Like most folks, when I was transitioning from active duty, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do but I knew I needed a “well rounded” resume to increase my chances of getting a job. In talking with job seekers and transitioning veterans I think this is a universal goal. But how? How do you increase your marketability and round out your resume/increase the value you can provide to a future company? (Having a good resume isn’t the end all when it comes to getting a job, but improving your brand and personal value to potential employers is always a good idea,)
I think there are two general approaches to this effort. “Carpet Bombing” and “Precision strike”
This is an approach where you are not really sure what you want to do or where you want to work (what industry, or company, or what specific role) so you add things to your resume that have broad reaching effects. Usually this falls a more formal education category. Things like an MBA are the most common. When I ask someone why they are pursuing an MBA it is usually because “its good to have on my resume.” I will then ask why? Do you want to go into business? Usually I get an answer that has nothing to do with business but rather broad individual marketability. Honestly, this Carpet Bombing method was my first approach.
The alternative to Carpet Bombing, is a precise targeting of the capability gaps in your individual skills that allow you to be competitive for jobs you want or for companies you want to work for. The difficult part is being able to do an assessment to identify these gaps.
Capability (skill) gaps come in a few forms.
1) Personal desires
2) Industry desires
3) Company desires
1) Personal Desires: These are things that you want for yourself. In order to find these gaps you have to know what your life goals are when it comes to a career. Assessments like Simon Sinek’s “start with why,” and Strengthsfinder 2.0, DISC profile assessments are all good ways to identify natural gaps in your abilities and will likely center around soft skill requirements. Communication, Empathy, organization, time management, leadership, extroversion vs introversion etc. These are great things to work on and will make you a better employee but may not improve a resume, they will however help you with an interview (formal or informal). These may also help you identify the type of job you really want to have or what industry you want to work in which are both key elements to identifying capability gaps.
2) Industry desires: These are requirements driven by the industry you want to work in or the specific company you want to work for. After I started down the Carpet Bombing approach, I met a career counselor who asked me if I had searched for job postings that sounded interesting to me. I said not yet. I was still 2 years from leaving active duty and was too far away to get hired. So he asked me how I knew what to focus on. I didn’t. So, I started looking. I quickly realized that most of the jobs I wanted had specific certifications and skills that I could map to my resume, and quickly noticed some glaring areas that I needed to improve. I had the experience in leadership, communication, Microsoft office products, but when it came to certifications I was lacking. Two common certs for jobs I was interested in were 1) Lean Six sigma and 2) PMP. I already had my lean six green belt, but I didn’t have my PMP so I started seeking it and thankfully my military unit was able to fund the training. Most companies have tuition reimbursement programs as well. Start looking at job postings you are interested in and see what certifications and qualifications are listed and then target your professional development to fill in these gaps.
3) Company desires: More specific than general job desires are individual companies’ desires. Just because a job post has a list of certifications and skills, this doesn’t mean they are all equally important. To get the best advice on how to improve your resume to be competitive, you need to talk with employees and managers inside a company. This might sound difficult but with the power of linkedin and social networking, this is easier than ever. For linkedin, look up a company you are interested in, and then look up employees with titles you want, and reach out to connect. Talk to them about the company and a specific job you are interested in pursuing. Ask about the value of various skills and certifications/education when it comes to getting hired and promoting within the company and they can usually tell you or connect you with someone who can. This intel is the best single way to know how to round out your resume; and also, the best way to get hired. Some companies may even have an onboarding/training program that will fill these gaps in for you. The company might even have an employee referral bonus where the person you are talking to can get a bonus if you get hired there. This makes for great advocates who can articulate the value you bring even though you don’t have all the desired quals.
Job seeking is hard and scary but there are focused ways you can improve your marketability and chances of getting an interview. Broad big expensive degrees may not be the best approach. Seek growth professionally in line with your personal and professional goals because your time is the most valuable thing you have.