Corporate Outplacement and Career Transition Information

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

What Hasn’t Changed about Career Transition

We all know we’re in an interesting economic climate. With hundreds of thousands of jobs being eliminated (and not being back-filled), I’m in a unique position to do what I do best – assist people through involuntary career transition.

I’ve been doing this for more than twenty years, and of course, a lot has changed.

(Note to all of you really smart people – please stop changing things until I catch up. Thank you.)

What has not changed however is the need for a person to clearly articulate work accomplishments that give them a sense of pride and satisfaction, and why the work contributes to the overall goals of their employer.

This you must still do.

People struggle with this. I struggle with them struggling.

We struggle our little hearts out, because most people can come up with one or two instances of times when they felt they achieved a superior result, and can quantify that result. It is when I ask for fifteen to twenty examples that the struggle begins.

I worked with a terrific group of folks today, who are being transitioned from a good company under new ownership. They are some of the aforementioned smart people – Molecular Biologists. (I’ll link this blog to their Resumes as they complete them).

As we introduced ourselves, one member of the group reminded another that said other also served as Site Safety Lead for the facility.

As we really started to work, I asked the person who had been Site Safety Lead to talk about her accomplishments in that area. She said what so very many people say at this point: “I don’t know, I just did my job.”

As it turns out, she did her job very well. Through asking her questions and probing a bit deeper, she was able to articulate that she attended and completed OSHA Certification, implemented a Site Safety plan, assured understanding of policies, procedures and processes, and maintained not only 100% OSHA compliance, but an accident-free work site as well. Next, we’ll figure out the average cost for an accident and other costs related to safety violations, and she’ll be able to clearly state how much she saved her employer by “just doing her job.”

That’s important, and she feels good about it. She will not refer to it as an “oh by the way.”

When discussing in an interview she’ll sit forward in her chair; her body language will show engagement; she will enjoy discussing the subject. That makes for a much more powerful interview.
So think about what you’ve done, what you’re proud of, what gave you a deep sense of satisfaction, and write the story of it.

Start by identifying:

  • The Challenge you faced
  • The Action you took
  • The Result
Think of the above as a CAR - moving forward (you’ll also see this expressed as STARS, PARS, etc.). Then, flip the CAR upside-down and add an “S” for Statement and edit your story down to 14 to 25 words, beginning with the Result expressed by a strong Action Verb.

Here’s an example:

Achieved more than $5 million in annual savings through complete implementation of SAP software system and communications infrastructure for all Asia-Pacific Facilities.

And another:

Saved more than $250,000 in re-keying labor hours by identifying an inconsistency in CRM application, alerting IT department to issue, assisting in troubleshooting error, and collaborating on fix testing and resolution implementation.

Once you’ve written your accomplishment statements, you'll use these:

  • In Cover letters
  • In Your “Elevator Speech”
  • In Telephone Interviews
  • In the Main Body of the Resume
  • In Networking
  • In Interviewing
  • In your Blog/FriendFeed/Plurk/Twitter conversations/VisualCVs and every other social media tool you use

Review the statements to spot patterns of your Traits, Skills, Knowledge and Abilities. This will assist you in writing the Summary Statement which heads the resume, and also will assist you in developing your “Elevator Speech” response to the question, “Tell me a little about yourself.”

This is the foundation exercise for any career transition.

The real bottom-line here is don't wait until you are unemployed to go through this exercise.

This is something you should do once a quarter, every quarter for the rest of your work life. Come up with 3 or 4 quarterly accomplisment statements, and by the end of the year, you'll have a solid history of your work year.

Doing so creates greater engagement conversations no matter your employment status.

If you bump into the CEO in the hall, and he or she asks you “So what have you been doing?” wouldn’t it be great to say “well, I just collaborated on a team that revised our benefits processes and saved the company more than $250,000 a year,” instead of, “Oh you know, same old same old?”

Make this a habit. Go on, do it now.

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