m busy, and I only have a few seconds to look at your résumé. If it isn’t obvious that you’re a fit, you won’t hear from me.”

Knowing that, why do people still fill their résumés with clichés?

Proactive, results oriented professional…

Strong attention to detail…

Team player with a strong work ethic…

Stop! Everyone says that! If you want to be like everyone else, and not get the call, use the same words, phrases, and sentences. Copy your résumé from a template or a book. At least you will have saved some time.

If, on the other hand, you want success, describe what you have done using key words and phrases that recruiters will search on LinkedIn and in other résumé posting sites. Explain how you used a specific technology, tool, or business practice to achieve a result. Describe it plainly. Eliminate adverbs (e.g., successfully, proactively, anything ending in “ly”) as much as possible. Use the space for real information. Here’s an example:

Implemented lean methodologies to reduce production time by 2.5 hours per unit, increasing productivity by 17% and gross profit by 22%.

Reduced geriatric patient hospitalizations by average of 1.5 days in first six months on new case management and follow up initiative.

“Me too” doesn’t work when you need to differentiate yourself and get attention. Eliminate the filler and replace it with hard-hitting detail. It will make a difference.

Help Veteran Hiring

US Armed Services EmblemsAs the US winds down its involvement in global hotspots, more veterans are transitioning into the civilian workforce. Some are doing it better than others. Some employers are making it easier, too, by building strategies to proactively identify and recruit candidates. Starbucks was in the news recently by setting a goal to hire 10,000 vets. Home Depot and others have a history of being vet friendly. Here are a few ideas that everyone can use to more quickly assimilate veterans into civilian gigs.

EMPLOYERS

If your organization doesn’t have the core competency and culture needed to understand, recruit and retain talented veterans, look inside for expertise. Some companies (e.g., GE, Boehringer Ingelheim) have created internal employee groups to help. They can help “translate” military jargon and accomplishments into your company’s unique language.

Understand that the military is, in many ways, a business. Look for similarities rather than differences. Logistics, inventory management, asset protection, security, public relations and many other civilian career disciplines have similar or exact parallel military assignments.

Ask questions. If a vet has awards, commendations and promotions, ask why and how they were earned. You will likely hear stories of accomplishments that will help you decide that you really want to hire this candidate.

TRANSITIONING VETERANS

You are the “bilingual” person in this relationship and conversation. Translate military-speak into language that a 22 year-old civilian college grad HR employee can understand. Did you help move the gear from the rear to the hot spots? Talk about using your planning, organizing and communication skills to run a successful logistics operation to supply 1,000 soldiers in dispersed locations.

Learn the language of your targeted company. Get to know people inside, study their website and press releases, read the news, and learn as much as you can about the company. When you interview, you will sound like you belong and will already have an idea of how to tell your stories in a way that will resonate and make sense to the recruiter or hiring manager.

Find military-friendly companies. They will have people who will understand you. Check MilitaryFriendly.com as a starting point.

SUMMARY

If you are a veteran, you know that you worked hard and have much to offer. Employers, you owe it to your company, your stockholders, and these veterans to learn more about them. Many have skills, training and experience gained during their service that will make them very attractive if you take time to understand.

Veterans, thank you!

See last year’s Veterans Day story. It’s still worth a minute!

Bill Florin is President of Resu-mazing Services Company and served as a member of the Military Police in the US Army Reserve.

Drip. Drip. Drip. Job!

Dripping Faucet“They say it’s their dream job, but I never hear from them again.” I heard this comment from another career search professional a few weeks ago on a radio broadcast. He was talking about the need to stay in touch with potential employers and the need to overcome the fear of being annoying (You can listen Steve Greenberg’s piece here). The advice was good and was also something that I experienced.

In one protracted employment courtship, I was in touch with the organization for 18 months before a job offer came. You could think of the process as drip marketing. Keep working as long as you haven’t been told, “No! Go away!” Here are some valid reasons to ping the potential boss:

You’ve been promoted or assigned to something new at your current gig.

You have completed new training, education or received a new certification.

There is something online about you and an accomplishment, appearance or something else positive.

You read something about the potential employer and have some valuable insight or suggestion.

You learned about the potential employer’s competition and want to share an idea for strategy.

Think about it and you can probably think of many other reasons to reach out and remind them that you are still alive and interested. Keep dripping the marketing and the job can happen. It worked for me.

Bill Florin is the president of Resu-mazing Services Company in Monroe, CT. Bill has helped hundreds of job seekers market themselves successfully for great career changes.

Deadlines are Powerful

checkmarkDeadlines work. They drive us to prioritize and complete tasks, getting them behind us, moving us forward, and preparing us for whatever is next. Have you heard this one? “A goal without a deadline is a wish.” It’s true!

Here’s a simple example from my experience over the last few weeks. I had committed to writing a letter for use in a mailing by a non-profit. There was no firm deadline, just “late August, early September, whenever…” It would have been better is the deadline was “5:00 PM on Friday, August 30.”

So what happened? The letter writing project kept slipping until I sat at a meeting on a recent Tuesday night. I was asked, “When will the letter be done?” I said, “You will have it by 9:00 AM Thursday morning.”

I delivered it Wednesday evening. Why? I set a deadline (publicly) and met it. By the way, the work took all of about 45 minutes. I should have done it in early August so I wouldn’t have had to think about it further.

Here is something that you can try this week, or today. By 10 AM. Let me know if it works.

For everything on your to-do list, set a deadline. If you can’t get it done this week, think about how you can break down a big task into smaller chunks, with some of it achievable in the short term. Then, stick to the deadline.

If you are like me, you will get to the end of the day with many check marks on your list, along with a well-deserved sense of accomplishment. This can work in your job search, too. Here are some things to do with deadlines attached:

  • Make phone calls to three people who can help you in your career search. Do it by 3 PM.
  • Contact one person before noon who can help you with a letter of recommendation.
  • Apply to two targeted positions by 1 PM.
  • Find one person in your LinkedIn contacts for whom you can write a recommendation. Do it by 10 AM.

Write it down, set your deadline, and check it off when done. By 5 you will have a list of accomplishments rather than a list of wishes.

For more on goal setting and personal accountability, see “Maybe it is You“.

Bill Florin helps clients with the career searches by preparing them with great resumes, cover letters and LinkedIn profiles as president of Resu-mazing Services Company.

Three Reasons to be Bold

Understatement will hurt you in your job search. The essence of the work is marketing. Seekers create (either themselves or they pay a professional to do it) a batch of documents, both physical and electronic, to tell the world about themselves. Here are three reasons to be bold with your résumé, cover letter, follow up communications, LinkedIn profile and other activities.

Marketing Emphasizes Strengths. Hyundai doesn’t say, “The Elantra: Not a bad small car for the money.” PepsiCo doesn’t entice you with, “Mountain Dew: We’re not sure why people like this stuff.” Instead, marketers use all of their communication tools to sell the sizzle. What’s great? What’s exciting? What makes the product or service special? Do the same for yourself.

You Are Competing. Even though the job market has improved, many employers are still very cautious about their hiring decisions. They are still looking at their options, evaluating many candidates for each open slot. Every job seeker is in a battle with all the rest to get the interview and offer. You must outshine your competition if you are going to be successful.

Boldness Builds Confidence. Sometimes people say, “I don’t want to come across as over-confident, arrogant or boastful.” This is a good thought, and you won’t. But, by cataloging and presenting your accomplishments concisely and professionally, you will be in a better position to interview well because you will know your best stories and will have the opportunity to discuss them.

Your marketing activities and tools will not get you the job. They will get you the interview, and that’s what it’s all about. Review your résumé, LinkedIn profile and other documents. Ask yourself, “Are these doing everything possible to help me market myself? Am I bold enough?” If not, fix them.