Jumpstarting Your Career

By Lindsey Townsend

“I did everything I was supposed to do-and more. But in the end, it didn’t matter.” Diane Weldin thought that she was doing all the right things. As the director of communications for a large publishing company in North Dallas, she took pride in being a “can-do” employee who was self-motivated and results-oriented. In her last performance review, she had received rave reviews from the CEO and the senior managers that she worked with. Having received the assurance that she was doing a great job, she felt certain that all her hard work would pay off soon in a nice raise.

Instead, she was called into the office of the human resources manager one Friday afternoon and told that her position was being eliminated. “It wasn’t a performance-based issue,” she recalls. “They said they had decided to restructure and take all of their marketing efforts back to their headquarters in Denmark. I was in total shock. It came as a complete surprise.”

Diane Weldin is certainly not the only one who found herself navigating a tricky career curve without any warning. In a head-spinning era of downsizing, “rightsizing,” outsourcing, and restructuring, the idea of holding a life-long job has become as outdated as the phonograph and the black-and-white TV. But whether you’ve become the victim of a change in management direction or want to make a job change but fear the unknown, take heart. The numbers-as well as the business climate-are on your side.

Unemployment is less than 5%, and employers are scrambling to recruit qualified people. Lisa Nicosia with North Texas Employment Solutions in Lewisville says, “It’s really hard to find good people to fill any positions--because they’re all working! There are a lot of jobs with really good companies like Xerox and Boeing that are going begging. The demand for employees is definitely increasing faster than the supply of available personnel.”

According to a study released in August by American City Business Journals, the eight-county Dallas metropolitan area was the hottest job market in the nation between 1995 and 1997. More than 163,000 jobs were created here during the two-year period, a 10.23% increase in total employment.

But in this new and constantly-changing business environment, a top-notch education and outstanding references no longer pave the way to a great job. If your job search consists of calling all your friends to ask if they know of any openings and scanning the Sunday classifieds, you need to fine-tune your techniques. You can help gear up for a career transition by using the right approach.

Let Your Keyboard Do the Walking

Weldin worked with an outplacement firm that she says emphasized the need for a multi-faceted approach. She says, “You should still use the classifieds, networking groups, informational interviews, and recruiters, but being online is absolutely essential. You can scan hundreds of ads, submit resumes online, and get background information on companies before you set foot in their office to interview.”

In Weldin’s case, the Internet proved to be the gateway to a new opportunity. Less than a month after she went online, she found a better position as director of marketing for BizWorks, a high-tech firm in Richardson. She says, “BizWorks had tried for six months to fill the position the traditional way without any success, so they signed up with an online service that helps Telecom Corridor companies recruit employees. I had found the service online and submitted my resume electronically to a number of companies. BizWorks pulled my resume off, I interviewed, and I had an offer a week later. It’s a great fit, and a very exciting company. I’m thrilled with how everything worked out.”

Making a Smart Move

If you’re currently employed but have decided that you’d like to find a new job, plan your strategy carefully. As with most other major life decisions, it’s not smart to let your emotions cloud your judgment. If you find yourself continually angry and frustrated at work, it’s time to evaluate your current situation and your future goals. Draft a description of the type of job you really want. Try to keep the big picture in mind, which includes building your career, maintaining a valuable skills set, and remaining marketable throughout your professional life.

Many career experts now recommend that you think of yourself as a “consultant,” not an employee, no matter where you work, so that you retain the necessary mindset to be ready to make a change at any time. Whenever you interview with a potential employer, carefully evaluate what the organization’s needs are and emphasize how your qualifications can help the company solve its problems or improve its bottom line.

While changing jobs, whether it’s planned or unexpected, is often frightening and uncertain, staying in a dead-end job is not the solution. Assess your needs. Review your options. And follow through on your career plans. No one else can find-and land-you a great job.

Computer-Friendly Resumes

In the electronic age, a four-page resume is no longer the preferred means of communication. Human resource professionals in small, medium, and large organizations are investing in new state-of-the-art computer systems that use artificial intelligence capabilities to optically scan resumes as computer images. The computer then “reads” the resume and creates a database of the applicant’s relevant skills and achievements in the form of key words. The following are suggestions to make your resume more “computer-friendly”:

  • Use key words in the language of your profession to describe your skills and accomplishments.
  • Keep it simple, and use a font size between 10 and 14 points.
  • Do not use boldface for emphasis or all capital letters. Using italics and underlining, particularly when combined, often causes problems for scanners.
  • Avoid shading, shadowing, and fancy graphics.
  • Do not double space within sections.
  • The resume should be an original and laser-printed, one side only, on white 8 ½ x 11 inch paper.

Focus on results, not duties and responsibilities, and explain your activities with phrases that describe activities or experiences. Also, be aware that nouns are often more distinguishable to a computer than action verbs. For example, use “managed training and development” instead of “trained and developed.”

Online Assistance

A website designed specifically for technology job seekers, this site lets users submit their resume directly to hundreds of participating companies in the Richardson/Plano area.

Offers more than 50,000 jobs worldwide and has a customized Job Search Agent to find the best jobs for you.

This site lists the Web’s largest number of current job listings (more than 290,000). Search employment ads of the nation’s leading newspapers and job postings from the websites of leading employers nationwide.

Hot companies, a salary calculator for comparing the cost of living between cities, and a Personal Search Agent that searches the site database once a day for new postings that meet your predetermined search criteria.

From the publisher of Employment Review magazine, this site offers corporate news and industry information updated weekly, listings of nationwide career fairs, and a “best jobs” database listing thousands of openings nationwide.