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Archive for Monday, July 31, 2006

Avoid market-driven jobs if seeking stability

July 31, 2006

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Q: I had a successful run working in marketing but was let go due to restructuring. Since then, I've been downsized out of two fantastic public-relations jobs. In my last position I worked like a slave, 70 hours per week, but still made the "cut list." I always dreamed of a career in PR, and I'm only 25, but I can't handle instability, and I'm wondering if I should I start looking in other directions? - Jared

A: Kate: The advertising and public-relations industries are notorious for hiring and firing with the whims of their markets. If the firm loses an account, everyone on that account might be out of a job. The same is true for other fields that are project-oriented, such as event planning. I am sorry to hear that you put in 70-hour weeks only to be let go. Life can be so unfair.

Dale: Sure it can. But what if we make a different assumption: Everything happens for a reason. I used to shake my head when people would say that, but eventually I recognized that doing so makes everything in life a potential lesson. Perhaps you're meant for some other career, Jared. Perhaps you need to learn to embrace instability. Kate is right about PR - projects come and go. But what we're smack up against is the new model for organizational life: the Hollywood Model. In that system, you are part of a team that comes together to do a job, then everyone moves on. You are always open to your next project, and in every assignment you strive to build relationships that make people eager to work with you again. It's a livelier way to work, with an opportunity to stay on the path of greatest learning.

Kate: Or, in the case of someone who detests instability, you stagger down the path of greatest stress. But instead of giving up PR, you can find the stability you seek by finding an internal job. It might not be as varied as working for a PR firm, but people in corporate or nonprofit PR departments can become a long-term part of a stable company. Just make sure you pick an industry you love, because if all goes well, you're going to devote your days to thinking about it for a long time.

Dale: Reread that last sentence of Kate's, Jared, and you'll start to think that maybe stability is not the right goal. No, the better goal is becoming so skilled and so well-known that you have the über-stability of talent, of always being in demand.

Q: I am desperate. I have sent my resume to more than 100 employers and have not had any luck. I have changed my resume three times. Could you give me some advice? - Marsha

A: Kate: Both resumes you sent to us make you look like a person who doesn't stay anywhere very long - two months, six months and four months. You have one job that lasted three years, but it's buried. Your terrific experience is hidden in the mush of words.

Dale: When people rewrite resumes, they keep thinking of new items to add. The result is that it weakens, rather than strengthens, the resume.

Kate: So simplify, instead. Combine jobs, arranging them by job type, and use bold type to highlight what you want the reader to see.

Dale: If that doesn't work, Marsha, you must face the possibility that your background might not be strong enough to compete with all the other resumes that pile up in response to an ad. That's when you use your contacts from those previous jobs, along with a list of target companies to contact, and hope to get hired before the stack of resumes shows up. Remember, you don't have to be the best candidate in the world, just the best one the hiring manager is considering. Do it right, and you'll be the only candidate the manager is considering.

- Kate Wendleton is the founder of The Five O'Clock Club, a career-counseling network. Dale Dauten is the founder of The Innovators' Lab.

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