Someone recently asked me is I could teach a small group of college-bound high school seniors how to set up their LinkedIn profiles. Funny, because we’d just come out of our monthly Lean In Circle meeting where we went through our profiles one by one and updated them. There are a ton of people blogging in detail about tips and it’s definitely a project to think about that first little intro blurb, but I’m just going to give you a quick checklist of things to do for that new empty little profile and link them to other posts that give you some tips on how to do those things.
The brutal truth is that while estimates vary, most jobs are never advertised at all. Openings pop up, internally and externally, and are filled through referrals. The easiest way to get a really great job is to have a rich, active network that thinks of you when they hear of new opportunities. Even jobs at places that are required to post openings and go through an open search process frequently go to someone with an inside track—all other things being equal the referred candidate offers a more certain outcome. The biggest mistake I see people make in their job hunts at any stage of their career is not building and maintaining their network long before they need it.
There are two kinds of resume audiences everyone needs to consider.
The first is the big business resume. That resume gets scanned by computers looking for keywords before a human in HR ever gets to it. I don’t deal with these, but there are tons of internet resources to tell you how to write this resume. The basics are about nor cluttering it with design elements like headers or illustrations, using the right keywords and using them in long form as well as in acronym form. You never know how the system is going to be looking, and it may not be a perfectly designed search. Use factual language, strip out tricky sentences, lean towards using bullets rather than sentences. Use simple fonts and consider submitting in a plain text format—avoiding software issues created even by the ubiquitous Word and PDF formats. While this is an older post, Lifehacker does a good job of covering this subject. And these resumes are ranked, so having some of the skills is enough to make it worth applying—you don’t have to have a perfect score on the requirements.
The second kind of resume, the one read by a person, is the one I see. Here’s what I think works and doesn’t work, based on about 30 years of screening resumes. First of all, the first, and most easily avoidable, mistake I see over and over again is people emailing me the wrong resume, the one for another job. Another fatal error is sending out a resume via a mass emailing to all the design firms in San Diego—that tells us all that you don’t care enough about doing a job right to send out 20 different custom emails, a tip-off to your shortcut-taking approach to life that isn’t what anyone is looking to hire.
In all cases the highlighting within the pull quote is mine, but just in case you think I’m exaggerating the urgency of the situation, I’d like to show you every so often the kind of statements that jump out at me as I work my through all my daily reading. These links don’t inspire me to a whole post, but I think they serve as proof of concept.
This reiterating the need for soft skills (and the genius of smart informational interviewing) from a senior Deloitte consultant, Elizabeth Lascaze:
(Elizabeth) started interviewing executives she thought she might want to work for one day, asking them where they saw room for improvement in new graduates. Many of them pointed to gaps in leadership ability and in understanding the people impact on an organization.
“As one executive told me,” Lascaze says, “you can teach anybody the technical stuff, but if you don’t know how to galvanize people around a mission, then all you have is a good strategy. That resonated with me and made me want to work in human capital, particularly in helping organizations fulfill their purpose and actually do what they were designed to do.”
And from BloombergBusiness last week, Dean Nick Allard of Brooklyn Law School, with another “wow, they just don’t get it” comment:
In a pinstriped charcoal suit and purple tie, Allard is the most formally dressed person in the classroom. Eighteen Brooklyn Law students are here for a special course to guide them through summer jobs at law offices. One student volunteers that she failed to finish an onerous one-day assignment to summarize a deposition hundreds of pages long. “How did you sleep that night?” Allard asks. Just fine, the student responds, not understanding his implication. “Well, maybe that’s a bad thing,” the dean mutters.
From a short Fortune column with IBM engineer Lisa Seacat DeLuca:
I stopped worrying that I didn’t fit the traditional computer science major profile because I fell in love with the creativity and challenge of technology. I quickly found out that my extra-curricular activities made me unique. Each experience I had outside a dark computer cluster only added to the new perspective I brought to problem solving. There is no cookie-cutter mold of what an engineer looks or acts like.
And why a really diverse group is the best possible team (and why one of my extracurricular suggestions is to be sure you are pulling diverse groups together in at least some of your work):
I have found that assembling a multidimensional group of colleagues is most successful. Recruit and elevate the best people at what they do, while seeking a mix of personalities: analytical, expressive, driven, amiable, energetic, etc. Together, they’ll be a powerful force to be reckoned with. Also, know your own leadership strengths and weaknesses and choose a team that complements them.
My work neighbor, UC San Diego, is launching a program to support graduate students. Keeping in mind that research universities’ missions are focused on professor research, then graduate students, and after that undergrads, this is an idea I could see really taking off through all kinds of schools for all kinds of degrees.
Odds are you’re not at UC San Diego, so how can you access these kinds of opportunities, whether working on a bachelor’s degree or a graduate degree? Their plan has a four-fold approach:
- Career Nights
- Certification in leadership, teamwork, and project management
- Communication workshop
- Career Services expanding their offerings to include grad students
These are pretty simple to replicate with some initiative on your part.