The key to achieving your career goals rests first in knowing that you are a valuable person with a unique combination of skills and talents to offer the world, and then implementing a plan of action to identify and capitalize on that talent.
The following stories are based on real-life, job search problems and their solutions.
Each person overcame their roadblocks and used talent, perseverance and a plan to reach their dreams – and so can you.
Job Search Challenge #1: I’m Too Old.
John had been searching for a manufacturing management position for more than 8 months and had mailed his chronological resume in response to numerous newspaper ads. He was quite surprised that his resume had not generated a single call for an interview.
However, one glance at his resume clearly indicated the problem.
His resume outlined 30+ years of employment in a series of brief job description statements.
Sadly, some employers may be reluctant to hire older adults for any number of reasons.
While there are many employers who value the maturity and skills of seasoned managers and executives, it is wise to play down age and focus on accomplishments. Keep in mind that resumes are not your memoirs, and it is not necessary to list your entire career history. Instead, concentrate on your most recent 15 or so years of relevant experience, emphasize your results and leave off dates in the education section.
Remember that the purpose of a resume is to generate interviews. Once you have the opportunity for an interview, you can convey flexibility, a team attitude, enthusiasm, and energy that will impress your interviewer.
Challenge #2: I’m Too Young and Don’t Have Any Experience.
Dan recently graduated from college and was eager to begin a career in marketing. His resume had produced only a couple of interviews and no job offers appeared on the horizon. Dan was convinced that age and lack of experience were to blame.
However, his sketchy chronological resume didn’t indicate any skills and training relevant to his career goal.
It’s a Catch-22. You are enthusiastic about starting your new career, but you cannot land a job because you do not have the experience.
You may be underestimating your skills and knowledge.
First, take inventory of all your skills, training, courses, and experiences (both paid and unpaid).
Second, use a functional resume format that will emphasize your skills and accomplishments related to your career objective.
Third, treat any relevant unpaid experience as work experience. Show how you have progressed since your first job, indicating any advancement or additional responsibilities gained through your diligence and results.
Fourth, you also will benefit by joining professional associations in your field. Attend association meetings and get acquainted with other professionals and volunteer to serve on special projects or committees to show what you can do.
You will not only build new skills but new contacts for employment opportunities as well.
Challenge #3: Too Many Jobs and Work History Gaps.
Marlene’s husband was transferred by his company to a new state every two or three years. Initially, Marlene didn’t have any problem landing a position in her new community. After a few moves and three short-term jobs, Marlene found the responses to her resume in short supply.
Her resume format clearly drew attention to her erratic employment history.
If you have had a series of positions, it can be detrimental to list all employment on your resume.
For example, you can easily eliminate jobs that were less than a year or even close to two years without noticeable gaps. To achieve the greatest impact, structure your resume in a functional format that focuses on accomplishments followed by a work history section.
The same principles will apply if you have been unemployed for several years because you were raising a family, caring for an ailing family member, recuperating from an illness, or attending college.
However, be sure to address such employment gaps on your resume (for example, full-time student, etc.).
Challenge #4: I Don’t Have a Degree.
Frank was employed in the finance department of a major company. Although his performance reviews were always top rated, he was continually passed over for promotion.
Frank concluded that his lack of a degree was holding him back.
If your company’s criteria for promotion includes a degree, you may have to consider working towards a degree or finding a company where it is not necessary. Recognize that, in many cases, a college degree is not a prerequisite for career success.
While it may not be an easy path, determine the possibility of reaching your career goal without earning a degree.
Here’s how to bridge the gap and build some credentials:
Network with other professionals in your chosen field to determine what types of alternative experience might be helpful steps in reaching your goal.
Read and teach yourself as much as you can through various resources including trade publications, the Internet, and professional associations.
Find opportunities to gain skills and knowledge through internships and volunteer work (paid or unpaid).
Work for a company that offers jobs in your field of interest – even if you join the company in another position.
If you do not want to pursue a degree, check into possible certification programs that will provide credentials in your chosen field without having to make a four-year investment.
Challenge #5: I Want To Make a Career Change.
After 19 years in the insurance industry as an account executive, Sharon’s position was eliminated in a merger.
Once the initial shock wore off, Sharon viewed it as an opportunity to do what she really loved. However, she was convinced no one would ever hire her because she had never been employed as a special events coordinator. Yet, for many years, Sharon had organized major events, conferences, and programs for her professional association and local arts organizations.
Sharon had actually gathered some impressive experience coordinating various organizational events, which was ideal for your intended career change. She had assumed leadership roles, managed groups of volunteers and coordinated publicity.
Start planning your career change by recognizing the marketable skills and accomplishments you have acquired through various experiences, even if unpaid. Use a functional format to focus your resume on the relevant skills, strengths and results that demonstrate your potential value.
The functional format will minimize unrelated work history and draw the employer’s attention to the experience that you want to emphasize.