Posts Tagged ‘job search’

FreshTransition – Project Management Software For Your Job Search

January 2nd, 2012

One of the many benefits of networking is the opportunity to find out about new products and services before they become mainstream. In October 2011, I got a personal demonstration of FreshTransition, a software program designed for career services companies to help their clients manage a full-cycle job search.

“Wow” doesn’t begin to describe my reaction.  With its intuitive design based on a thorough understanding of what it takes to plan and executive a Strategic Job Search in today’s job market, this is exactly the tool I have been seeking for my clients.

FreshTransition - project managing your job search just got easier

FreshTransition - project managing your job search just got easier

So I am thrilled to announced that, starting January 2012, a subscription to FreshTransition is included in Resume Confidential’s Strategic Job Search Coaching Programs. With this tool, our coaching clients will be able to set targets and milestones for active and passive streams of their job search, track contacts and company information, get alerts from job boards, organize job applications, resumes, cover letters and calendars, and more. And the analytics that FreshTransition provides will enable Resume Confidential to tweak our one-on-one coaching sessions to address “problem areas” in the search process before they have a chance to derail the strategic job search plan.

Sound terrific? You better believe it. Want to find out more or have a demonstration? Let me know.


Storytelling As A Resume Strategy | Tim’s Strategy™

April 26th, 2011

“I have never met a boring person, but from time to time I’ve failed to ask the right question.”

Spend some time in a networking event, and chances are that the people who you will remember most are the ones with whom you exchanged stories. Hiring managers will tell you after a day of interviewing candidates, the ones who stood out were the ones who had an interesting story to tell.

Good marketing is good storytelling. And a job search is all about good marketing. But if you wait for the interview to tell your stories, you may be missing an important opportunity to distinguish yourself from the crowd. Stories, when told in the right way, to the right audience, can be a terrific resume differentiator, the key to standing out in a pool of qualified candidates.

So, what are the critical success factors to making a story-telling strategy work? Find out on my guest blog post on Tim’s Strategy: Ideas for Job Search, Career and Life


Jobseekers, Bland Is Not a Good Look for You

August 17th, 2010

I was ready for a change. There were things that weren’t making me happy. I was bored with the same-old same-old. How hard can it be, I thought. People do it themselves all the time. If you listen to the ads, they make it seem so easy. Just buy the right off-the-shelf product, follow the easy instructions, and voila, a brand new me. At a fraction of the cost of hiring a professional. So I did it. And now, I have orange hair. Orange is not a good look for me.

There are some things that are worth spending money on to get the right professional. For me, hiring a colourist is clearly one of them. For a jobseeker, hiring a professional resume writer may be another.

Why Hiring a Professional to Write Your Resume May Make Sense for You

  • Having worked with hundreds, if not thousands of clients, an experienced resume pro will have a good idea of who your competition is likely to be. This means that we have unique insights on what it will take to make you – specifically – stand out from the crowd. We can be objective about what to include or exclude from your resume, and can create a profile that grabs the right kind of attention from the right target audience.
  • Our skill isn’t just in the writing, its in the questioning. Good resume pros know what questions to ask you in order to get the gems to put in your resume. We have honed the art of interviewing, probing, pulling out the details that can be used to create a compelling career story.
  • Good resume pros dedicate hours each week on researching the job market. We know what skills are in-demand, what keywords are becoming passe, which employers use which job boards, which employers don’t use job boards at all. These insights mean that we can fast-track the time you would otherwise have to invest in getting ready for your job search.
  • While we typically work arms-length from recruiters in order to be a neutral advocate for our clients, good resume pros take the time to nurture strong networking relationships with recruiters. This means that we can get a heads-up on hiring trends. We can tell you why calling yourself a Farmer instead of Hunter right now will leave you dead in the water if you are looking for a sales position, for example, or why using “Public Relations” instead of “Public Affairs” could result in greater hits on your resume.
  • By leveraging our recruiter and HR network, good resume pros are able to get independent feedback on our product, in order to make sure that it’s going to work for our target audience. After all, it doesn’t matter if you are tickled pink about your new resume, if recruiters aren’t impressed.

Just like off-the-shelf colour kits, there are many books on how to write your resume. You can find tons of samples, many of them submitted by resume professionals. You should be aware though that we rarely submit our best work for publication. Why? Part of it has to do with protecting competitive intelligence. An edgy format, a unique design, really meaty content, loses its edge if its copied by 10,000 other jobseekers. Mostly, it has to do with the target audience for the book – in order to appeal to as broad a range of jobseekers as possible, the samples tend to be fairly generic and bland. Jobseekers who copy them end up looking fairly generic and bland too. And jobseekers? Bland is not a good look for you.


Afraid You’ll Be Laid Off? Don’t Be Passive, Take Control!

July 31st, 2010

I came across a couple of interesting surveys this week. The first one, an employee attitude survey, indicated that nearly 1 in 5 people who are currently employed fear that they will lose their jobs due to corporate downsizing. The second survey, from Mental Health America, indicated that 82% of people, when faced with a stressful situation, turn on the television or rely on other forms of distraction. There are probably few things in life more stressful than facing a real or potential layoff, but this is no time to be passive or numbed out. If you think your company may be considering layoffs, take control.

  • Make sure that you remain a superstar in your current position. Without being a total sycophant, demonstrate through your performance how you add value to the company, and how you contribute to the big picture.
  • Take advantage of opportunities to participate in special projects, especially projects involving other departments. The more people in the company who know you and can attest to your strengths, the easier it will be for you to remain gainfully employed, regardless of which side of the retain/layoff tallysheet you end up.
  • Psychologically and emotionally prepare for the worst (or for some of you the best) case scenario, that you will be let go.
  • Get your home front in order, which includes preparing and sticking to a tight budget.
  • If you haven’t been doing it all along, start putting together a portfolio of your success stories, the projects you’ve worked on, copies of your performance reviews, any emails or letters that you’ve received with positive feedback on your performance.
  • Take an inventory of the strengths and expertise you have to offer – your value proposition in today’s job market. What kinds of problems are you good at solving, and who currently has those problems? This will help narrow down the target for your job search for your next career move.
  • Get your networking tools up to date – names, titles & contact numbers of suppliers, clients, industry associates, company colleagues. This is easier to do while you are still in your job.
  • Implement a networking plan that should include online-connecting with at least a couple of new people per week and warm-connecting with people in your current network.
  • Start researching companies that you would be interested in moving to, and see who in your network of contacts might have leads into these organizations. Consider current suppliers, clients, consultants and competitors as likely candidate companies.
  • Find niche job boards in your field/industry. Set up alerts to let you know when new jobs are posted that fit your target criteria.
  • Identify reputable recruiters who specialize in your field.
  • Once you have a target for your job search and know what and to whom you are marketing yourself, prepare your resume and LinkedIn profile. For the investment of less than a few day’s salary, you can enlist the services of professional who can help you create a distinctive, targeted career marketing package.

The more you take control of your career now – before you receive notice – the less likely you are to feel paralysed with fear about layoff decisions over which you have no control.


Don’t Fill Your Resume With Sea Junk

July 30th, 2010

I am an inveterate beachcomber. One of my soul-satisfying delights when I’m on vacation is to find interesting bits of sea glass, seashells, broken pottery, and rusty something-or-others, and at the end of a seaside walk I will inevitably return with a few new treasures in my pockets. Over the years I’ve amassed quite a collection of odds and ends, which until recently have been tucked away in boxes, baskets and whatever is handy around the house. This week I decided to consolidate my collection into a single location, and was dismayed to realize exactly how extensive it was. If I didn’t want to be overwhelmed with sea junk, I needed to cull, and I needed to be ruthless in doing so.

Beachcombing Collection

Beachcombing Collection

Maintaining your resume over the years can be like that. You create a document to land a job, add bits to it as you progress through your career, until one day you realize you have six or more pages of “sea junk” and no clear idea of how to cull it down into a useful document again.

If you don’t have a clear career brand, if you don’t know who your target audience is, if you don’t understand what their buying motivators are, then it can be hard to decide what to include and what to cut out. Your resume is your career marketing document, a key component of your job search arsenal, and every word, every phrase, every formatting decision must add value from the reader’s point of view. The better you know your target audience, the easier it will be to decide what to include and what to exclude from your resume. By researching your target companies and understanding their pain points, you will be able to go through your resume with a ruthless “so what” editing pen, to ensure that what remains provides a clear and compelling picture of why you are the perfect solution to your target audience’s biggest challenge.


What Is Resume Strategy Anyway?

July 7th, 2010

Today I completed my 600th free resume critique (wild-stab-in-the-dark estimate, but my point is it’s up there). I always take the time to review each resume in detail and provide very specific advice on resume strategy (unless you’ve given me something truly horrendous, I rarely comment on format). But it occurred to me as I was typing up my comments today that I am often repeating myself. It’s not that I’m getting lazy, it’s that I see the same kinds of mistakes being made again and again. So, as a procrastination move because it’s 98 degrees out and much too hot to pack for the trip I will be taking shortly, I’ve decided to put together some of the suggestions I’ve offered this year, as a kind of who’s who on resume strategy.

Objective Statement

  • “Instead of using an objective statement, use the title of your target job. It’s okay to change it each time you send your resume out, but if you aren’t sure about the target yet, its premature to write your resume.”


  • “Consider your resume as a marketing document, you have to write with a particular audience in mind, and you have to know what it is you are selling them.”
  • “What is your ideal next company? Is it a mid-sized firm who is looking to take their enterprise infrastructure to the next level of integration and needs a Business Analyst who can bridge the language and thinking of business and technology? Is it a consulting company who helps other firms? What are you particularly good at, and who could use those skills? What ever it is, take the time to define your audience (if you have more than one, you may need different versions), and get really clear on their pain points. Then, write a summary that speaks to their pain points and demonstrates why your background and experience makes you the ideal candidate to solve their problems. In total it should take you less resume real estate to say than it did for me to explain it.”
  • “It can be tempting to try to keep your resume general so that you can use it for several different positions, but this strategy will work against you. If you have several different interests or opportunities, then tailor a different profile for each of them.”
  • “In today’s job market, everybody is describing themselves as a dynamic, problem-solving team player. It’s the equivalent of ‘new and improved’ in product marketing – nobody buys it.”


  • “Your list of skills should only include things that are directly relevant to the target job.”
  • “Put together a list of ten or twelve terms and phrases that describe your expertise – look at sample job ads to make sure you are hitting to top keywords”
  • “Make the skills focused on your target job only – somebody who is hiring an IT sales guy doesn’t care that you are good at desktop publishing unless their product or target client is related to desktop publishing.
  • You have 26 skills here, and the important stuff is getting lost. See if you can get it down to the top ten. Start by skipping the fluff, because your reader almost certainly will”


  • “Since you did a master’s degree, I’m guessing that there was a master’s project, this would be a good place to describe it (one or two bullets at most)”
  • “The fact that you are a certified reflexologist is of no relevance to your career goal as an accountant. No, it doesn’t demonstrate your commitment to continuous learning, and no, it doesn’t show that you have a lot of interests other than accounting. Get it out there.”
  • “Have your credentials, degrees and professional development in the same section, or at least close together, or a hiring manager may not notice that you have your PMP, MBA and CGA”
  • The important part here is the degree that you obtained, not the school you went to. Make sure *that’s* the thing that jumps out.

Experience (New Graduate)

  • “Instead of dividing your experience between volunteer and professional, divide it between Relevant Experience, Additional Professional Experience, and Community Involvement. For the items that fit under relevant experience, indicate whether you volunteered or were paid”

Experience (Seasoned Pro)

  • “You’ve committed a lot of resume real estate to laying out your responsibilities, but there is nothing attention-grabbing here. Your resume should tell a good story of your career. What was your mandate when you came on board, and how did it change over time? What was happening in the company when you came on board, what challenges did you have to face, what kinds of problems did you help solved. Who did you help, and why did it matter?
  • “As you consider what to write here, keep the target in mind, and ask yourself so what, because they certainly will.”
  • “No idea what this means, and that’s a bad thing. Give a brief description of what you were actually doing, emphasis on brief. All these ten bullets can be consolidated into one tightly written description – leaves room to focus on accomplishments”
  • “You held two different positions with *****. Was this a promotion? If so, its worth showcasing this point – why did they pick you?”
  • “This is not a five-verb accomplishment. By over describing it this way, you are diluting it’s impact”
  • “Read your resume out loud. Does it sound stilted when you say it? That’s the way it will be perceived by somebody else. Too many adjectives, adverbs and four-syllable power words makes it hard to read, and can come across as ostentatious. Remember, your goal is to make the reader’s job as easy as possible. “

Dated/Non-Relevant Experience

  • “This takes up a lot of resume real estate, and unless this is an area you want to get back into, you can cut the details out and summarize this into “previous experience includes four years as a ***********. This will make room for more information/accomplishments on your more recent jobs.”

IT Skills

  • “It’s going to be the rare hiring manager who cares that you’ve used Windows 95.”
  • “Go through this list with a ruthless editing pen and leave in only the software, hardware, middleware, and methodologies that are in demand for your target job – unless your target company is one with out-dated systems, in which case, leave it in.”


  • “Separate out the professional associations from the philanthropic ones.
  • “For the professional associations, did you just pay the annual membership fee, or were you actively involved. If involved, briefly describe how.”

Other Interests

  • Knitting reading gardening walks on the beach stamp collecting photography
  • “International travel: Asia, South Africa, Brazil, Eastern Europe *** this is good to keep in if your target job could require business dealings with other countries”
  • “Three-time Ironman competitor (2nd place and 4th place finishes) *** I like this. It demonstrates your drive to succeed and ability to set and achieve goals”

I will continue to provide free critiques, and I will continue to do them one by one, in detail, no template statements. But chances are that if the candidate wasn’t thinking like a marketer when they wrote their resume, my feedback will include some of the points above.


Whitewater Lessons that Jobseekers Can Learn From

May 3rd, 2010

In our child-free years of reckless abandon, my husband and I became avid white-water enthusiasts. What we lacked in finesse we made up for in tenacity, and we eventually honed our skills enough to spend most of our river time in our canoe rather than under it. But not before we spent a good deal of time up the creek without a paddle, trying to swim ourselves and our canoe back to shore.

One particular trip stands out – both for the sheer adrenalin-fed terror, and for the lessons I learned. We were paddling the Magnetawan, a river that in mid-summer is a lazy meanderer interspersed with waterfalls, but in early April is a torrent of spring runoff. Our trip guide, Tim, was an expert kayaker, and very motivational in a rah-rah you-can-do-it sort of way. We trusted him implicitly. He  had done this river many times before (albeit in a kayak, never an open canoe), and assured us that the river was totally within our capabilities. Tim was wrong. I realized this when I found myself in the bow of a 17 foot open canoe, trying to eddy out of a 6 foot standing wave. (Plot spoiler: we didn’t make it).

I thought about this trip recently when a contact on LinkedIn described his job search as a white-knuckle up-the-creek-without-a-paddle experience. I realized that some of the lessons I learned on the Magnetewan are applicable to a job search.

Lessons That I Learned When I Was Up The Creek

Choose Your Guide With Care

While solo-tripping can be exhilarating it is not for the faint of heart, so many of us will turn to experts for advice and guidance. When it comes to the right way to find a job, everybody has a strong opinion. Google “job search expert” and you will get 70,300,000 hits.  Some experts will be merely motivational, some will be novices, some will be jaded by their own failed trips, some will have advice that only works for a particular river (or industry, or discipline, or personality). Whether you elect to listen to a trusted mentor, a friend, a career counsellor, or a job search coach, choose your experts with care. Make sure that the advice they offer makes sense for you, your industry, your profession, your career stage, your personality.

Have Your Own Copy of the Map

Create a job search plan – a map – that will take you to your destination, and own it. The clearer you are in defining realistic goals for your next career move, the more useful your map will be. Whether you work alone or with a guide, become an expert on your skills, strengths, attributes, risk tolerances and weaknesses. Define what you are good at (your value proposition), so you can narrow down your map to kinds of companies and opportunities that are a good match for you.

Master the J-Stroke

However carefully you’ve researched your route, you have to get off the couch (or your computer) if you want to make the trip. Master the j-strokes needed to give your job search momentum and direction. Continuously develop your network. Get comfortable making cold calls. Follow up on leads.

Scout the Rapids Yourself

No two river trips are the same. No two job searches are the same. Experts can give you general guidelines, equip you with tools, teach you valuable skills, but you need to scout the conditions yourself, and adapt your route accordingly. What worked two years ago could be completely unproductive or even reckless today. And what was unthinkable last week may be exactly the right manoeuvre right now. You also need to be ready to make in-the-moment decisions when opportunities or obstacles suddenly surface.

Paddle Within Your Limits

Among the whitewater crowd we paddled with, it was a frequent topic of conversation: do you know your limit, have you met your limit? I’ve heard more than one paddler (and jobseeker) say “what have I got to lose” when deciding to push the limits of what they are qualified to do. In paddling the decision can be fatal.** In a job search, it’s not so dire, but it is still a mistake. You lose credibility with recruiters and hiring managers. You lose credibility with your network of contacts. Worse, you lose your focus. Your map becomes diluted, and your elevator speech begins to have addendums. You lose sight of the real value proposition you bring to the table.

The End of the Trip

Technically, our trip didn’t end with us up the creek without a paddle. I held on to my paddle (rule one of ‘how to survive’ a dump), and my husband eventually recovered his. We were able to finish the trip, although we walked a good many of the remaining rapids. We had bumps. We had bruises. We were chastened. But the Magnetewan didn’t kill us. And as the saying goes, what doesn’t kill you makes you wiser.

** Our Magnetewan trip leader once boasted that he had never met his limit, never met a rapid, or river, or river condition he wasn’t prepared to try. I should have paid attention to that before making him one of my trusted paddling experts. Eventually Tim me his limit, during a solo trip in Northern Canada. His body was never recovered.


Jobseeker Coach’s Corner – Recruiter Houseparty

April 22nd, 2010

(Originally aired September 21st, 2010)

Geoff Webb (aka @RadicalRecruit) interviews Karen Siwak about what jobseekers can expect when they work with a professional resume writer and career coach.

Listen to internet radio with Recruiter HouseParty on Blog Talk Radio

Win-win tips for hiring managers and job seekers

November 26th, 2009

(Originally published CareerBulletin, CareerEdge Organization’s Quarterly e-Newsletter)

If you’ve monitored the social network over the past nine months, you may have noticed a litany of complaints from both candidates and recruiters about the challenges of the recruitment process in today’s job market. Recruiters complain that a single advertised opening is attracting hundreds of candidates, many of whom are unsuitable for the role. Job seekers, on the other hand, describe the experience of applying to advertised openings as “tossing my resume into a big, black hole”, and complain about never hearing back from employers.

Having reviewed the most common complaints from both sides of the hiring table, I can offer the following suggestions to reduce the tension and disconnect in the recruitment process.

Tips for hiring managers:

  • Create job descriptions that clearly spell out your expectations. Too many job ads have vague descriptions or lack keywords that can help a candidate assess whether they fit the bill. This encourages “spray and hope” job searches from applicants who are ready to apply for anything and everything.
  • Be realistic about the necessary qualifications to do the job. The opposite of the “too-vague” job description is the one that could be simplified to “Wanted – Superhero.” Rather than narrowing down the candidate pool, a lengthy list of over-the-top expectations can actually dilute the pool, as candidates say “Nobody can meet all these expectations, I may as well toss my hat in the ring and see what happens.”
  • Provide the name & title of a contact person. Nobody wants to write a “dear sir” or a “to whom it may concern” cover letter.
  • Get over the “passive candidate” versus “active candidate” mind-think. The talent pool of active job seekers has never been as rich as it is today, and there are many highly qualified, experienced and motivated candidates who have the flexibility and willingness to start immediately.
  • Don’t make the recruitment process “a big black hole”. Let candidates know you’ve received their application and are seriously considering their candidacy. Special note to users of talent management software: A “form rejection” email less than 10 minutes after the resume has been submitted is still “big black hole” behaviour, it just has the finality of a thud as the candidate hits bottom.

Tips for job seekers:

  • Read the job description. Too many applicants ignore the job description and focus instead on the Job Title. Titles can mean different things in different companies. “Operations Manager” can mean plant management in one company, sales management in another, logistics management in a third, and administrative oversight in a fourth. Use the description to figure out whether this is really a job you are interested in.
  • Be realistic about your qualifications. Just because you think you can do it, does not give you the right to claim it as one of your core skills. Being part of a project team does not necessarily make you a Project Manager, for example.
  • Don’t apply for jobs for which you are clearly unsuitable. It was this strategy that led to the wide spread adoption of impersonal software to screen hundreds of resumes in order to find those few candidates who actually matched the search criteria.
  • Customize the resume to the specific job. Don’t apply for a Bookkeeper job with a resume that says your career target is marketing.
  • Don’t submit “Resume.doc”. Make the hiring manager’s job easier by distinguishing your resume from the 100+ other applications he receives each day. At a minimum, use your name (JohnDoe.doc). Even better, use your name and the target title John_Doe_Operations_Manager.doc).

Considering a Job Change Once the Economy Picks Up? Be Proactive

August 24th, 2009

I had lunch last week with a senior HR Manager who was contemplating leaving her job after more than 20 years with a large corporation. “I’m having trouble living with the disconnect between what the company claims are its core values, and how it is handling staff relations during this recession.” She went on to describe a litany of incidents, from a service agent who was terminated after revealing she had cancer, to an entire team that was being laid off so that the division director could meet his cost-cutting targets for his performance bonus.

In a recent LinkedIn Q&A, Jeff Lefevre, Managing Partner and Founder, JTL Services, posed the question: “Over the past 6 months employees have seen a drastic attitude change from their managers. This attitude of ‘well be happy you have a job’ is wearing thin. Have you noticed this change?”

I responded that, based on what I’m hearing from my clients and contacts, there is going to be a tsunami of job searching once the economy picks up, and some of the most active job hoppers are likely to be HR personnel who are disgusted with how companies have chosen to treat their staff.

More than a few people, from both HR and non-HR backgrounds, contacted me directly to applaud my answer and reiterate my observations. In one contact’s words, “a huge changeover in staff is coming, and I don’t think management understands exactly how deep into the organization this discontent has spread.”

If you are considering making a career change once the economy picks up, be proactive.

Don’t wait for a “tipping point” incident. Take control now by mapping out your career plans for the next six months to two years and equipping your job search arsenal.

  1. Take some time to think about your personal and professional values. I can’t emphasize the importance of this enough. It is much easier to figure out whether a new company or position is going to be a good fit for you if you are really clear about what is important to you.
  2. Go through your files and start collecting the material for your resume: projects, positive feedback, performance reviews, KPI reports, anything that you can use to support your success stories.
  3. Define your value proposition – what are the key strengths, expertise and experience that you have to offer.
  4. Investigate companies that you would like to work for. Go beyond the financials. Listen to what current employees are saying. A good source for getting the inside scoop on how employees feel about their company is the anonymous reviews in the
  5. Look at who is hiring in your target job market, and what qualifications they are looking for. Determine whether you need training or credential upgrades in order to be more marketable.
  6. Create at least two versions of your resume. I recommend having a detailed resume that can be easily customized to apply for specific job openings, as well as a one-page high-impact synopsis that is better suited for networking.
  7. Get a non-business email account, if you don’t already have one.
  8. Bring your LinkedIn profile up to date, and claim your web identity on Naymz and ZoomInfo.
  9. Identify and join the LinkedIn groups and industry associations that will best support you in your career transition. Start following the discussions. Stay current on the key issues, news, and trends in the industry. Find out who the “people to know” are.
  10. Make networking a priority. Find time in your calendar to make at least one new contact per week. Focus not on what they can do for you, but what you can do for them.
  11. Reconnect with colleagues from the past. It is much easier to network and reconnect when you don’t have the pressure of “need a job right now” hanging over you like an invisible sign.
  12. Not comfortable with networking? Learn how. Consider seminars such as Breaking Down Silos, where you can get some practical tools and strategies for successful networking without feeling like a snake oil salesman.

Taking control of your career plans has two positive benefits. One, it can help to minimize the sense of powerlessness that comes with being stuck in an unfulfilling job. Two, it will ensure that, when the right opportunity comes along, you have the tools in your arsenal to land your next great job.


Meet Karen Siwak

An award-winning Certified Résumé Strategist, Karen has crafted top calibre career transition packages for thousands of clients. Her specialty is helping people identify and articulate their unique brands and value propositions, and she is passionate about empowering clients with the tools, strategies and confidence to take control of their career search. Read more...

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