How long will this take …

I get it. You just lost your job. You have bills to pay. You’re ready to go back to work.  The question you ask is “how long will it take to find a new job.”  You better be sitting down, because you may not like my answer.

The rule of thumb that I use is that you should be prepared for your job search to take one month for every $10k of salary you want to earn.  So, a $30,000 annual salary job could take 3 months and an $80,000 job could take 8 months.  I’ve been fired/laid off/RIFed/what-have-you six times.  The fastest I’ve ever found a job was 2 weeks (and actually I had some advance notice so it was really about 4 weeks) and the longest was 13 months.  That is not completely true because one time after about 4 months I decided to open my own consulting business and stopped looking.  After about 2 years that consulting business led me to my next job.

This does not mean it will take that long.  Some people are in the right place at the right time. Also, if you already have a strong and well-maintained network, you may be able to speed up the process.

Likewise, this does not mean that it will only take that long.  For the 1-month rule to be a rule, it has to be an average.  For many of you it will take longer – but hopefully not much longer.

What this means is that you need to be patient and you need to be prepared.  If you think you are at risk for losing your job, evaluate your assets.  If you have no other source of income and will rely on unemployment and savings, how long will they last?  If you don’t have enough money for the rule of thumb it will change your search process. You may be forced to settle for a lower paying job just to get some income flowing.  You might have to lower your standards, or look in another geographic area.  You just need to be prepared.

If, like me, you have a loving spouse with a good job and you can get by, be patient and work the process.  Know that it probably won’t happen overnight, but it won’t happen on its own either.  You have to do the work, build the network, and get the system to work for you.

Patience may be a virtue, but when it comes to finding a new job, impatience often is just as important.

Resume Magic Part II – Accomplishments vs. Responsibilities

You’ve been working on creating the perfect resume.  But something seems to be missing. What is it?

For most resumes that I see, what is missing is context.  Someone tells me they managed this, or implemented that, but there is nothing to suggest that they managed it well or implemented it successfully.  Without the context, their “responsibilities” are empty statements.

A list of accomplishments tells the recruiter what you’ve done and how successful you’ve been.  The theory is: what I’ve accomplished for my prior organizations, I can accomplish for you.  The good news is that theory often holds up.

Rather than highlight your career and various functions you’ve been responsible for, your resume needs to quantify what you’ve accomplished.   Your resume might say “Responsible for managing a staff of 14 with an operating budget of $500,000”, but what it does not say is if you did those things well.  If instead it said “Successfully managed a staff of 14 with an operating budget of $500,000 with turnover substantially below the organizational average and expenses within budget” then we’d know a lot more about you.

Showing that you’ve improved operating margins by X percent or reduced expenses by $xxx gives context to your statements.  Tell the recruiter how much you increased sales or profits, reduced expenses, expanded market share, etc.  That is what will open their eyes, and get you the interview.

Here are a few more resume guidelines to consider:

When emailing your resume, send it in a PDF format rather than in Word (or your word processor’s format).  This will ensure that it looks like you want it to, rather than how their word processor formats it.  This also avoids problems if you have a newer version or an incompatible software.  (There are several free software packages to publish your documents as PDFs.)

While a well formatted resume is great, often times a company wants you to copy and paste your resume into a text box on their website.  That typically means that all formatting is stripped away and your once beautiful resume is not very functional.  So, keep a .txt version handy.  After you’ve “finished” your resume, convert it to plain text and clean up the formatting so that it looks good again.  This will ensure that those nasty uploads work well and still look good.

Back in the day when I was starting out we were taught to put a “Career Objective” as the first thing on our resume.  We’d craft a bold statement like “To use my education and analytical skills to allow me to grow with a strong and forward looking company.”  While that might have been good advice in the early ‘80s (emphasis on might have been) it’s not anymore.  Now recruiters want to see a 2-3 sentence (or bullet points) elevator speech that tells them exactly who you are and why they need to read the rest of your resume.  Words like proven, experienced, customer-focused, market leader, etc. show energy and drive.  Craft your summary so it makes peoples say “wow, tell me more.”

I imagine some of you are shaking your head or rolling your eyes.  I’ll admit, some of these suggestions are a lot easier for me to say than they are for you to do, but trust me, they work.  If your word processing or editorial skills aren’t up to the task, get some help.  Find a friend who can help.  If necessary, use a consultant.  But if you get help, make sure they give you “your” resume and not “theirs”.  Make sure it reflects you, because that’s what you’ve got to sell when you land that interview.

A great resume can open doors.  Spend some time on yours and you’ll get more interviews, which will lead to getting the job.  Happy Holidays!

Holiday Giving …

In about a week many of us will be sitting down with family and friends to celebrate the holidays and exchange gifts.  What gift can you give a job seeker? Here are some of the items that have been on my wish lists over the years:

Resume Support – not all job seekers are equally gifted with grammar, writing or word processing skills.  If you have those skills offer to help the job seeker with their resume and cover letters.  Help with the phrasing, proofreading and layout so the resume presents the job seeker in the best possible light.

Networking – actively work to help the job seeker expand their network.  Just because you don’t know anybody that you know is seeking to hire someone with the job seeker’s background, does not mean that you don’t know someone.  Introduce the job seeker to the people you know and let the network take care of itself.

Time – job seekers are often unemployed and may need support like day care or transportation so that they can go on networking meetings and interviews. They may need someone to run some errands so they can focus on meeting an application deadline.  Give them some of your time, so they can spend their time focused on the job search.

Financial Support – while many won’t want to ask for help, being unemployed can be financially draining.  Financial support, no matter how small, can be incredibly uplifting.  Offer to pay a phone bill or water bill, buy some groceries, or whatever you can.

Emotional Support – more than anything, job seekers need your emotional support.  Most job seekers didn’t plan to be job seekers. They lost their job, and while often that was not their fault, that does not mean that they don’t see the loss of a job as their failure – their inability to provide for their family.  Often, they don’t need advice as much as they just need to someone to be there, to listen, to encourage and just be a positive and affirming presence in their life.

Holiday giving isn’t about the dollar value of the gift; it is about the thoughtful act of giving.  Give your job seeker a hug, tell them that you believe in them, and you’ll support them during their job search.

Happy holidays!

Feelings, Nothing More than Feelings …

Anybody a fan of the movie Big?  I love it when Tom Hanks sings this Barbara Streisand  song to his mom to prove that he is really her missing little boy.

How does it feel to get fired?  Simple – it sucks.  It’s like getting punched in the stomach. Even when you know its coming it is an awful feeling.  I’ve been blindsided a couple of times. The boss calls you in.  You think everything is going great.  Then she says, “I’m sorry but we’ve decided to make a change.  We’re eliminating your position.  Your last day will be …”

You don’t really hear much after that. Your head starts to swim.  You feel a little nauseated.  Depending on how quickly you move through the stages I wrote about in an earlier post you may get angry. You may try to plead.  Your fight or flight instincts kick in and sometimes you just want to get the heck out of there.

You’re probably reading this because you’ve already been fired and know what I’m talking about. If so, then you may be wondering why I’m wasting your time recalling bad memories.

Here’s why.  You need to remember what that feels like.  I don’t know if you got fired yesterday, last week, or 10 years ago, but look at where you are today.  You’re alive.  The world continues to revolve, the sun rises and sets.  Life goes on, and no matter how bad you felt when that happened, you survived.

It might have been difficult to talk about – maybe it still is.  It’s always hard to tell your family – believe me I know that.  But you’ll go on.  Follow this blog. Read the book (soon I hope).  Build a network. There are people who can and will help you.

Now let’s get busy and find you that next job.

Going Social …

The title of this post has two meanings.

First – I’m going social. Welcome to my friends and contacts from Facebook and LinkedIn. I’ve connected this blog to my pages on these sites so I can reach more people. Hopefully I can help you with your career transitions. Feel free to like or share or what-have-you. Maybe someday I’ll have to learn to tweet (or not).  Please follow along at

Second – You need to go social too. When I wrote the first draft of I’m Fired?!? my concept was to write a book and include a CD-Rom with job search aids and support materials. At that time AOL was just starting and the only way to access the internet was through a dial-up connection.  Some of you reading this post probably have no idea what I’m talking about. Those of you doing the math are realizing (the truth) that it’s taken almost 15 years to get this book from draft to done (and we’re not quite there yet).

Anyway – social media was nowhere on the horizon. Now there is LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Tumbler, Instagram and sites I’ve never heard of. The world is more connected than ever before.

So the question is, should you talk about being unemployed on social media? The answer is an emphatic yes!

Networking is about telling your story to anyone and everyone. I hear people say, “I don’t need to tell so-and-so because they won’t know anyone who is going to hire me.”  That is completely wrong. If your goal of networking is that everyone you meet will get you a job offer, then you will be severely disappointed. Networking is about connecting and building relationships. Everyone you meet knows someone that you don’t. If they introduce you then now you know one more person. As you build that network it’s like a spider building a web and eventually a nice tasty job opening will get caught in that web.

Putting your story on social media can allow you to reach more people faster than any other method. On the dark side, putting your mistakes, or your sloppy resume or your bad attitude on social media can blow a hole in your network just as fast. If one day you post on Facebook about your search and this great person that you met, and then the next day you whine about not getting an interview at some company, then you’ve undone the good work you did the day before.

Use social media, keep it professional and upbeat, encourage other job seekers, and avoid photos of you holding a red cup J. Build a network that is strong, and electrified.

Resume Magic – What Makes a Great Resume – Part I

There are lots of resources on the Internet for making a resume with tips and templates galore.  Out of all that, what is the most important?  We’ll I’ve talked with some search pros and we’ve put together these suggestions for creating resume magic.  Unfortunately I couldn’t get all of these tips in one post, here is part I – stay tuned for the remainder.

Let’s start with why you’re doing this at all.  What is the purpose of your resume?  Is it simply a written version of your career history?  Is it your opportunity to tell others your goals and aspirations?  Is it a chance to detail everything you know and highlight your incredible mastery and technical expertise?  Well, yes … and no.

The purpose of your resume is to be your personal brochure and sales pitch indicating why someone should hire you.  With a resume you’re not trying to meet your needs, you’re trying to meet the needs of the recruiter and hiring manager.  You are attempting to show them that you are the perfect candidate for the job they are trying to fill.

Your resume is a paper representation of you.  It should be a personal statement that reflects your technical skills, competencies, expertise, involvement, awards and accomplishments.   While templates and sample resumes are great for giving you ideas, your resume needs to be distinctly you, not a template.  As you expand your brand, make sure that your cover letter, reference page, thank you letters etc. all have the same look and feel.  They need to consistently support your brand.

Here are some guidelines to remember:

  • Choose the format that is best for you – Chronological vs. Functional (we absolutely prefer chronological).  Use your career progression to support that you know what you know.
  •  Lead with your strengths. Start with a summary of why you are the best candidate. Add your accomplishments to support those statements. Show your career history as proof of your success and list your education as the foundation for it all.
  •  Be concise and keep it to no more than two pages – and one page is better.  Remember, if you are lucky a recruiter will read the first half of the first page.  If you haven’t caught their attention by then you are not going to get that job.  If they have to wade through 4 pages of jobs, references and citations you have no hope.
  • Customize each resume based on the position and/or company you are applying to.  Research the company and tailor the resume to fit what they are looking for.
  •  Be industry specific, but here’s where some balance is needed.  You should include industry buzz words so that companies who use computers to scan and evaluate resumes will find the keywords they are looking for.  But, don’t include so much jargon that others can’t understand what you are talking about.
  •  Be truthful – enough said.
  •  Make it look good.  Use a bright white paper and clean, simple font.  Make sure you have sufficient white space so it doesn’t look cluttered.  Use formatting to make it easy to read and to highlight the most important parts.
  •  Make it perfect.  Use multiple proofreaders.  Your spelling, grammar, and punctuation need to be perfect.  Your formatting (bold, underline, italics, centering, line spacing, etc.) needs to be consistent. Your margins should match.  Take the time to do it right.

A great resume won’t get you the job, but a bad resume will keep you from it.  Stay tuned for some more tips and a focus on accomplishments, the real key to success.