The robots are coming! What’s your plan?

Look out! The robots are coming! Seriously, they’re coming! And they want your job!

… OK, phew. Your job is safe now from automation. That was a close one.

But look out! Budget cuts and layoffs are coming! Watch out for falling axes! Your job is in danger!

… OK, you dodged that one. Good. You can relax; your job is safe, you have a good thing going, your boss is great, and — what? Your boss just took a new position in Charlotte and your new boss is the guy down the hall who’s had it in for you since day one? 

Panic!

… Or don’t panic, if you have a solid exit plan.

Any of these scenarios can be disastrous, and depending on your career, any of them could happen to you. That’s why it’s vital to have an exit plan in place before you need one.

How to prepare

Your exit plan should include:

  1. Having an updated résumé. It should describe your current job, responsibilities, and recent accomplishments. 
  2. Keeping your skills up-to-date. Don’t get complacent because your job only requires you to know version 5 of the software. If version 6 is out, you’d better learn version 6, and mark your calendar for the release of version 7.
  3. Maintaining contact with your network. You know other people in your field who work for different companies; check in with them every now and then, connect with them on LinkedIn, have lunch to trade news from other corners of the industry. Know the environment, get their take on which way the winds are blowing, and start thinking about which direction you should set sail if the waters get choppy.

You never know when you will need your exit plan; it may sit in the back of your mind for years until you retire according to your own schedule. If so, mazel tov!

But if something unexpected does happen to throw you off course, an exit plan will let you start your new career path from a place of preparedness and control instead of panic and desperation. And that’s the best way to leave one job: with a firm focus on the next one.

Your résumé must stand out before it’s even read

One of the first rules of résumé writing is this: Make it stand out. You want yours to distinguish itself among a crowded field; that starts before the reader even opens the file.

When clients email me old résumés for me to update or to use as a reference source when writing their new one, they can usually find it on their computer, no problem. It’s the file called “Resume.” Makes perfect sense when yours is the only one you’re concerned with.

But when I download it, it goes into a folder with all my other downloads. And being that I’m in the résumé writing business, you’d imagine I get a lot of files from clients labeled simply “resume,” so I sometimes have to do a little searching to find the one I’m looking for.

Wouldn’t you imagine a lot of prospective employers have the same issue?

Making it easier on them

So why would you want to make their job harder before they decide whether or not to give you a call?

Worse: Why would you want them to open someone else’s résumé by accident, and run the risk that they like what they see in the other one before they’ve even found yours?

So here’s my solution. Instead of just giving your file the obvious title of “resume,” simply add your name to it (“Resume-Smith”).

That’s it. That one little technique can make your résumé easier to find in a sea of generic filenames. It will separate you from the pack. It will show attention to little details and consideration for the reader.

But most importantly, it will make you stand out.

The Syracuse Pen provides résumé services and other writing and editing services for students, professionals, and small businesses. Visit our home page for more information about what we can do for you.

Don’t quit your day job… yet.

Just as being in a relationship can make you more attractive to others, having a job can make you more attractive to employers.

Why? It’s a brutal feature of human psychology: People want what they can’t have, and if someone else has you (either as a mate or as an employee), an observer will want you more. If you’re a free agent, a potential mate or potential employer may see you out there alone and think, “Sure, this person looks good, but why isn’t he/she married/employed already? What’s wrong with him/her that I’m not seeing? And why would I want to take a chance?”

If you’re sending your résumé out, it’s usually to your advantage if you already have a job while you’re looking for a new one. Other than the obvious perks of enjoying a steady income and avoiding a stressful employment gap, being employed shows a potential new employer that you’re not desperate for work; if you apply for an opening, it’s because you want it, not because you need it. It puts you in control and prevents you from appearing desperate.

I always advise clients, who are often so confident in their new résumés and excited to start sending it out, not to quit their jobs prematurely for these very reasons.

Of course, there may be compelling reasons to leave without a new job lined up — an intolerably toxic work environment, an impossible schedule that won’t allow you to interview for new jobs, or pressing family obligations that you hope a new position will be more accommodating for. Everybody’s situation is different.

But if it’s at all possible, don’t let go of the old job until you’ve landed a new one.

 

The worst mistake I ever made with an otherwise powerful résumé

Fresh out of college, many years ago, I made a good impression on an interviewer for a job at a major media corporation in Manhattan. A strong résumé had earned me the interview; now a strong interview was inching me towards an offer.

The interviewer called his producer, the next person up the chain of command, to ask if he had a moment to meet with me. The producer did, but only for a minute. That was my minute to sell myself, and I was ready.

I walked confidently into the producer’s office, we shook hands, and I sat down. I had rehearsed answers to all the possible questions they could ask about my goals, my experience, and what I could bring to the company.

But he asked the one question I hadn’t anticipated:

“Do you have another copy of your résumé?”

And the answer was no. I had sent one in with an impeccable cover letter when I applied, which is how I got in the door to begin with. I assumed, rightly, that the interviewer would have a copy in front of him while we chatted, but it never occurred to me that somebody else might want one, too.

Wasting valuable time

I scrambled back to the first interviewer’s office to ask for his copy of my résumé to bring back to his producer. I raced back to the waiting producer’s office, and he read it over while we chatted briefly, but by then I realized the unwinnable situation I had just put myself in.

This busy New York City TV producer, who had spared some of his valuable time for me, had been kept waiting because I was young, disorganized, and unprepared.

I didn’t get the job.

But I did learn the lesson. Never again would I show up at a job interview without more copies of my résumé than I could possibly need. As my career advanced, my portfolios grew to include writing samples, performance reviews, and other relevant artifacts that testified to my skills and assets, and I brought those, too — multiple copies of each, one for anyone in the office who wanted to meet me on interview day.

Now, whenever I write a résumé for a client, I share this anecdote with them as they prepare for applications and the ensuing interviews. Because as important as it is to have a strong résumé when applying for a job, it’s just as vital to bring it with you every time.


The Syracuse Pen provides résumé, writing, and editing services for students, professionals and small businesses. Visit our home page for more information about what we can do for you.