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Push through the brick wall

By Jim Bright
The Bright Side - MyCareer

Don't give up — a resume polish and proactive approach will open new doors, writes Jim Bright.

John writes: "Since my retrenchment I have registered with 11 agencies and applied for about 150 positions, which has resulted in one unsuccessful interview. I have sought counsel/advice from three experienced recruitment consultants who each have had more than 25 years' experience. They said my resume format, wording and structure in specifically answering the set criteria for each advertised position were OK.

Jim, for the first time in 25 years of working, education and personal life experiences, I don't have any answers in seeking employment - even with non-accounting work, such as letterbox delivering, stacking shelves etc - after 12 months of trying. I am at a total loss trying to find a solution."

John's predicament is very unfortunate. He is well qualified and has extensive experience, yet he is hitting a brick wall. He has been told that his age (in his 40s) might count against him. However, given the nature of his work and experience, it is surprising he is having such difficulty.

I checked his resume that has been "passed" by experienced recruiters and, let me say, I must have higher standards. I think there is a lot John could do to make the resume more visually appealing (take out all those horizontal black lines dividing up sections and use white space); emphasise his achievements far more (list two achievements for each duty and sheet them home to himself); and include some competency statements up front that tell the story of what he has to offer.

The current resume is functional and reasonably complete but a little uninspiring. This might also reflect John's approach to job-hunting. In his email he sets out in detail his interactions with employment agencies and recruiters,setting out a dismal list of reasons for not being shortlisted - age, oversupply of people in his field etc.

What was noticeably lacking in his story was any evidence of proactive approaches to job-hunting. By this I mean actively networking with potential employers via professional groups and associations and involvement with such groups - attending meetings and writing articles for newsletters.

John also might benefit from developing a networking plan. He could start by writing an extensive list of everyone he knows - from the person who drives the bus to managers and former managers, family friends and so on. Then he can rate each of these in terms of their immediacy to roles he's interested in. He should then focus his efforts on his most immediate contacts but still contact the more distant ones, because you never know.

In making contact, do not be pushy or ask for jobs; rather, have a more general discussion in which you raise the fact you are on the lookout. Try to make yourself as helpful as possible to each contact by following up, sharing information or offering to help them with any vocational or avocational projects they mention.

If he is not already doing it, John would benefit from getting active on LinkedIn - setting up a compelling and professional profile and joining industry-relevant groups. This will help him make contact with key people in his field and potential employers.

Overall, John may well benefit from taking a more active and self-motivated approach. Sending off applications should be seen as the culmination of networking, not the beginning. If you have met or spoken with people you are sending an application to, the greater the chances of that application avoiding the discard pile.

The more things John does, and the more he treats his search as a nine-to-five job each day, the more active and engaged he will become - and that means leaving home and getting out and meeting people. As well as ramping up his resume.

Jim Bright - Jim Bright is a professor of career education and development at ACU and a partner at Bright and Associates, a career management consultancy.
Email marked clearly "FOR PUBLICATION" to
brightside@jimbright.com. Follow him on Twitter @TheFactoryPod.

Published: 11 February 2012


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