Five Tips for a Well-Done Tech Resume
A tech pro's resume has to match the speed of this fast-changing industry
A reader who contributed one of the most valuable comments to any column or blog post I've ever written did so somewhat belatedly in response to my March 1 post, "Double Whammy for IT Job Seekers: Being Unemployed and Over 50." What she had to say is far too important to be buried in the reader comments of a post that's almost two months old, so I'm bringing it front and center.
The reader identified herself as a 55-year-old career Army veteran with over 35 years of experience in computer systems analysis and work force management, and who became unemployed in April 2010. She wrote that she quickly realized that she had two options available to her if she wanted to return to work:
I could draw on my years of leadership and management experience and develop an effective marketing campaign that made the product I had to offer attractive to my target market; or I could abandon my ethics and values and push a product that was shiny on the outside and empty on the inside. I was the product I was marketing, and I refused to sell myself short. I took a month off to go through the five stages of grief, and when I was done licking my wounds, I started the most important project of my professional career -- getting a job.
She said she attacked the project with the objective that she would not stop until she accomplished her goal, and she shared some of the things she did that resulted in her success:
I determined that looking for a job needed to be a full-time job. With this in mind, I planned my "work" week. I would wake up each morning and dress as if I was going to an office job. On Monday and Tuesday, I searched job boards and company websites for positions of interest. On Tuesday afternoon, I would place a call to the company receptionist in the hopes that he or she would provide me with the name and direct contact information of the hiring manager responsible for recruiting for the position. With this information, I would fax my resume and cover letter for their review. I would ask if they would be available to meet for an introductory interview -- this is different than a formal interview. I would offer to meet them on Thursday, and would suggest two different times. I spent Friday morning sending out thank-you notes. I spent the remainder of Friday reviewing my triumphs and defeats of the previous week. My day started at 8:00 a.m. and ended at 5:00 p.m.
I accepted the reality that the interviewer was probably still in diapers when I started my first job. He or she might see me as an aged hippie who probably still had my day-glow Deadhead poster on my wall and my love beads hanging from the lamp in my flop-house. I had to overcome my prejudice of the punk-grunge, skater, gamer image and accept the reality that this person had my future in their hands. For the first time in my own children's life I did not tell them to turn "that noise" down. I asked them who the singer was and why they thought they were so "rad". Now I was armed with something I could use to show that I was not stuck in Woodstock.
I stopped highlighting things I did in the past, except for major accomplishments. [Instead, I] focused on what I would bring to the company now and the immediate benefit they would realize from my contribution. Young employers may be uncomfortable speaking to an older adult. They were raised to respect their elders, and now they were being asked to supervise, manage, and discipline the same elders.
I realized that to be successful, I needed to reinvent myself to meet others' needs. I had to admit that the education I had was outdated, or even worse, obsolete. I enrolled in evening courses at the community college, and to my surprise the majority of the students were very similar to me. What makes evening courses different from normal courses is that students are normally professionals seeking to update their knowledge. This dynamic allowed for the exchange of ideas that represented real-time events, and was backed with proven research and findings.
I signed up at every temporary staffing agency in town. I still had to pay the bills, support my family, and stay committed to my previous obligations. I had to find some means of bringing income into the house, so to supplement my unemployment benefits, [I did temp work]. The jobs paid far less than what I was accustomed to; however, I looked at every temporary assignment as an opportunity to uncover hidden jobs.
The reader said it took almost a year, but her hard work paid off:
In February 2010, a recruiter from AT&T Internet Services contacted me in response to my profile on LinkedIn and asked if I would be interested in a Tier 1 Customer Assistant position at their new Las Vegas location. I contained my impulse to jump up and down, and calmly responded that I would be honored to work for a company with a long history of excellence. My operations manager is younger than my baby brother, but I don't care. I arrive at work one hour before my shift starts and always stop by her desk to ask how her day has been going and offer my assistance if she needs help.
Finally, she offered two additional extremely constructive pieces of advice. The first one had to do with the need for older job seekers to stop looking for a position that will replace the position they lost:
They did not lose the position, the position was eliminated. For all of those who responded with impressive backgrounds, think about consulting. The job may have been eliminated, but the business need still remains and employers are being asked to meet this need without incurring overhead expenses. How they do this is they hire professional consultants who submit a bid for the project and then move on when it is finished.
The second one might have been her best piece of advice of all:
For the few that clearly are looking for pity because their new address is the third parking space, row 5, at the Gold's Gym parking lot, remember the buck starts and stops with you. If you chose to whine, Catholic Charities is always looking for people to clean up after lunch is served at the soup kitchen.