The Wizard of Oz. I am not ashamed to tell you it is fighting for the top spot on my list of all-time favorite movies. Those flying monkeys still give me nightmares. And how can I pick my favorite character? The Scarecrow, Tin Man, or the Cowardly Lion? But I have a favorite song. Those lyrics, sung by The Scarecrow, still resonate for me across the arc of my life and career.
“I would not be just a muffin', My head all full of stuffin', My heart all full of pain; And perhaps I'd deserve you and be even worthy, even you, If I only had a brain.”
What is he telling us with these simple words? I find the answer when Dorothy and her friends return to see The Wizard, and he tells The Scarecrow: “Why, anybody can have a brain. That's a very mediocre commodity! Every pusillanimous creature that crawls on the earth or slinks through slimy seas has a brain!” The lesson is not to get tunnel vision wishing and hoping for the one thing that will solve all of your problems. Don’t get stuck in the “If Only” trap. If only I had the big house. If only I had a shiny new car. If only I had the perfect resume.
Ok. I finally said resume. Something at least tangentially connected to the job search process. Maybe (you think) this article is going to say something about how to find a job!
Day after day, my email inbox fills up with requests for resume writing. When I ask these prospects why they need a resume, I hear a common refrain. “I just need a resume that will get me noticed and help me land interviews.” That sounds a lot to me like The Scarecrow. If only he had a brain, he would be worthy, and people would pay him some attention. But like The Wizard tells The Scarecrow, anybody can have a brain. It’s a basic commodity. And yes, everyone can have a resume. But that perfect resume is not going to get you the interview. And it is not going to get you the job.
For all these prospects believing that “If I only had the perfect resume, I could get the job,” I always begin with four fundamental questions. The answer to each question tells me whether or not they are ready to build that perfect resume.
#1: Can you give me the exact title of the job you are targeting with your resume?
If I get a long list of unrelated job titles or generic position descriptions, I hold up the STOP sign. Your resume is a brochure for the product called You. You cannot build a marketing brochure if you have not yet identified your target market.
The search for your next professional position is like a cross-country journey. A journey with a specific destination will be quicker and more direct than a trip without a destination or map.
Imagine that you want to drive from New York City to Los Angeles to spend some time on the beaches of Malibu. You could just get in your car and start driving west. You know the sun sets in the west, so you just follow the sun. You will find the beach eventually. But you will make a lot of wrong turns along the way. And the trip will take far longer than you had initially planned.
Alternatively, you could program the GPS coordinates for Malibu into Google Maps and follow the specific directions to your desired location. You will get your feet into the waters of the Pacific Ocean in the fastest and most efficient manner possible.
The one or two job titles you want to target are the GPS coordinates for your job search process. Before you begin your job search, you need to define precisely what type of position you are targeting. The job titles you select to target will guide the direction you take in the development of your value proposition.
#2: Can you give me a list of the companies you are targeting with your resume?
If the answer is that there is no list and they just look in an ad hoc manner for potential openings on the online job boards, I hold up the STOP sign. If you were a sales rep, would you call on every prospect and company in your territory? That would not be a highly effective or efficient sales process.
It is a vastly complex world into which you will venture when you begin your job search. You need to refine and narrow your search process. There are potentially thousands of organizations where you could search for job opportunities. I recommend a micro-targeted approach for your job search activities. You need to develop a focused list of between 30 to 50 organizations.
Beyond 50 targets, it is virtually impossible to complete the required level of quality research and customization necessary to execute a successful job search. In-depth analysis of target companies. Customization of your value proposition and resume to align with specific organizational culture and value. Identification of potential network contacts within target organizations for exploratory meetings. Phone and digital outreach, along with network maintenance, to keep your job search network alive and producing opportunities. You must keep your activities focused. Quantity of targets does not equal quality in the job search process.
#3: Tell me about yourself. Who are you, and why should I care?
If the answer is a long and tedious verbal summary of their career and education to date, I hold up the STOP sign. As a potential employer, you are asking me to invest time in learning about you. If you, yourself, can’t quickly articulate your value proposition, why should I take time to listen? What is missing is your elevator pitch.
For your job search, your elevator pitch is the essence of who you are and the unique value that you can bring to an organization and a specific job. The elevator pitch must be the first step in building your brand and starting the job search process. Your elevator pitch is the genetic code of your job search. Without DNA, there is no life. Without an elevator pitch, it isn't easy to execute the job search process and land the job offer. And without an elevator pitch, it is virtually impossible to build that perfect resume.
#4: Do you have a documented plan for your job search?
If the answer is that you are going just to use your perfect resume to apply for jobs online, I hold up the STOP sign. A new resume does not a job search plan make. It can, however, cost you a lot of money and wasted time.
When it comes to your job search, you need to consider your time as one of your most valuable assets. Specifically, you need to ask yourself where and how you will invest the time you dedicate to your job search. Building a job search action plan based exclusively on applying to job postings online is not an efficient utilization of the time that you have available for your search.
The probability of finding a professional job matching your skills and professional qualifications utilizing only a resume and online postings is less than 5 percent. Your goal has to be to build a detailed job search plan that aligns the probabilities to your advantage and enables you to secure your next professional position as quickly and efficiently as possible. I continue to advocate (and coach) a 12 step job search process split across four distinct phases. As you can see below, the resume is only one step in the process.
Phase 1 = Plan & Research
1: Action Plan Development
2: Target Position & Company Research
Phase 2 = Personal Branding
3: Elevator Pitch Development
4: Resume Development
5: Cover Letter Development
6: LinkedIn Profile Development & Engagement
Phase 3 = Personal Networking
7: Job Search Network Funnel Development
8: Exploratory Meetings & Network Maintenance
Phase 4 = Personal Selling
9: Interview Preparation
10: Screening Interview
11: Hiring Manager Interview
12: Job Offer Evaluation & 1st 90 Days
Listen to The Wizard. Everyone has a resume. Yes, it would be best to have a strong resume as part of a successful job search. But you need a lot more than just that resume to land the job offer (or get back to your home in Kansas)!
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Dan Troup is the Managing Director of the AdvantEdge Careers coaching service. If you are interested in learning more about how a job search expert and certified career coach can assist you, please contact AdvantEdge Careers for a free initial consultation.