Posts Tagged ‘skills’

Translate Your Resume: Show How You Make a Difference

Wednesday, December 16th, 2015

To all my scientist, engineering and IT people – your resume needs translation! Your CV needs to showcase how your work makes a difference! No longer will just a list of technical qualifications be enough.

If you want to take your passion to the next level, do you know what that next level is?  Is it a technical, management or policy path? Each of these requires a resume that showcases you for that purpose, not just a list of your technical knowledge.

Talk with people in the role you aspire to fill. Find out what their daily grind is like. Ask what they like most about it. Ask what they wish they knew in hindsight as well as any advice.  You can then fill out your resume with your relevant experience for that role.

Link the work you do to the larger goal or mission of your organization.  Briefly answer, “Why was this important?” Tell the problem you were solving and, if necessary why that problem mattered.  Include who benefited from your work. Rather than listing your activities or duties, connect the dots for how your knowledge and work is valuable to the new employer’s projects and initiatives.

In the day-to-day grind, its easy to forget the bigger picture of our work. I was talking with an engineer that designed and built fuel systems.  He didn’t think it was very important. But he had redesigned and worked with a team that built a system for a satellite which now collects climate data that is used by hundreds of organizations around the world.

Every job is created for a reason. Ask yourself, “What would happen if I didn’t do [fill in your work]?”  Many of us are a lynch pin for projects and can lose sight of our contributions. Describe how what you did and the way you did it accomplished a project or task.

Remember that your resume may be read by three entities – a software system, a layperson to your field (Human Resources) and hiring manager. Use the vocabulary and acronyms that are common to your field, but not just to your current employer.

What may be every1or2deerday work for you, may seem like magic to others!

 

Coasting Through Your Career?

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015

Do you have more days at work when you are bored than engaged?  Are you counting the days until the next big thing will be over?  What have you done to jump-start your career lately?

Check your career map. Oh, you don’t have one?  What happened to that plan you drafted, the professional development plan that is languishing in the system or an unopened folder? Have you accomplished or lost interest in your goals? Update them. You can’t move forward in your career without a bigger road map.

What type of project or work would you like to be doing a year from now? What’s happening in other departments and divisions of your organization. What jobs are opening up as people get promoted or re-assigned? Could they use your expertise while you’re broadening your knowledge? Look at volunteer opportunities that will challenge and help you develop communication and leadership skills. Add these to your professional development plan and then your resume and LinkedIn profile!

Ask yourself which new responsibilities you’d like to have. Do you have the technical skills? Look at similar job postings and the technical skills required for your current and the next role you want. If there’s a skill that keeps showing up but you don’t have it, you can add it to your professional development plan. Don’t stagnate in your career because of a critical skill gap with a new tool or technology. Let go of a piece of your “expertise” when its time to learn a new way or process.

No one cares more about your career than you. Be sure to feed and nurture it.

 

 

You just had a Career Conversation

Sunday, August 2nd, 2015

Were you paying attention?

Not all career conversations are directly about you and getting ahead.  Getting personal feedback is great, but it is only one aspect of career conversations. Career Conversations come from many sources, not just bosses and mentors. They may be hiding in meetings and other conversations.

If you just had a hallway conversation about someone leaving or moving to another position, THAT was a Career Conversation. Note where they went and what gap that leaves. If the role is already back-filled, note what skills and expertise was selected. Another Career Conversation could be your follow-up with the perspn who moved.

Did you just leave a meeting about a persistent problem your department or a customer is facing? Add that to your journal of career impact information. Do you see a trend developing? Do you see a skill that you can offer (or that you need to acquire) to be part of the solution? And THAT was a Career Conversation, too.

We need many different sources and views to continuously manage our careers. In addition to the daily and on-going work we do, we need to pay attention to the business of the organization and the public served via budgets, customer needs, regulations and issues such as hacking, climate and demographics that effect how and where we work.

These make for fascinating and on-going Career Conversations. You can discover new tracks and ways to do what matters most.

Career Conversations, part 4 – Raise Your Hand

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015

handsOne of the most effective career conversation you can have is asking to do something for your boss.

When my boss was sharing some of the company’s plans for re-structuring, we could see that there was a big piece missing (aka “opportunity”) in managing the transition. Turf protection was high and we knew that getting support would be difficult. Often these discussions end with a shaking of the head and an “oh well” sense of defeat. My boss was already overloaded. Knowing it was a risky endeavor I asked, “Could I take a shot at it?”  Incredulously he asked, “Why?” I had nearly hit the top of my job level and thought this could be a way to break through. At worst, it could be a great story to share at future job interviews. And I truly had a deep desire to do it. With his support, I was able to quickly do the due diligence, build the business case, offer a solution to the President and Council and roll out a successful change management initiative.

Encourage your boss to delegate more of her projects or tasks. Ask to attend meetings in her place. Perhaps she will be willing to share you with other leaders in the organization for a few hours a week to work on a project or add your expertise.  These will help to develop your leadership capability, visibility and relationships. Remember the WWIFYB (What’s In It For Your Boss): It shows her ability to develop her staff, her teamwork and you can make her look good.

Does a planning meeting for another meeting sound dull? It is ripe with opportunity! Consider who will be attending the big meeting. If it is decision-makers and thought leaders, just being in the room is valuable.  Does a speaker need someone to advance the slides during the talk? Raise your hand. You’ll get a ring-side seat at the discussions, hear the questions and learn what’s is important and not important to these influencers.

If you don’t ask, others won’t know that you are interested.

5T Approach for Career Conversations

Thursday, June 4th, 2015

In my MAnneHullcarch blog, I gave you 9 tips for starting career conversations.  Some of the most important career enhancing conversations are about getting meaningful feedback – observations of the impact of what you’re doing both successfully and things that could be done better. Do others share the same opinion of you and your work with you? Do you come across to others as you intend?  A recent conversation with a client revealed that his intention of improving his team’s work was coming across as judgmental and critical. As much as that hurt to hear, he can now adjust his approach to reduce alienating team members.

You can get useful feedback by doing one simple thing: Ask for it. But if you just ask for generic feedback you’re sure to make eyes roll.  Try the 5T approach:

1) Tactical: Outline the areas you currently know you want or should improve based on your current work. You can use your job description to get started. Perhaps your boss has mentioned something. Many organizations and professions have competencies that provide a wealth of direction for these conversations.  Look to the people who are considered the leaders in your division, profession, organization. What is it about them that you and others respect? Repeat this list for the kind of work you want to do next. The result should be a list of specific knowledge or behavior that you want feedback to validate or improve.

2) Target: Consider people you trust and respect for their perspectives. Who observes your work or is the recipient of it and can give you specific tips on what’s working and what could be better? Ask the people who have a stake in your work how you could do it more economically, better, or faster. When asking for feedback from your boss, what aspects of your work are most important to her? Establish an informal agreement with colleagues, mentors or others with whom you work to provide ongoing specific feedback. But how?

3) Timing:  Immediately following an incident while its fresh in their mind, ask for a their take on how you came across, or what went well or what you could have done differently.  Use the time walking from the conference room to your office, or an IM after the teleconference. Grab a cup of coffee the morning after or chat on the train  delivering a project, completing a task….you get the picture.

4) Take it: Ask for 1-2 things you could learn, improve, start doing, or stop doing that would enhance your credibility or professional reputation. Then respect their perspective, especially if it is different from your own. That’s the point in asking for it.  Avoid justifying or excusing your actions to get them to change their mind.  Ask for specific ways to improve, resources and commit to using their feedback.

5) Thanks:  Express your gratitude for their candor. Many people are uneasy in being honest and your graciousness will be appreciated.

We build our careers by our good work and our relationships with others. You can enhance your chances of doing the work you really want to do, and make a difference by paying attention to doing your work well and being open to making adjustments along the way.

Update Your References This Month

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

Update Your References

A few months ago I posted some tips on the Care and Feeding of Your References and this month here are some more tips to get past your procrastination. May 4-8 is Update your References Week.

References are people that vouch for your work. Your boss is a key person, but not the only one. You work with many people who have valuable perspectives to help in your career.

Collect your references before you need them.  Keep a list of references in the same file as your resume.  It should include the person’s name, current title and contact information.  Write one sentence describing your relationship like this:  [Name] was my [manager, colleague, a vendor, etc.] at [where you knew them if different than their current place or if they are retired]. Don’t embellish, just the facts.

Keep your references up-to-date.  You most likely have references from work you’ve done in the past. Too often we lose track of where they are now – and they lose track of you!  Reach out via your social media of choice to stay in touch. Be genuinely interested in what they are doing and let them know in one sentence what you are now doing and looking to doing next.

Ask for 2-3 testimonials each year from a variety of potential references. You’ll see if you are branding yourself for your next career step. Timing is of the essence – ask just following getting a compliment or hearing that your efforts were appreciated. Tell them that you are gathering testimonials as part of your on-going career portfolio.  All you need is a short 1-2 sentence description of what they thought you did especially well and why it mattered.  It could be your technical prowess or quick responsiveness that enabled them to meet a deadline. This is much more helpful than a vague, “Jim was great to work with.”

Help them write it.  While it seems awkward to write it for them, you can ask them to write about a particular attribute you will need going forward. You can suggest your contribution to a recent project in terms of  your ability to collaborate, lead, influence, analyze and find unique opportunities, cost savings… you get the picture.  If you’ve just received some verbal kudos, rather than ask them to put it in writing, ask if you could draft it and if they would put their name on it.

How many of these four tips can you do this week?

 

 

Mid-Level Contentment – Is There a Problem?

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

“I love my job. I’m excited to get up and come to work every morning! Yet, I’m being pressure to move into management. I’ve taken the management courses and don’t want to do the administrative chores required in those roles. What should I do?”

Career management is a continuous cycle of assessment, exploration, planning and taking action.  It’s foundation is in cultivating your awareness and reality of the various elements that contribute to your own personal definition of career success.

You have reached your career goal in your late 30’s and would like to stay right where you are, doing the hands-on work.  Great! If you know a role is not a good fit for you, don’t create misery for yourself and others. What else helps you define success?

Moving “up” is not the only way. Fulfilling careers are often a series of lateral, exploratory and even a step down moves to learn a new function or skill set. Staying in the same role may have plenty of options as projects end, new ones begin and others need to be maintain. Short-term assignments, details or voluntary roles are ways to not only stay challenged, but also to develop new skills, enhance your visibility and value to your organization.

Meanwhile the world continues to spin:

Most managers are responsible for developing their employees and may be measured in terms of staff promotions. You’ll need to help her meet that requirement by demonstrating new skills and learning. Pay attention to conversations of new ideas and potential projects. Let your boss know that kind of assignments you really enjoy. Ask what you need to learn to continue being a key person on her team.

You will soon reach the ceiling of her pay grade/scale.  Are you comfortable with the lifestyle it provides you? Will it be enough to maintain you in the future? I don’t advocate chasing the dollar, but this reality check may shed a new light.

You may find that your skills erode with changing technologies and updating processes. Don’t get left out by not staying up to date.

Avoid being targeted for a downsizing: Be “indispensable” not by hoarding knowledge, but by feeding your passion for your work and mentoring others. You are a “go to” person who can lead an informal learning group to challenge and help them learn. Others may see you as “stuck” so show your contributions: historical knowledge of projects and systems that can prevent or fix problems and justify needed change. You also know “the ropes” which includes organizational and personal political savvy.

When you enjoy your work, you are a joy to be around!

Strategies for Extended Unemployment

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014

What are they thinking?! Why are companies shunning people who have been out of work six months or more? Unemployment biases stem from employers desire to avoid making hiring mistakes. This avoidance leads to making assumptions that may or may not be based in fact. Four assumptions I’ve heard are:

  1. “If others don’t hire you, why should I?”
  2. “If you haven’t been working, your skills are probably out-of-date.”
  3. “If you can’t get a job you have lost the discipline of a work routine, or are lazy.”
  4. “If you can’t don’t follow application instructions, you won’t follow directions on the job.”

I bet those got you angry! So let’s use that angry energy to change those assumptions!

  1. Many people lose precious time because they don’t know how to effectively find their next job. Finding a job is “project management” which starts with a clear goal (the right job, not just any job) and strategies for appropriately connecting with people to let them know what you offer. There are many resources online, in your library or a career coach can help you map your job search project.
  2. You may have made family care-taking or other responsibilities your priority while not working in the traditional manner.  Think about the many skills and knowledge you’ve developed that can be of value to an employer such as patience, research, organizing, logistics, attention to detail, creativity, prioritizing, communication, and more.
  3. Get clear on your skills, knowledge and expertise and be able to talk about what you can do for an employer.  What problems can you solve? How can you save them time and money? What ideas and perspectives do you add that can help grow the organization and contribute to its mission?
  4. Keep your skills fresh.  Take free online courses, webinars, etc. Volunteer with community organizations to keep your skills in practice, and to stay in a “work” routine. Offer your expertise through consulting, temporary or project relationships.
  5. Re-skill yourself to do the type of work you will find rewarding and meaningful.
  6. Don’t let your desperation show. Stay positive when talking with people outside your intimate circle. Have 2-3 people who can encourage and keep you on track that you talk with on at least a weekly scheduled basis.

Address the time gap by describing what you have learned and accomplished and, most importantly, how it can be of value to the employer.

What long-term unemployment assumptions have you encountered and what are your strategies?

 

Accomplishments: Meaning in the Mundane

Friday, February 14th, 2014

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The key to every self-performance appraisal, resume,and interview  is capturing our accomplishments.  Many of us don’t feel we have any because we just come in and do our jobs.  Others of us believe that our good work will get noticed by others and we don’t have to remind them. We are carefully taught not to brag or boast.

Over the year, does your boss remember your contributions to the team or organization? With 5 or more other peoples’ reviews to write, probably not.  Your boss needs a gentle reminder of what you do and how it helps to meet the goals of the unit.

For job applications and interviews, people don’t know if you don’t tell them. We will not get the job if we don’t distinguish how and, more importantly, why we do certain tasks better than our competition.

Too often we just list the activities or duties that can be found on a job description. We also to include the context or challenge, and the results. The context supplies the scope – why the activity is needed, how often, how many, etc.  Our actions need to call out the expertise, knowledge and skills we have to do this well. The result answers the question, “So what?”

This week I was helping a team of people identify and write their accomplishments. This was not just for self-appraisals, but to jump-start thinking about what actions the team could be doing to improve and further their goal.  Too often we only view our jobs as the mundane tasks to satisfy boring metrics, such as weekly reports.  We have to step back and remember what happens with the work we produce: What decisions are made based on the things we produce? What would happen if we didn’t do these tasks? [This could also be an exercise to streamline work processes.]

In the case of this team, their work not only raises awareness of diversity and inclusiveness, but illustrates and recognizes the success of others. This team supplies data and trends (aka weekly reports) which drive the ability of highly talented people to have the opportunity to contribute to answering the most important questions of our lives. Where would we be without Stephen Hawkings, Richard Pimentel, Percy Lavon Julian, Bath, Patricia and so many others? Suddenly they remembered that this job wasn’t just about the money.

Do your tasks align with and further the accomplishments of the goal of your department?  What would happen if you didn’t do them? If you don’t care, find a new job or encourage your team to create meaningful goals so you can contribute to something you care about.

I have the honor of helping people discover why their work matters. That’s enough to keep me going every day. And you won’t find it in the job description.

Key Job Search Strategy – Volunteer!

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

The  Corporation for National and Community Service  has released new research,“Volunteering as a Pathway to Employment,” which provides the most compelling empirical research to date establishing an association between volunteering and employment in the United States. The results of this study suggest a statistically significant and highly stable association between volunteering and employment.  Volunteers have a 22% higher odds of finding employment after being out of work than non-volunteers.

What are the benefits of Volunteering?

– Learning and doing things that you wouldn’t have an opportunity without higher level authority

– Getting experience and po0lishing up your skills – technical and people skills

– Seeing new ways of getting things done

– Getting to know people you wouldn’t otherwise meet.

– People get to know you and your contributions and can serve as a reference for you

– Helps your own morale and energy to be doing something for others

– Shows you have initiative and self-motivation

When choosing a volunteer opportunity, look for a a cause that you really care about.  Think about and then seek opportunities to develop the skills or expertise that are relevant to your next career step.  Not all volunteerism belongs on your  resume.