Many job seekers today believe they are struggling to get noticed by potential employers due to gaps in work history or lack of advanced education degrees. Just last week, I had two interesting conversations with job seekers needing major résumé overhauls to mask these red flags.
These days, there is no shortcoming of applicants with lapses in employment – which puts many job seekers in the same boat. And demonstrating real world experience and success can certainly make up for not having a college or graduate-level degree.
Having the best résumé means having the most strategic résumé, and to do that means showing potential employers how well you adapt and effect positive change in your work environments. Darwin’s “survival of the fittest” theory is not just about the physical assets of being bigger, faster, and stronger. It is, more importantly, about being able to succeed in your environment, whatever that may be, and it takes more than strong arms to do so.
One of the conversations I had last week was with a man we’ll call Bill. Bill has a four-year degree and 10+ years experience overseeing IT operations for large multinational companies. Bill’s biggest concern was that he had been out of work since 2008 when he left his job to take care of sick family members and sort out their affairs. He explained to me that he had documented carefully in his cover letter (yes, he was sending this out to potential employers) the unfortunate circumstances that surrounded his recent abandonment from the working world.
Personal experiences such as this do not need to be explained in an introductory letter; rather, a brief statement on the resume no more than eight words would suffice. Leaving these details on a cover letter would likely halt the reader from moving on to an accompanying résumé to save probable time wasted on unhelpful details. What do I mean? Focusing on what valuable contributions you have made and are ready to make are always more important. Employers want to see you can save them time and money- that’s it!
I also spoke with a woman last week we’ll call Sally. Sally would like a management position since she has been in “senior” roles, tasked to identify problem areas within her department and given opportunities to implement improvements. Her selling point, she told me, was that she was earning not one, but three advanced degrees online in her spare time. Of course, Sally thought this would improve her chances of obtaining an interview based on her résumé qualifications but she didn’t quite think through this one.
Sally is on her way to obtaining graduate degrees in business administration, geography, and law. What an interesting mix… it’s like taking all the leftovers in the fridge to make an unappetizing casserole. It’s not valuable to have multiple, disparate online degrees. Pulling out the good stuff from Sally (real contributions she has made that have positively impacted her employers) was like pulling teeth- but it will mean more on paper and in an interview.
If you want to get noticed by your current or a potential employer, show them how well and how quickly you can adapt and become a productive part of their team.