Work and Career

True myths about resumes

Over eight years as a career coach in New York City, Win Sheffield has observed the myths his clients tell themselves about the challenge of finding a job.

In this piece, he lays out some facts and some fictions about résumés. (I’ve edited his words a bit.) He writes:

Résumé myth No. 1: Putting together my résumé is the most important part of my job search.

The thinking behind this:

Every ad requires a résumé. Everyone who wants to assist me says that they can forward my résumé to HR. To get a job I need to interview and before an interview, interviewers ask me to send my résumé. The only way people will know who I am professionally is by my résumé. It is therefore the most important part of my search.

The appeal — why we want to believe it:

If the résumé is the key to job search, then once I have completed it (as hard as it is to do), I am done. A résumé is concrete and readily definable. It reflects facts. I love a clearly defined goal. It removes the uncertainty from the impossible business of job search.

The real deal:

A résumé is worth spending time on. Most employers require a résumé to get a job. I have clients who come to me after years of success getting jobs without one, but for the vast majority of people, a résumé is essential.

As important as it is, a résumé is just a piece of paper; as such, we cannot expect it to make the impression we do in person. Even with careful attention, as a rule, a résumé reflects where we have been, not where we are going; it is most helpful when we want to continue in the same field. But increasingly, we are changing fields.

To the extent that we change direction, we cannot rely as much on our résumé. Careful rewording of the résumé accompanied by a persuasive cover letter can help, but ultimately, the résumé is no substitute for meeting in person, so it pays to find ways to remove it from its role as our sole representative.

Unintended consequences:

Job seekers routinely spend lots of time on their résumés, get stuck there and don’t move forward with their search. Others produce a résumé that does not effectively reflect their capabilities and therefore slows down their search.

What this means for you:

Spend time on your résumé. If you are changing fields, make sure it is comprehensible to your intended audience. Make it “good enough” and then get on with your search. Look into the variety of other ways at your disposal to connect with people through friends, colleagues, acquaintances, professional organizations, social and alumni groups, etc. Those people may ask for a résumé, but it will not be their only impression of you.

Résumé myth No. 2: The best way to let people know you are in the market is to ask for a job and send out résumés

The thinking behind this:

If I don’t know about where there are jobs, other people may, so why not ask them? My friends and business colleagues are often more than happy to send my résumé to someone they know if they don’t have a job for me.

The appeal — why we want to believe it:

It is tempting, especially when we are in our I-am-out-of-a-job-and-not-worth-your-time mode, to think that we are bothering our contacts. As a result, we decide to take as little of their time as possible. It’s easy and just takes a minute to send out résumé, so we feel comfortable asking contacts to do that.

I also do not want to be manipulative or deceitful when I talk to my contacts. Everyone knows that networking is the way to get a job and when people say they are “networking,” what they really mean is that they are looking for a job.

The real deal:

It is highly unlikely that anyone will know about the right job for us at the time we ask. It is also not likely that they will know someone who can offer us the ideal job. It could be that sometime in the future they may have a job, but the odds are still low. A dialog with a binary response (do you know of a job for me or don’t you know of a job for me) is a limiting conversation.

Unintended consequences:

This leads us to ask everyone we know for jobs. If this goes on for awhile, our friends and contacts may well feel badly that they cannot give us what we want. They may also feel used, because we only come to them when we want something. In either case, they may start to avoid us, regard us as “damaged goods.” or both.

What this means for you:.

The problem is not that you are approaching people, but why you are approaching them.

Those who like you want to be of assistance. They may think, like many people, that the best way to get a job is to get your résumé out there. They forward résumés to HR because they don’t have a job for you and that is how they think they can best help you. Also, if they really don’t want to help or don’t know how to help, they can save face by sending your résumé to HR; then they don’t have to think about it anymore.

They could help in other ways if you asked them. Would you be interested to know how things work inside their companies? Do you need to know something about how they do business? Who are their competitors? Is there a strategy you have used that you want to share with them or ask them about?

People like answering questions to which they know the answers. These questions also present an opportunity for them to interact with you, to learn in more detail about what interests you and to get to know you better. When it gets down to it, the better they know you, the more they will want to support you — and refer you to jobs they do know about.

Source: yahoo

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