Dear Sam: In this day and age, I find myself with a certain level of paranoia when it comes to securing and retaining my job. I know I am supposed to update my résumé frequently in order to avoid being unprepared for a sudden, unexpected departure, but what else can or should I do to protect myself in these uncertain times? – Christian
Dear Christian: I applaud your efforts to be prepared. All too often I speak with candidates who were blindsided by layoffs and have little or no documentation from their career. While this may be fine if you work in a field that does not include quantified performance metrics, but if you are in a career where your performance is judged based on quantifiable factors, documentation is critical to fueling résumé content.
In addition to keeping records of your performance, every month or two, be sure you log accomplishments or special projects. I have worked with several clients who have done this throughout their careers, and instead of them having to think of everything they ever did over the course of many years, they have a running log of key contributions. If you save a Word document on your desktop, you will have a visual reminder to log key contributions or other elements of note. Not only can this facilitate the résumé development process, but it can also help tremendously when it comes to preparing for your annual review. Even if you do not write a self-evaluation, it is always a good idea to go into your review with a clear idea of how you contributed, or to more informally remind your superiors of your contributions through a quick email prior to review time.
Speaking of reviews, if you can save a copy of them, that would be great too. Often reviews contain strong comments on your performance¾comments that can be used directly on your résumé. At the very least, keeping your reviews documents your strong performance—assuming that is the case—in the event you do become a victim of a sticky situation at work. This could be a layoff or simply an unflattering supervisor, so hanging onto documents that record strong performance is important.
You should also build and maintain your LinkedIn profile. Be sure to turn off activity feeds on your LinkedIn settings—if you are performing a major update—as you would not want anyone you are connected to with your current employer to know you are that active in updating your profile. By performing routine updates, you will continue to refresh your profile and be facilitating the opportunity for potential employers to find you. Ask for recommendations on LinkedIn so that you are not caught needing those third-party validations, all at once, while navigating an unexpected job search.
The key to being prepared, for a sudden or pre-planned departure, is to document along the way. Save information where you can—refer to your employment contract so you know what you can and cannot save—copy job descriptions and reviews, glean recommendations from your professional network throughout your engagements, and maintain a running log of your key contributions, and you will be very prepared should the need arise to perform a job search.
Dear Sam: I need your advice and help on how to make my résumé stand out. Right now my experience circulates around clerical and customer service positions. I have always been told that my experience looks great, but my job history is not stable and is a huge red flag. I’ll be honest, I have been let go from a few jobs and others just did not work out. I would like to make more than $10.00/hour and get my career on track. I'm thinking of taking some accounting classes at a local community college to get more experience. – Lost
Dear Lost: I can see from your résumé that you have held seven positions between 2002 and 2013. That really is not terrible considering the economy and what has become the “norm” of layoffs in almost every candidate’s background. There are some things you can do however to minimize the appearance of being seen as a job-hopper.
First, you have included months and years of experience. Instead, only include years of employment with each engagement. So, instead of saying you were with a company from August 2012 to February 2013, simply list 2012 to 2013. By doing this you immediately eliminate being seen as a short-term employee. In addition, your experience suddenly looks more valuable as a potential employer will not know if you were employed for seven months or two years. Once you change your dates to only years, you can also remove short-term positions that do not add value to your candidacy.
For instance, once presenting only years of employment you could remove your temporary data entry role through a staffing agency. As this position does not add any additional value to your candidacy, omitting it and demonstrating your data entry skills elsewhere, would benefit the picture of your candidacy on paper. Lastly, improve the presentation of your background to glean additional time in the screening process, being sure to not only present the basics of your role, but how you performed above expectations. Through a combination of content and design, potential employers will start seeing your great experience instead of your frequent job hops.
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