James, a successful senior executive, was caught by surprise when he lost his job earlier in the year. Months later, the job market has yet to fully recover -- and neither has his ego.
“I thought I had a great resume, but I’ve sent out dozens without receiving a single call,” says James. “I know the market is tough, but I never thought I would be out of work this long. Getting laid-off dented my confidence… but this has flattened it.”
• How can I restore my confidence and repackage myself to become more attractive to prospective employers?
• What are some ways I can keep my professional skill set relevant while I’m out of a job?
• Can I manage my career progression to lessen the chance of being caught off-guard by a layoff/firing in the future? How?
Patricia Hayling Price: Regardless of how effective you are, there may come a time when a company needs to release you for reasons that have little or nothing to do with your performance.
While you may not have had control over keeping your job, you do have complete control over how you package yourself on your job search. Think of your resume as a mirror of your professional value. Keep that mirror polished and reflective of your best achievements. James, in looking at your resume I see you’ve held senior positions at well-known companies. I see titles, dates, generic descriptions. What is not readily apparent are your accomplishments, contributions and the quantifiable value you delivered in those positions.
Orlando Ashford: I agree. When a resume says: “I led a successful business transformation” – that tells me almost nothing. But if instead it says: “Led strategy and execution of an acquisition and integration, at a 2,000 person organization that grew to 6,000 overnight, with less than 2% unforced attrition over 3 years and above target revenue and profitability for all groups affected by this change,” well, that’s someone I want to see. People are often afraid to express their achievement in numbers but that’s what management wants to see most.
Patricia: James, review and transform your resume using the language of your industry and function. This puts you "in the club" of those in your industry who will review the resume. Quantify your accomplishments. Whether you choose to write it yourself or use a professional career consultant, make sure that you can back up each fact with stories, anecdotes and insight. Know every word on your resume inside and out. If you make it to the interview phase, you should not need to look down at that paper.
Orlando: As a hiring manager, a core competency I look for in a resume is learning agility. Today’s job market is the toughest we’ve seen in decades. How you respond to adversity is the best test of your agility. Don’t sit back and feel sorry for yourself - get creative.
Patricia: You may not find work immediately; of the 15 million Americans who remain unemployed, 46% of those people have been out of work for 27 weeks or longer. However, there are many ways to keep your professional skill set relevant while you’re out of work. Reconnect with associations in your industry. Read about cutting-edge practices in your field. Find an outlet – a non-profit or a charity – where you can utilize your skills and keep them sharp. Include that on your resume.
Orlando: In thinking about your job pursuit, you should also be thinking about your personal brand. A job search is like a personal marketing campaign. Ask yourself: What is my end goal? How am I positioning myself to get there in the long-term? How do my skills, talents and accomplishments coalesce to show I’m right for that role?
Once you obtain a position, the management of your personal brand shouldn’t stop. A common mistake people make is letting their personal and professional development fall by the wayside when they land a job.
A good company will have structures in place to help develop the capabilities of its talent… but ultimately, the responsibility for your success lies with you.
Patricia: And James, remember one thing: REAL confidence does not hinge on a job. It has to do with your entire value proposition and how authentically and deeply you value yourself, including and beyond your career. Jobs end. Your confidence should not.
Coaches Corner brings together two experienced executive coaches for their take on issues in the workplace. Patricia Hayling Price is President of LIVEWORKSTRATEGIZE LLC, an executive coaching, image and leadership development, consulting firm. Orlando Ashford is senior vice president and Chief HR Officer for Marsh & McLennan Companies, a premiere global professional services firm.