Answer: We have followed Rebecca rising through the ranks to a series of well-deserved VP CorpComms roles. She is now, for the first time, proactively job-hunting. As it turns out, she has no history, nor experience in analyzing the opportunities offered to her. She is at risk of undermining all the effort she has expended to building an impressive and well-deserved career by accepting a job that is a step down. Creating a grid and a checklist (released at the end of the series) became essentials tools for her job-hunting efforts.
Let’s read about her thought process, the resume she prepared and how she and I analyzed her situation to establish criteria for decision making. We also wanted to examine what specific cultural characteristics led to success in her past. That would help identify what clues to look for as she considered new situations.
At a time when you are operating out of your comfort zone, e.g. job hunting for the first time, no matter how senior you are, it is easy to doubt your instinct and decision-making processes. In that case, it is hard to filter out what you should not be spending your time exploring since “you can never know if something might be right.” I hear that all the time and disagree.
I feel there are jobs that are simply so far off the mark that you can eliminate them from consideration. Also, and this is partly Rebecca’s situation, you have not had to question your assumptions regarding a potential new employer’s attitude about communications programs and expectations. That needs to change when you are job-hunting.
Blue chip companies generally operate with strong corporate governance policies which implies responsible management and strict codes of conduct. In a younger, smaller organization, that level of sophistication may not be in place. Do not assume companies are at the same level as you have experienced in your prior organization.
Having spent 17+ years in sophisticated companies, without realizing it, she made assumptions about the companies that she was interviewing with that simply didn’t apply. The range of behaviors and communications practices can differ widely and need to be discussed to determine if there could be a potential fit or conflict. That’s where creating a grid identifying these items can help.
Once you begin to define those items, the best way to probe for them is through examples. In an interview it is unproductive to say, “What is your culture like?” Instead, use examples from your workplace. Here’s what I mean, “At my company, we have formal meetings weekly(?) with the CEO’s team to see where we are on several important projects. We keep them brief and informational.” Or, alternatively, “We don’t have many formal meetings, we get a lot done informally at the executive level over coffee or a quick group email.” (A separate Checklist will be released at the end of the series with questions to ask.)
The confusion about what jobs to consider and what to reject become obvious in the resume. If you do not have a specific objective in mind and are open to “looking at everything” then your resume will read like a laundry list with everything you do squeezed into 3-pages. After all, if you are at the VP CorpComms level, you must have done it all. That is the last thing a reader wants to plow through. If the message in your resume is unfocused, what does that say about your thought process?
That is what Rebecca’s first draft of a resume looked like. She had so much detail about her activities that it was off-putting, and no one would voluntarily read it. It was too long, and too wordy, over 2 pages (2-pages should be the maximum length.) If she couldn’t consolidate her thoughts into a coherent and powerful statement of her accomplishments, then she would be eliminated from consideration—that is if the selection process were based on what she listed.
As a potential employer, I would see the clutter of a resume as an inability to set priorities and understand how to present ideas to a target audience. Listing everything you can jam into a resume is wrong on every level.