You know you have to read up on resume writing to get your resume in the best shape possible. Where do you go to do it? If you’re like a lot of people, one of three places:
- All the job board sites, from Monster to The Ladders – of course they have resume advice for you!
- Online article directories are stuffed full of tips and tricks for getting your resume to stand out from the crowd.
- And the makers of the “Dummies” and “Complete Idiot’s Guide” how-to books probably picked resumes as one of the first topics they ever covered.
But ask yourself this: If you’re going to write your resume, or just punch up your resume, why not get your advice from as authoritative a source as possible?
That would be Susan Whitcomb. One of the nation’s top professional resume writers, her definitive work Resume Magic emerged in its 3rd Edition in September 2006.
How definitive? Originally published in 1999, Resume Magic holds an honest-to-goodness five-star rating on Amazon.com. (How many reference books can claim that honor over a seven-year-publication history?)
Whitcomb key to success is that she looks at resumes with an advertising maven’s eye. Some of the topics she covers include:
- Ad agency strategies you can apply to get noticed and hold interest
- Visual design and formatting
- Copywriting, including an extensive style guide
- Electronic resumes
- And, naturally, cover letters
Better yet, the level at which she drills down on this information is knock-you-socks-off powerful – even if you’re just reading the table of contents!
Speaking of which, you can get the table of contents (from an older edition), as well as a sample chapter. It’s Chapter 2, “How to Use Advertising Strategies to Get an Audience With Your Boss-to-Be,” and that chapter alone is worth dozens of times the very reasonable price of the book, which you can order right here from Amazon.com.
So if you’re feeling like there’s too much resume advice out there, and you don’t know who to listen to, take a step back and start over again with just one solid source of proven experience. Otherwise, information overload will just paralyze you and your job search.
How can an employer decide what you’re worth?
It’s a question with both practical and philosophical implications.
I started thinking about the practical side while using Salary.com‘s Salary Wizard tool. It’s probably the most widely used and relied-upon salary calculator out there.
Monster.com and HotJobs use Salary.com as their preferred salary info provider. Newspaper websites refer job seekers to Salary.com, too (and get a bit of compensation for anyone who buys a Salary.com report through referral, no doubt).
But here’s what I started wondering: Where does Salary.com get their information? And how as a job seeker, or someone thinking about a career change, can you trust this data to guide your search and inform your salary negotiations?
So I took a peek behind the curtain at their methodology, and I highly recommend you do the same.
And when you get there, you’ll see options to look at the details of Client Data, Corporate Data, and Salary Wizard data. It’s worth the 15-minute investment to read all three. Here’s an excerpt from the Corporate Data info:
Salary.com purchases hundreds of salary surveys each year, and applies the best practices originally developed by the American Compensation Association (now WorldatWork).
Salary.com’s team of Certified Compensation Professionals match jobs by their job description (job title matching and surveys that used job title matching are not used). Data is aged to a common date and outliers are removed. Finally the data may be sliced or adjusted to reflect the conditions prevalent in a particular location, size of employer, and industry.
Salary.com also offers executive compensation data derived from searching and matching corporate proxy filings and from surveys of incentive pay practices.
Now, I’m not about to audit their results, but it looks about as reliable as you can get, especially if you dig deeper into the certification process offered by WorldatWork. And that wraps up the practical side of the employee worth question for this post.
As for the philosophical side of the question, just remember this – it’s up to you, and no one else, to decide what you’re worth to a company.
When you know the value you can deliver to a company, it’s much easier to make the right decision about any position you choose to pursue. Keep that firmly in mind before you start playing with salary wizards, okay?
There’s a gap between your experience and what the hiring company wants, and you know it.
You’ll almost never find a perfect fit between who you are and the wish list any company puts out there. So how do you close the gap?
Education is one powerful way, and no, I’m not talking about going out and getting a full-on college degree. Even if you’re between positions and keeping your spending to a minimum, there’s bound to be some cost-effective options available to you.
First off, you have to be very clear on the type of career opportunity you’re after. Then start looking for common skills in the job descriptions for that field – ones you may not have in your toolkit. Yet.
Now, jump right in, start working on the new skill you need, and make sure you put it on your resume! Don’t worry that you haven’t mastered it by the time you head into an interview. When it comes up, turn it into a positive by saying something like:
“I know this skill is important to the position, and so I’ve started doing X, Y, and Z to master it.”
Doing this shows you’re a self-starter, you invest in your career path, and you’ve been paying attention to the company’s needs. And that makes you stand out from the crowd.
But how to get started? A few ideas for you:
- Go to your network. Does someone you know already have the skills you need? Ask that person how to get up to speed fast.
- Google it. Whatever the skill is, type it in a search along with words like “tips,” “articles,” “tutorials,” “guide,” or “class.” Throwing a “free” in the search terms is okay, but could rule out some low-cost options in your results.
- Check with your local technical, vocational, or community college – these often offer very affordable classes.
- Your local library can point you to other adult education resources in your area.
And finally, don’t look at the cost of education, in money or time. Look at it this way: If a $100 class could help you land a job paying just $5,000 more than your last position, that’d be worth the investment, right? You bet.
And that’s a conservative number. What if taking a class could help land you $25,000 or more a year? Right. You’re a fast learner. 😉 Now go hit the books!