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Laid off? Here's 'Job One'
Now more than ever, craft that winning resume.

AUTHOR:      Maria Mallory for The Journal-Constitution
PUBLISHED:  September 9, 2001

Updating and refining your resume may not have been all that high on your to-do list before you got laid off. Now, you're facing a weakened job market.

Crafting a resume that will stand out in the crowd is a tall order. How exactly, post-layoff, do you make the most of your resume? Gayle Oliver, CEO of Buckhead-based Execume, a career management firm, offers guidance on how to spiff up your resume and help you manage your post-layoff job search more effectively.

The first step, says Oliver, is to set aside any negative, self-imposed stereotypes about being laid off. Such attitudes can seep into your resume and taint your job search, she says. "There's no stigma attached to being downsized anymore, and I think it's really important that people really get that message," Oliver says. "When dealing with the resume, you have to be in a position of being confident in who you're going to be on paper. There's an important self-perception there. You have to realize that (the layoff is) not really a reflection of you, but if somebody's telling you, 'You don't have a job anymore,' it may feel like it's a perception of you."

When writing your resume, focus not on the feelings but on the facts, Oliver says. "You may have been moved, reorganized, shifted or downsized by no fault of your own," she says. "That's why there is no stigma to it." Downsizing today should not be equated with being "fired," Oliver says. "Years ago . . . if you were fired, you were not any good. You were a non-performer. You were a dead weight. Now, you may be the best CFO (chief financial officer) in the world, but if that technology company doesn't get its funding, you're out of a job."

Because of downsizing, there are many legitimate reasons you might not have a job any longer, she says. After you've moved beyond feelings to the facts of your departure from your last job, Oliver suggests narrowing your focus even further: To successfully revise your resume, take time to focus on your core competencies. "When you've been downsized, it's time to get back to basics and be very focused in your target market," Oliver advises.

"Most people, in their background, they have a variety of things they've done. In a tight market, you've got to get back to what you know best." Writing a career mission statement is a great tool for zeroing in on those core competencies, Oliver says.

This is a written affirmation of the kind of position you want, she says, and it should be drawn from the depth of your experience in a particular discipline or industry. "Let's say (a laid-off worker) was in the insurance business for 10 or 15 years, then jumped to technology and maybe was there a year," she says. Where should the mission statement be focused? "Go back to insurance. Go back to your industry or a closely related industry, or the depths of your discipline. If your discipline has been (human resources), focus on your HR experience," Oliver says.

"When it's an employees' market, you can sometimes make a shift into something you haven't done before, but when there's an abundance of people, (employers) want people who know their stuff. You carry a lot of clout if you have industry experience."

With these strategies in mind, Oliver says you are armed to revise your resume so that it focuses on playing up your skills and experiences that match the target industry, discipline or position that you've identified in your mission statement.

Now, you should begin looking at each entry on your curriculum vitae as a chapter in your "success story," she says. "It's important in the resume --- even more so when you've been downsized --- to show (your) success story," and you do that by providing details that show you've been a consistent contributor at work, she says. "That's critical. You've got to go back and analyze your career and show how you've contributed in each position," she adds.

You do this by asking yourself, "What did I do and what was the benefit?" Oliver says. "It's got to be a theme that you either made money (for your employers) or saved them money." So, you must strive to present the details of your job accomplishments in terms of the return on investment you delivered to your employers, she says.

As you document and quantify your success stories for each job, don't cheat yourself; tell the full story. Share the scope of your accomplishments, authority and contributions, she says. This is the vital content that will make your successes --- and therefore your resume --- stand out.

"If you do not put content in your resume, you're doing yourself a huge disservice," Oliver says. "I think it's really important for people to get away from this less-is-better (misconception), because it's not. "When you're looking at a bunch of resumes, and the company says, 'I am looking for someone with X, Y and Z,' if I can't see that you have X, Y and Z, I'm not going to call you --- even if the title you have is the same," Oliver says. "That's where content comes into play."

Titles alone do not tell your full success story, she says. In fact, titles tend to say very little. "When you start really screening through a lot of resumes, you start realizing how easy it is to skip someone who doesn't have a lot of content," Oliver admits. "It makes them look like they haven't done anything. Plus, from a recruiter's standpoint, what you put in your resume gives me ammunition to sell you. . . . You've got to paint a mental picture of what you did in that job." Oliver, author of "Execume: It's More Than a Resume, It's a Reflection of You," says that when she first wrote the book, she advised limiting resumes to two pages, but times have changed.

"Now, when I reprint, I'll say something different, because I have a lot of three-page resumes coming now," she says. "You don't have the same barriers around length anymore," she says. "The perception before was that if you put too much in, people aren't going to read it. The truth is that they're only going to read what they want to read anyway."




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