In the 20+ years that I have been Chairman of The FENG, I have heard more nonsense about job search approaches than any of you would believe. Some of the most accepted practices such as leaving off graduation dates and the proverbial “to present,” even when you have been gone for several months, are so well accepted that those who adhere to these practices don’t believe me when I tell them it simply doesn’t work.
If instead of accusing some well-respected members of our august body of lying, let me instead “lower my voice” and suggest instead that they are at times using ineffective approaches in their search.
Life is a continual negotiation with others. Let me characterize two very different kinds of negotiations. The first is the sale of a car or house. This transaction is one where you are under no legal obligation to be totally honest or truthful. While I would find it a little unethical to misrepresent the condition of a car or house, the prospective buyer has many resources available to test any statements you might make as to value or condition. And, the wise buyer will avail himself of all reasonable experts before laying down his money. You are not obligated to reveal everything you might possibly know, unless you are asked. Dressing things up a bit is expected. The recently repainted rooms, or in the case of a car, having it washed and perhaps even having the engine steam cleaned are all valued techniques. But, the most important element of this transaction is that once it is closed, you will likely never see these people again.
Negotiations for jobs are an animal of a different breed. In this transaction, everything you say and do WILL be held against you. You need to recognize that you are in this for the long haul. If you tell people you are capable of doing X, Y or Z, you had better be able to deliver or you risk getting fired. Fooling your way into a job doesn’t work and isn’t a good idea.
For nearly 10 years, I was CFO of an advertising agency. We were VERY good at what we did. We could literally sell snow to Eskimos. The only problem was that we were so good that we almost put some of our clients out of business. There are a lot of misconceptions about advertising. Advertising creates trial. You should also know that one happy customer tells one other person. One unhappy customer tells TEN. Therein was the problem. In several cases we created so much traffic for our clients that they couldn’t handle, we almost drove them into bankruptcy.
Key to your understanding of marketing your skills to potential employers is what I call “Looking for love in all the wrong places.” For the most part, and I know there are some very young members of The FENG who are only in their late 30’s or early 40’s, our market is not in large corporations, but rather middle market organizations for whom “been there and done that” is all they are interested in. Learning on the job is not something they have time for. And, the only reason a senior level financial type gets a job at one of these firms is that they have SERIOUS problems. Large corporations rarely hire senior level officers because they prefer to grow their own. Any high level job that comes open has a dozen highly qualified executives waiting to be chosen. If they go outside, the best 3 leave the company.
So back to presenting your skills in your most important document which we call your resume.
While a 3 page resume is somewhat acceptable, 2 pages is the norm. Not a lot of space and you really do have to make the most of it. And, call me Mr. Magoo, but an 8 point type face isn’t going to help your cause. I accept that only the most recent 10 years are of REAL interest. That doesn’t mean you can leave off everything older. It only means there is less interest in your early career. Accomplishments for those early jobs can be brief or nonexistent. What one looks for is a career track. If you had a lot of jobs with one firm as I did, you can simplify if you need the space. If you had a few W-2 jobs for very short periods of time, as in months rather than years, you may leave them off. If you had early jobs not relevant to your career to pay your way through college, leave them off.
What I would ask those who provide what I consider to be unusual advice, what is their proof that it actually helps you get a job?
I have no doubt that it MIGHT help you get an interview to fudge the truth in reasonable ways, but does it help you build the trust that is needed to get past the interview and receive a job offer?
Consider the last time someone fooled you into interviewing them or even hiring them when they were not what you believed them to be. How did you feel? If you felt duped and embarrassed that you didn’t pick up on the signals, did that give you a “warm fuzzy,” or just the opposite?
Age discrimination is, of course, out there and it IS illegal. But keep the context in mind. It is at firms that would most likely not hire you anyway. Your age and your wealth of experience IS the valued product that “customers” in OUR market are looking for.
People are working well into their 70’s these days if they are in good health. While a company may not be willing to move you after a certain age, local firms in OUR market are more than happy to “take a chance” that you will survive the mere 5 years that most jobs last. It is sort of a no brainer.
The last point I would like to make is that most of the resumes I see that incorporate the “thinking” of these urban legend experts are easy to spot by anyone who reads resumes for a living. Senior level jobs early in your career jump off the page and scream “missing information.”
They don’t further your goal of getting a dream job.