One of the biggest mistakes I see job seekers make is to cast their net as wide as possible in the hopes of catching as many fish as possible. The problem is — you only *need* one job. This means that before you even write your resume, your best bet is to dig deep and build your self-awareness, re-visit your experiences, values, and strengths and then use those to launch a targeted and narrow job search.

Even in a recession, people are still hiring — your future hiring manager wants to know what makes you stand out and how you will contribute to making her team better. She wants to hear what you can do with confidence and joy.

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Leverage Your Values

How do you show up at work? What Values do you put In Action? What kind of company and or people do you want to work with? These are always good questions to have an answer to, but particularly so when you are looking for a new job. The answers to these questions crucial to connecting with the right employer.

For the last twenty years or so various entities have been tracking employee engagement and most companies find that only about 20% of employees are fully engaged. This statistic is easy to blame on the company, but it also stems from folks who think of their job as simply a pay-check.

If you want more than a “job” if you want to be the one that is hired, then check-in with and proudly clarify your values. You can do this simply by making a list of your top values or you can take the VIA Character Strengths Survey (free).

If you want to dig deeper into your values to help you connect your work to your purpose you might consider working with a life coach or reading The Values Factor by Dr. DeMartini.

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Understand Your Strengths

Talking about what you do well is intimidating and it’s natural to fear rejection or judgment. And, you need to learn to talk about your strengths with confidence. In a runoff of two candidates — the positive, optimistic candidate that says “Yes! I can do that!” is the one that will get hired. The job search is not the time to get humble.

My favorite confidence-building tool is the Gallup StrengthsFinder. The reason I love this survey is two-fold.

First, it helps my clients to embrace what they do well, giving them the language and catchphrases to talk about their natural talents, boosting their confidence. If you’ve fallen into letting folks confuse your humility for mediocrity in the past, you *need* to do the StrengthsFinder and work on identifying and talking about what you do well.

For example, maybe you always know exactly what a client needs, which makes you the go-to person for solving client problems, making them feel better and then selling them the perfect marketing campaign. You find out that you’ve got strengths in Empathy, Individualization, and Woo. Suddenly you understand that this ability of your is not an accident, but something that you truly, naturally do well.

Shout it from the mountaintops — or at the least — say it upfront in your resume!

Second, often my clients get a miraculous “ah-ha!” when working with the Strengths Finder. These “ah-has” generally come from the client learning to see something that they’d thought was a weakness as a strength! This can be life-changing.

For example, many people who have both Learner and Input as strengths have been told they lack focus. In fact, these people gather and collect information and can figure out just about anything. They are driven to learn and understand how things work — it’s quite possible that such a person can be very much focused when needed — even laser-focused on learning a new skill, but they are not meant for longterm maintenance jobs, say, staff accountant, because if they are not learning or experiencing new events, they’ll get bored.

Or a client with the “context” strength will now have the tools and understanding to take what is often seen as a “negative nelly attitude” and turn it into a valuable “risk assessment” attitude.

You can buy the StrenghtsFinder in most major bookstores or on Amazon. You do need to make sure that you buy a new book (or the Kindle version) to get an Access Code to take the test online. The above link is an affiliate link to Amazon. Or you can take the test directly online without buying the book (no affiliation on my part). Personally, I like having the book so that I can go back and read up on my own profile and learn about my peers!

What if I already have my Strengths Profile?

If you’ve taken the test more than 5 to 10 years ago or you’ve had a major life event (graduated, became a parent, pivoted careers, divorced, etcetera) I’d take the test again, even if you’ve taken it in the past. Your top few strengths will likely stay the same, but you might have built out or embraced a few different strengths.

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Write Accomplishment Stories

Too many resumes sound like regurgitated job descriptions. Other resumes lack any measure of your specific successes (metrics). A successful resume will do a bit of both.

Before you write your resume take some time to go over your most recent job and then go back ten to fifteen years.

Answer the following questions for each job:

What was I hired to do? This is what most people talk about on their resume, occasionally adding in a few metrics to show their economic impact. What makes a resume unique and interesting is if you can find a way to also talk about your unique answers to the following questions:

  • What did I get to do that was unexpected?
  • What did I learn?
  • What is/was the best part of this job? What did I enjoy most?
  • What were my biggest accomplishments?
  • Did anything happen that caused me to change my course or do something differently? (Problem, failure, success?)

Take the information from these questions to write mini-accomplishment stories, weaving together your learnings and your successes with the metrics to show your full capacity and what you are like to work with.

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Create a Professional Narrative

Once you’ve gone over your values, your strengths, your accomplishments, and your needs, you should be clear about the direction you are going. Write it down.

This is YOUR story. Some people might call this an elevator pitch. Others your personal branding story.

What you call it doesn’t really matter, but it should roll off your tongue and feel authentic to you. Your narrative should have a bit of color, it should sound like you, it should be memorable. It should that you do you work with confidence and joy.

Are you a software engineer with an attention to detail? Or are you a software engineer that delights in stuff that works?

In his book Knock’em Dead Resumes New York Times Award-Winning Resume Writer Martin Yates calls this narrative paragraph your Performance Profile. He compares this to a “performance profile” for your favorite car — what are your features, your values, your unique add-ons?

Once you nail your narrative you can use it not only as the first paragraph on your resume but also on your LinkedIn profile and in any networking emails, messages or calls that you make. Own your story and use it to get hired!

Write That Resume

Now that you’ve done the deep work, it’s time to sit down and write your resume. If you feel like this is a huge or overwhelming chore, break-down your resume into sections and do each one in a specified chunk of time. You should already have your Professional Summary written and you’ve written out your accomplishment stories, what you might be missing is a list of core competencies, or skills and technologies/frameworks.

I’ve included an image of a simple resume template for you to follow. If you get stuck — I invite you to reach out to me for a resume review — I do live reviews over zoom video — schedule one here!

A simple yet effective format for any resume — if you’ve got more work experience or more detailed experience — that’s okay. Folks with 10 or more years of experience can have a two-page resume.

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