It seems no aspects of our lives remain untouched by the COVID-19 pandemic. One thing is for sure: uncertainty, stress, and fear is running rampant right now. Thoughts, feelings, and reactions around the job market are no exception. Workers are being furloughed and laid off, unemployment claims hit an all-time high last week, and hiring freezes have begun. Yes, all this uncertainty is intense and all-consuming right now. But it's also a good reminder that, unfortunately, there is no such thing as job security.
I'm willing to bet a whole lot of people believed (consciously or subconsciously) their jobs were "safe" up until about 10 days ago when everything changed. In reality, this crisis only serves to highlight a truth that has been there all along: we live in a country that favors "at-will employment" and thus prevents the very kind of "job security" we sometimes think or hope we have. Many of us didn't anticipate this level of interruption to our economy and job market so quickly. And yet there it is, hitting us like a ton of bricks. We can choose to let it paralyze us, or we find the silver linings where we can. One such silver lining is finding the opportunities for control in our careers and professional lives. Thus, in the spirit of focusing on what is within our power, I am introducing this 3-part series designed to help individuals find ways to take control of their professional lives where they can. The overarching goal is for all of us to begin embracing this new way of thinking and acting in our careers going forward, regardless of this or future crises to come.
The series will focus on three key career management areas every single professional must master:
Knowing and communicating your professional value
Understanding the specifics of your defined job market
Anticipating, uncovering, and leveraging new opportunities
Part 1: Knowing and communicating your professional value.
AKA: Define your brand and write your resume accordingly!
In good times (and especially in bad!), every single professional must have an expertly crafted brand. I'll repeat it: Every single professional must have an expertly crafted brand. Simply put your professional brand communicates the following:
This is who I am.
How you succinctly describe your professional mission, expertise, and values
This is what I do well.
How you describe the top highly competitive (and relevant!) skills you possess
This is how I can add value to your company.
How you describe the value of your contributions and your potential to make a positive impact on the organization
Once you have a fully defined professional brand, you will be ready to incorporate it into your #1 professional marketing tool: your resume. Over the last week, I've been conducting free resume reviews for those laid off due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In general, they all suffered from similar problems: The resume did not immediately and successfully communicate:
the professional's overall brand
demonstratable skills and experience in a compelling way
the potential for future value-add to a new organization
Resumes are not meant for copying and pasting your job description, folks! Anyone can copy and paste their job description (or worse yet! the list of responsibilities on the job posting). How does that communicate to the reader your ability to do well in their specific role and company? Here's a hint: it doesn't.
Recruiters and hiring managers want to read about the actual results you delivered for your company. They want to learn about the positive impact you made in previous organizations. I realize it is a challenging exercise to write a results-driven resume if you've never done so. It will take time and energy to identify and effectively communicate your professional contributions and value. Some reading this might even feel as if they didn't make an impact, created no results.
Let me assure you: You did add value, and you did make significant contributions. You just have to reflect on and identify what those were. As a starting place, you can use official and unofficial feedback from supervisors and colleagues, past performance reviews, customer comments, and even feedback from others in your professional network to help you identify your contributions. Collect this evidence in a single place and evaluate it for the emerging themes and trends that will undoubtedly surface. Those themes and trends will paint the picture of your professional self - the one you must communicate on your resume to show the reader how your skills and experience connect to the targeted role.
So, the next time you sit down to update your resume, evaluate every single bullet point (experience statement) against the following criteria:
CONTEXT: Will your reader fully understand what you did and why it matters? Include just enough specifics and quantifiable details (think #'s, $, %) to ensure needed context and to create a compelling story of your work experience.
RESULTS: Will your reader fully understand your potential value-add to their organization? Include specific work contributions and achievements to create a vision of your capability in the targeted role.
Do not leave it up to recruiters, hiring managers, or others to figure out what you've done or can do. You must define your professional value and communicate it consistently and impactfully All. The. Time. Yes, it's difficult and time-consuming, but I'm willing to bet much more successful than slinging poorly written resumes at every job board you can find – especially right now when the job market is shifting, and competition is increasing.
Stay tuned for part two of this series, where we focus on strategically defining and executing a job search that works.