The past 6 months

Over the past few months I have witnessed numerous friends, colleagues and industry contacts be affected by massive corporate layoffs.  Unlike the dot-com crash from 2001-03, when companies were affected over time, sector-by-sector, the recent market collapse has affected companies across all stages, geographies and industries simultaneously. Executives at prestigious companies who (only 6 months ago) wouldn’t even consider leaving their jobs have been calling in a panic, frantically trying to figure out what opportunities were available in the market.  Company stage, investors, even sectors didn’t matter.  They desperately wanted to know what options they had.  It was clear… they thought they could be laid off next.

Over the past 6 months companies had to make decisions about which employees would stay and which ones would go.  Some were more obvious choices than others.  I don’t think anyone was surprised when companies let go of their “C” players (non-revenue generating functions were also typically part of the first cuts made, but again, very few surprises here).  Next came the very tough decisions about which “B” players would be terminated.  Capable employees (even friends of the Management teams and Board of Directors) were asked to leave.  It was difficult to watch and even more gut wrenching to go experience.  But when people saw “A” players get terminated, the terrifying realization hit that even the best and brightest were not immune.   There were no guarantees in this market and that created panic.

For the last 6 months, startups were forced to severely restrict new hires and public companies had hiring freezes.  The market has flooded with talent at all levels, functions and geographies.  Unemployment hit 8.5% in March 2009 but as companies continue to do lay-offs or go out of business I expect that number will continue to rise when April’s numbers are released.  The stock market seems to be recovering, but job seekers continue to anxiously wait for the jobs to come back.

Amidst the corporate layoffs, hiring freezes, salary reductions, equity pools being recapitalized and companies going out of business, executives are spending a lot of time wondering how to approach an incredibly competitive job market.  The volume of calls and emails I have received over the past few months from job seekers has been tremendous  Some have called to see what assignments my firm was working on.  Others have asked for help on how to negotiate offers and get baseline comparisons for similar roles in their respective industry.   At networking events and cocktail parties I have heard people express everything from relief of getting out of a bad decision to indifference to borderline depression.  After a while the stories all started sounding the same, but I noticed that there were few questions being asked about how to tackle this job market and even fewer solutions being offered about how to standout and win.

So while job seekers wonder where their next opportunity will come from and how they should differentiate themselves, I began to think about what strategies job-seekers might consider using, and most importantly, how they could put themselves in the best position possible to win that next job? In my next post, I will share some thoughts for job seekers about specific strategies they can use to tackle today’s market… but for now, keep the faith!  We all know the market will eventually get better, but the savvy job-seeker will maintain his/her career discipline and continue to build and enhance their own personal brand.


Do I really need to update my resume?

One of the questions I am frequently asked at work and in social settings is “Do I really need to update my resume?”  This question is typically followed by a sheepish grin because we both know the answer to this question. My answer is always the same (YES!).  But after answering this question far too often, I realized that the question that is really being asked is “what do you recommend I do to improve my resume?”

While there are many sites and services dedicated to resume writing (I will provide links to such service providers soon), I thought I would provide a little commentary designed to motivate you into completing an important step in your (inevitable?!) job search process.

Over the past decade, I have received hundreds of resumes each month.  Some have been professionally written and formatted while others used the basic Microsoft resume template.  Which ones do you think recruiters like myself, CEOs, venture capitalists and HR executives want to read?  The one that shows you put a little TLC into it or the one that says you put minimal effort into it?

Now some search firms reformat your resume into their own format, while others simply forward your format directly to the search committee.  Whichever the case, your resume is a key selling tool in a highly competitive job market and should be used to help differentiate you from your competition.  If you don’t take your resume seriously, why should your reader?

Update your resume!

Seriously… update it every 3-6 months.  It’s important to capture all of your significant accomplishments… your resume might as well reflect all that hard work you have put in year after year.  In today’s world, everyone is busy. Being busy is not an excuse to overlook refreshing your resume.  It is difficult enough to remember what you did a year ago for your performance evaluations, so make a habit of updating skills, accomplishments and deals often.  Add it to your memo pad on your blackberry, email it to yourself when you have a few minutes – whatever works for you – just take the time because you never know when you are going to need to highlight all that great experience you have built. Trying to do write your resume in one sitting is incredibly time-consuming for anyone and can, quite frankly, become demotivating.  That is not exactly the right way to get you pumped up to write the best resume you can for that exciting new job.  Hey, your career is worth it… right?!

One size does NOT fit all

Whether you are a Jack (or Jill) of all Trades in your company or you are the head of a specific function, you should have more than one version of your resume.  You don’t wear your dress shoes when you run (at least I hope not).  Don’t have just one resume to describe the skills you have acquired. It is critical that you tailor your resume for the job that you are interviewing.

A few short examples for executives in different functions:

  • Sales: what are the key relationships, accounts, verticals or territories that need to built?
  • Technology:  are there specific programming languages or development environments required?
  • Finance: does the job require specific reporting experience, Wall Street/Analyst relationships or operational knowledge (e.g. financial software upgrades/implementations)?

Review the job spec and build in the competencies into resume that you have acquired and developed.  These become talking points during an interview that allow you to shine, and also remind a search committee of your skills and accomplishments (in the event they might forget a few details along the way).  Your resume alone won’t get you the job, but it can be used as a powerful tool to help you stand out from your competition.

I have heard job searching and resume writing be compared to everything under the sun, from being similar to serving Jury Duty to Dentist visits.  You water your plants, tune your car, and hit the gym regularly. Whatever the analogy, the point remains the same.  Do it! DO IT ! (thank you, Ben Stiller).