June 3, 2011
NWjobs Career Makeover: Targeted approach restores job seeker’s confidence
Special to NWjobs
Since she went through a NWjobs career makeover, Kelli Derum has made a major change in her job-hunting strategy: She stopped applying for jobs.
Having worked as a project manager, technical writer and software tester, Derum lost her most recent position as a systems analyst for Tata Consultancy Services to outsourcing in 2009. She has tried using websites such as Craigslist and Monster to look for jobs, and even entered a master’s program in engineering and technology management at Washington State University, thinking it would be the key to having the standout résumé.
“I have applied high and low for a variety of jobs, mainly to get the ‘you are not the most qualified candidate’ email,” the 30-year-old Seattle resident wrote to be considered for the career makeover. “What am I doing wrong?”
Part of Derum’s problem, says ProLango Consulting’s Paul Anderson, is that she was doing too much, sending out résumés to anyone and everyone.
“She’s all over the place,” says Anderson, who put Derum through his 12-week career boot camp. “She’s trying to be a project manager, business analyst, program manager, salesperson — anything anyone would hire her for.”
Instead, he told her, she needs to identify the jobs she really wants and the companies she would like to work for, and then try to connect with people who might be able to help get her in the door.
“I was completely wasting my time,” Derum says. “I expect to spend less time looking for a job because I’m looking smarter, and I’ll get a job I’m happy with.”
Derum is now seeking out both former and current employees of 10 companies where she thinks she would thrive, through networking events and LinkedIn — even at coffee shops and anywhere else she sees an opportunity to meet people and grow her network.
NWjobs Career Makeover
Third in a three-part series
The job seeker
Name: Kelli Derum
Profession: Project manager
* Lost permanent position in 2009
* Lack of positive response to widely distributed résumés
Paul Anderson, ProLango Consulting
Kristen Fife, employment specialist
Seia Milin, WorkSource Redmond
* Identify companies you’d like to work for, and build relationships with current and former employees
* Use a sans-serif font on your résumé
* Bring business cards to interviews
Develop relationships with staffing-agency recruiters
When the time comes to hand out her résumé, employment expert Kristen Fife suggested that Derum change the font to a sans-serif style to make it easier to read on a computer screen.
Seia Milin, an employment programs lead for WorkSource Redmond, coached Derum on her presentation and interview strategies. She says that once Derum scores some face time with a potential employer, she presents well in person by arriving early, bringing three copies of her résumé and dressing professionally. But, she says, Derum should also bring business cards.
“Even if you don’t get the job, two months later your résumé won’t be on [a potential employer’s] desk, but your business card will be in their Rolodex,” Milin says.
Milin also offered Derum tips on body language: Avoid bringing pens that click or other enablers of nervous habits. Keep your hands folded in your lap if you’re a “hand talker”; your gestures might be distracting. And answer questions you don’t know the answer to with questions of your own — it buys time and helps you form a response.
Those who are busy networking shouldn’t forget one very important relationship, Milin says: recruiters. “It would be a good strategy if [Derum] signed up with a staffing agency and made those recruiters her best friends,” Milin says. “They can really advocate for a candidate.”
From Derum’s perspective, what’s most important is that she has regained her confidence. “My strategy wasn’t aimed right and I had no direction,” she says. “My self-esteem now has gone up tenfold.”
And even though Derum is sending out fewer résumés now, she says, “Every day I feel like I’m getting closer to a job.”
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