Monday, October 1, 2012

Interview with Career Expert & Author Dawn Rasmussen On Job Security

Dawn Rasmussen’s new book, Forget Job Security:  Build Your Marketability, offers great advice on
cleaning up your resume and how to land your next job. But what she really focuses on is how one can find job success in the new era of career management.  She’s been quoted or featured in the Chicago Tribune, CBS MoneyWatch and  She founded Pathfinder Writing and Career Services several years ago, based in Portland, Oregon, and works with individuals across the country to point them onto the right career path.  For more information, please see:

1.      Dawn, why does the title of your book say Forget Job Security? This is a wake-up call because there is no such thing as job security any more.  People only stay in their job until the next job offer comes along, and similarly, employers only retain employees as long as they are useful.  Workers today need to understand that ultimately, their career destiny rests in their hands and requires them to market themselves to achieve promotions and garner job offers.

2.      How does one begin to manage their career? Career management begins the moment we understand the concept.  It is a parallel universe that co-exists alongside your work.  It is everything you do from honing your personal value, developing your brand, launching your job search, building your network, and honing your career tools such as résumés, cover letters and online content.  Even how you compose an email can have an impact on your career… if you don’t pay attention to writing precisely, sloppy communications can send the wrong signal to the recipient. Every single thing we do every single day in the workplace can and does have an impact on how it adds up to the bigger picture of what career opportunities are available to us.

3.      You’ve switched careers several times.  How does one transition into a new career? The key to successfully navigating a career change is to understand what skills are transferrable and which ones are not. Then, keep an eye on what the job requirements are of your new career goal. If you don’t have the skills or on-the-job experience, then augment them through professional development, industry memberships, or volunteering activities that provide the “connecting dots” from where you’ve been and where you want to go.

4.      You say that at least 80% of all resumes are lousy.  They are either filled with errors, misspellings, ugly formatting, too much information or lack the proper presentation for the job the candidate seeks.  What should people do to revamp their resume? The biggest thing everyone needs to understand is that while you may think that the résumé is about you, it’s REALLY about how you are going to help a prospective employer. With that in mind, how you build the document should show value every step of the way.  Put yourself into the employer’s shoes: what would you want out of this person so that they can do a good job in this position? Then write your résumé document from that perspective.  And please make sure to remove any references to how old you are, and include keywords to optimize your document’s ability to get through human resource scanning systems.

5.      How does one unleash their personal brand? Understanding your unique value proposition requires setting aside some time where you won’t be disturbed and can think about what sets you apart from others.  What would your co-workers say that you are particularly known for in your line of work? Do you have a signature service? Is there one accomplishment that you are particularly proud of that is a great example of what you do well?

6.      You say colleges and high schools fail to prepare graduates for the job market.  How so? Too many career centers are not supported by college administrators, and are perceived as the last stop for students graduating. As a result, the folks working in these centers only have access to extremely outdated information. What is a well-intentioned effort on behalf of the university ends up being actually a complete obstacle to a new graduate’s career… the advice that many schools are dispensing is so outdated that when human resources receive these résumé documents, they don’t end up with anything that is even remotely useful.

7.      How should one prepare for an upcoming job interview? One word:  Research. The more you know about the company, why it is in business, who their customers are, how they think and how the culture “ticks” – the more ammunition you have to work with during the interview.  You should know the company inside and out, and understand their pain points, and ultimately, how your background will make it “better” for them.

8.      What is the proper way to launch a job search? Job searches take a great deal of organization and focus. You simply cannot take the “shotgun” approach. The more specific you can be about opportunities, companies, and yes, even people at target companies, the more chances you’ll have of connecting.  A job search also doesn’t simply start when you decide you want to change employers. The most successful people leave themselves open to opportunity should it come knocking. The trick is knowing how to attract opportunity by managing all the career management drivers that can impact whether you are pursued by employers… or if you have to pursue them.

9.      You say “managing your career doesn’t always end with a new job.”  Why not? Many people love their work and simply don’t want to leave their employer- which is great. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t want to be in line for a promotion or even a raise.  You can build equity into your personal brand by carefully cultivating your workplace reputation.

10.  What are the signs that someone’s job is in danger? Wow- so many people could answer this one with a list of danger signals, but usually, when something big is going down, there are a whole lot of closed-door meetings, and there’s a definite vibe in the  workplace atmosphere.  I’ve talked to a lot of job seekers who had a “bad feeling” only to have that feeling turn into reality.  My advice: trust your instinct. If you suddenly feel like the atmosphere has turned sour, you should start looking.  Your gut feelings are usually dead-on and you need to pay attention to this!

11.  How does one get to the point of being recruited by others? The people who are actively recruited are ones who have done a good job of building their reputation and brand as people who support others around them, they give back, they aren’t afraid to take chances, and are actively engaged with their network.  Obviously, excelling on the job is also part of this formula, too.  If you pay attention to all the pieces of how to manage your career, you will build a strong network of people familiar with your ability to do your job and willingly become your advocates.

12.  Has the Great Recession and new technology permanently altered the job landscape here? It’s an electronic world now, and things have gotten leaner and meaner.  Technology has aided employers by providing efficiency in their screening processes.  Understanding how these applicant screening technologies will help job seekers better position their credentials to not “cheat” the system, but instead, give it what it wants in order to advance to the next level of the candidate review process.

“80% of all the resumes out there suck.  And in an informal survey I’ve been conducting with HR and recruiting professionals, this is a relatively conservative number, so yes, I mean that they really suck.  As in spelling, grammar, usage, punctuation errors, ugly or nonexistent formatting, lack of keywords, cutting and pasting job duties instead of listing valuable contributions, inclusion of photos and other non-relevant personal information, and the ever-so-outdated objective statement which is the constant thorn in the side of anyone who reads the document, just to name a few.” – Excerpt

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