Jenny called a couple of months ago. She had spent years working on her degree in nursing doing her coursework on nights and weekends. Prior to that there was a long gap as she put aside her education goals to focus on her family. Now it was time for her and on the horizon was something none of her coursework prepared her to do: apply for a job.
Yesterday morning I sat down with a professional who explained that his daughter was finishing up her nursing school in the Dallas area and was two weeks out from graduation. He was worried his daughter would have trouble with the “paying your dues” years that await a young nurse out of school–and of course that she’d have trouble finding a job.
That same afternoon I reconnected with Lynda after our paths separated in the fall. She runs a dog kennel in our neighborhood and we talked about how great her staff was and what was new with them. One of the young gals was pregnant (hooray!). The other wasn’t working there any more. The one who left was 19 and (according to Lynda) decided that she was above working weekends. Prior to her leaving her attitude was toxic.
Lynda’s commentary was classic, “you’re 19 years old. You don’t have the professional skills of a doctor or anything else.” Lynda then looked at me and added, “so you know where she found a job that doesn’t require her to work weekends? She’s working for her mom.”
Not everybody can go work for our mothers. Some of us reenter the workforce after taking a break for family, school, military service, or any number of reasons. The economy may be good, but being on the outside of the fence from our ideal employment is still an uncomfortable place to find oneself. In the examples listed above the 19-year-old took the short cut to a job that’s going to make it hard for her to be employed in the future. The gal in Dallas was coming to terms with paying her dues before she could earn the job she wants and Jenny now has a different story to tell.
Jenny got the job! Years of taking time away from school and years of working on her coursework at night and on weekends set the foundation for her employment. Two months ago she was sitting at my kitchen table and we were going over all the work she’d done, but she didn’t feel confident in representing that work in a resume.
The professional writing skills I’ve developed in the military make resume writing a pretty easy task. Here are some points that I shared with her and can apply to others in similar circumstances:
- Start with what you’re proud of. In any job position you’ve been proud of something you’ve done. These can come from work or volunteer environments, but they should be the main thing on your first draft. Build your resume on those things and fill in the gaps later. The things you’re proud of can come from work or volunteer environments.
- Speak the language of those you want to work with. Resumes often miscommunicate for their intended audience because the people writing them and those reading them are using two different sets of vocabulary. Often times the person reading the resume initially is an HR screener. By nature they have a very hard job and don’t usually know the technical terms for what they’re hiring against. Using the exact technical terms (if you qualify) of the posting is a must, but technical skillset is only one part of every job application.
- Don’t be a bad hire. I know that sounds obvious, but it’s really not. A bad hire can cost a company $50,000. Those HR screeners look at each applicant as a $50,000 risk they are trying to protect the company from. So if you don’t want to be a bad hire, how do you be a good one?
- Write your resume to reflect the Ideal Team Player. The Ideal Team Player is one of the books I have on my reading list and its an excellent one for anyone in the job market. The Ideal Team Player is someone who is humble, hungry, and smart. There are ways to include this language in your resume, and for those who know to look for it your words will resonate.
- Know the Five Dysfunctions of a Team. While this deals more with the conversations at job fairs and interviewing knowing what the five dysfunctions are and your role as a new team member (yes, talk in those terms) can make a difference in distinguishing you from the competition. There’s a great book on the subject (also on my reading list), but if you want the summarized version, the Five Dysfucttions of a Team are:
- Dysfunction #1: Absence of Trust
The fear of being vulnerable with team members prevents the building of trust within the team.
- Dysfunction #2: Fear of Conflict
The desire to preserve artificial harmony stifles the occurrence of productive ideological conflict.
- Dysfunction #3: Lack of Commitment
The lack of clarity or buy-in prevents team members from making decisions they will stick to.
- Dysfunction #4: Avoidance of Accountability
The need to avoid interpersonal discomfort prevents team members from holding one another accountable.
- Dysfunction #5: Inattention to Results
The pursuit of individual goals and personal status erodes the focus on collective success.
- Dysfunction #1: Absence of Trust
The process above was what worked for Jenny and the look on her face when she got the job was nothing short of amazing.
Rejection is a natural part of the process. I don’t know of anyone who found the ideal job and got hired at it with their first attempt. The HR community in most areas is pretty intertwined. Keep making good impressions, ask for resume feedback at job fairs (don’t just drop off the resume–get them to look at it!). I was at one job fair recently where I was saying thank you to the event coordinator. She started asking me questions and was impressed enough she said “I want to take a picture of your resume right now and send it to one of my friends at XXX company.” While that kind gesture may not pan out the work above will certainly make it more likely to happen.