I received my layoff notice on the 6th of March, worked my last day on the 15th, and will start my new job on the 25th of June. That’s about 3 months and two weeks trying everything I could think of (and a few things I couldn’t) to land a new job. Seeing as the longest I’ve ever been unwillingly unemployed before was 3 weeks, I wasn’t really sure what to expect.
And in the interest of passing some wisdom on to those who will undoubtedly follow in my footsteps (and also for my own personal record, should I need to do this again), I wanted to outline what I did, what I thought worked, and how I finally found myself re-employed. This will certainly be a series of posts over the next few days, since I tried a LOT of avenues before something finally worked.
Part The First: The Resume (a necessary evil)
The first order of things was to get my resume up to snuff. While everyone says “keep your resume up to date” on a constant basis – that’s not necessarily accurate. What you DO need to do is keep a constant running record of your career – job titles, dates, references and accomplishments. Pay special attention to the accomplishments – nobody cares what you do day-to-day, they want to see what you’ve achieved along the way.
Since I hadn’t done any of those things, I really struggled putting my resume together. I finally enlisted the services of a professional resume writer to help rephrase my experience and solidify my accomplishments in a format that would (ideally) make the HR types come beat down my door and beg me to join their teams.
It didn’t quite work out that way.
Even though the improvements from my original resume to the pro version were substantial, it wasn’t particularly groundbreaking, and didn’t net any instant results. In fact, there were a few components on the resume that could be seen as huge liabilities, and it went through a few more iterations with the help of friends and other professional contacts before it was useful. Even then, I received so much conflicting advice about what to include, exclude, how many pages it should be and whether to use a functional, chronological or mixed format that I’ve lost a lot of faith in the usefulness of the document.
Frankly, the most important lesson I learned about resumes is that they are really a secondary piece of collateral about one’s self. You will never, ever sell yourself with your resume. A resume is the human equivalent of a spec sheet for a piece of hardware. When you see the ad for that shiny new cell phone, great printer or other device, you are sold by the compelling ads, recommendations from friends, reviews in the media and in-store displays. You only look at the spec sheet AFTER you’re interested, to make sure it has the features you need. It’s the same with a resume. The person reading it must already be interested in the candidate to actually consider them for a position, and they use the resume after the fact to confirm necessary experience and accomplishments.
So sure, having your accomplishments, achievements, duties and career progression in a cohesive, comprehensive, impressive piece of self-promotional material is important – but not as important as the circumstances under which it’s delivered, which I’ll address in Part Two: Networking.