Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. The Five Files: A Different Way to Think About Job Searching

 

career-changeOver the years, I’ve helped a lot of people write their résumés and cover letters. Not one of them enjoyed putting them together. It’s a lot of work. I once read an article about the steps companies should take to retain their favorite employees. The author pointed out that employees who left were most likely to do so in their first year. I laughed because I knew why: Those new hires had just gone through the job search process, their résumé and contact list were up to date, they were used to making phone calls, and they were used to interviews: “If I don’t want to stay here, I don’t have to.”

Let me give you some good advice based on having helped a lot of people with job searches.

1. Update your master résumé twice a year.

On January 1 and June 1, take out your résumé and list of contacts and update them. (Better yet, take a second to update these every time you do something or meet someone, and then just edit these documents twice a year. It shouldn’t take you long at all to edit them if the details are all there.)

2. Keep a running list of contacts.

I keep all of my family members, friends, volunteer organizations, and professional associates in one list. As for your professional contacts, include everyone who is important to your work life, both inside and outside the office. Look for connections in your professional life, keeping in mind that you might be able to help someone else who needs an introduction at some point. Think of yourself as overseeing your own personal customer relationship management program. Keep in touch with people you like.

The key to maintaining an up-to-date résumé and list of contacts is to make it easy to access them. I keep both pinned to my start-up menu.

3. Keep a list of completed projects.

Create another master document that contains a list of projects you’ve completed — including projects from your volunteer life, your study life, your hobbies, and all of your career projects. Set up a document organized chronologically and divided by years. It should be a simple, one-item-to-a-line list of projects completed. Put in as much information as you need to jog your memory five years from now.

This list will help you in many situations, but it’s most valuable when you’re writing cover letters and preparing for interviews. It can even be the basis of an addendum to your résumé. People who are evaluating candidates love how-many and how-much of thus-and-such numbers. The more numbers you can give them, the better. (“I sold x cars.” “I handled x accounts.” “I created x ads.”) Having a list of specific projects that you’ve worked on and can talk about in detail will go a long way toward easing any self-consciousness you might feel in talking or writing about yourself. These are simple, objective facts, not bragging.

About fifteen years ago, I started keeping a list of all the books I’ve edited. I’ve referred to it a hundred times for one thing or another, and my only regret is that I didn’t start it on Day One of my career. The best thing of all is that I have a sense of accomplishment — and that’s a good thing to have on those inevitable rainy career days.

4. Keep a career artifacts file.

Keep a file in which you place things, chronologically, that are the actual artifacts of your career or volunteer life: a report you wrote, a grant application you composed, the program from a conference you attended, your notes from the speech you gave at town meeting, and the bumper sticker from the political campaign you helped out on.

5. Keep an ego file.

Every time someone writes a nice note to you to thank you for something you did, stick it in this file. Print out any nice e-mails you get from associates or co-workers from time to time, and stick the copy in your ego file. (And by the way, send out your own notes to your coworkers and associates: “Great presentation!” “Good job!” “Beautiful book cover design.” People always remember the people who brightened their day. And it’s a great way to keep in touch with people. And it’s really fun to brighten someone’s day.) The file will grow over time, and it might help you in a job search sometime, either looking for references or for job leads.

So that’s five kinds of records that you can reach for at a moment’s notice: (1) master résumé, (2) list of contacts, (3) list of projects completed, (4) artifacts file, and (5) ego file.

I’ve known so many talented, creative, highly accomplished people who have been caught off guard by change they didn’t ask for or expect. There’s an emotional aspect to the experience that hits them like a ton of bricks. And I’ve known many other people who stayed for too long in jobs that didn’t suit them. If you’re always ready to change direction, no one can ever devastate your emotional life and your self-confidence.

So rather than beginning a job search, think of yourself as always on the lookout for new, more challenging jobs and for new opportunities. Keep these records anyway, so that even if you have a solid job with a lifetime guarantee, your records will be ready for you if you want to expand your horizons by running for a political office or applying to be on your town’s finance committee. Or you might need to bolster your spirits some disappointing day at work or pick yourself up when someone in your work life or your volunteer life has given you a hard time about something.

I worked on a fun and helpful book a few years ago by Douglas Merrill: Getting Organized in the Google Era. Merrill was formerly the chief information officer for Google, and his book is part story, part lists of his favorite music, and part organizing strategies. It makes organizing your personal records as painless as it can be.

Also, Ricochet’s own Seawriter has written two posts that contain a tremendous amount of good advice for people in the job market: “What I Learned on Layoff,” Part I and Part II. There are at least a hundred excellent ideas in both posts and their comments.

Most important, when you are in between jobs, just know nearly everyone’s been there too at one time or another, and usually the story ends well.

There are 26 comments.

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  1. Annefy Member

    Going to share this with my kids and their peers. Fantastic advice.

    Advice I wish someone had given me years ago.

    Thanks.

    • #1
    • January 17, 2016, at 2:03 AM PST
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  2. Arahant Member

    Thank you. As an old database guy, I’m liking your groupings of information.

    • #2
    • January 17, 2016, at 3:45 AM PST
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  3. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama ToadJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Thanks Marci. Will share with job seekers I know…

    • #3
    • January 17, 2016, at 4:26 AM PST
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  4. Seawriter Contributor

    Excellent advice. I’ll let my boss know I have read this.

    Seawriter

    • #4
    • January 17, 2016, at 4:49 AM PST
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  5. Seawriter Contributor

    Also, if I may – February is approaching. That means a new Group Writing project is being organized.

    With Group Writing we get a group of Ricochetti to write individual conversations or essays around a central theme, hopefully one conversation per day. Our theme is February is Special Days, and you can find out more (and sign up) by clicking on the link.

    Consider participating again if you have done it before – or simply participating if you never have in the past. Our monthly Group Writing project is one way we encourage new members to jump in the Member Feed pool and start posting conversation. You can do it – and may discover it is a lot of fun.

    Seawriter

    • #5
    • January 17, 2016, at 4:55 AM PST
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  6. Jules PA Member

    Great Post MarciN.

    Thank you!

    • #6
    • January 17, 2016, at 7:05 AM PST
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  7. Susan Quinn Contributor

    Well-written and very practical!

    • #7
    • January 17, 2016, at 7:22 AM PST
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  8. Tuck Inactive

    Great post. Thanks.

    • #8
    • January 17, 2016, at 8:15 AM PST
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  9. RightAngles Member

    Great advice from an accomplished person!

    • #9
    • January 17, 2016, at 8:56 AM PST
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  10. MarciN Member
    MarciN

    I am overwhelmed to see this on the Main Feed. What a surprise!

    The editing is fantastic–thank you for smoothing out all of the awkward wordings that I couldn’t fix. :)

    • #10
    • January 17, 2016, at 9:11 AM PST
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  11. MarciN Member
    MarciN

    Annefy:Going to share this with my kids and their peers. Fantastic advice.

    Advice I wish someone had given me years ago.

    Thanks.

    Please do. The hardest hurdle for people to get over is the first one: Where do I start?

    Thank you.

    • #11
    • January 17, 2016, at 9:13 AM PST
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  12. Nick Stuart Inactive

    When looking for a job, remember that if you applied for a job you were actually qualified for, and don’t get it, it almost certainly didn’t have anything to do with your qualifications, and probably nothing to do with you personally.

    Reasons you don’t get the job include:

    • It was already filled before it was posted
    • The resume screening computer didn’t like your resume
    • The HR Flacks didn’t like your resume (evaluating resumes from qualified candidates is almost purely subjective)
    • The company is looking to fill a particular demographic niche, and you’re not it
    • The hiring manager is looking for a new best friend forever or someone to go to lunch with
    • You were insufficiently facile with your memorized/practiced response to interview questions like “If you were a color, what flavor would you be?”
    • The world is made of snow (some crazytown reason like you used a blue pen on the application, or wore a striped tie).

    To find a job you have to eat a cubic yard of manure. There’s no way around it. You just have to grab your spoon and get started. Maybe everything will fall into place exactly right for you and you’ll be able to get by having ingested only a couple of ounces.

    But never forget, it really isn’t about you.

    • #12
    • January 17, 2016, at 10:27 AM PST
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  13. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor

    MarciN:I am overwhelmed to see this on the Main Feed. What a surprise!

    The editing is fantastic–thank you for smoothing out all of the awkward wordings that I couldn’t fix. :)

    A compliment indeed coming from a professional editor!

    • #13
    • January 17, 2016, at 10:27 AM PST
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  14. MarciN Member
    MarciN

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    MarciN:I am overwhelmed to see this on the Main Feed. What a surprise!

    The editing is fantastic–thank you for smoothing out all of the awkward wordings that I couldn’t fix. :)

    A compliment indeed coming from a professional editor!

    Thank you. You really made it better. I had so many people in mind that I was trying to talk to that I made a mess out of it. Also, I’ve been working on it for three weeks, and it got worse and worse with each passing day.

    Thank you so much. :) :)

    • #14
    • January 17, 2016, at 10:35 AM PST
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  15. Hammer, The Member

    oh, my! Just thinking of job searching gives me a stomach ache!

    • #15
    • January 17, 2016, at 11:09 AM PST
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  16. Casey Inactive

    Literally the only thing motivating me to go to work every day is the thought of losing my job and having to write a resume. But at least now I know who I’m gonna call the minute I do need one.

    • #16
    • January 17, 2016, at 11:45 AM PST
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  17. MarciN Member
    MarciN

    I just want to emphasize one thing: add the people you like, those people you meet and click with right off the bat (is that a mixed metaphor?), to your contacts list. Chances are excellent that they like you too.

    • #17
    • January 17, 2016, at 12:27 PM PST
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  18. Percival Thatcher
    PercivalJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Good piece, Marci. Thanks.

    • #18
    • January 17, 2016, at 12:45 PM PST
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  19. Liz Member

    Great post, Marci. I’m saving it, and will share, too!

    • #19
    • January 17, 2016, at 1:01 PM PST
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  20. MarciN Member
    MarciN

    Thanks, guys. I was dreading this, and it has turned out to be a lot of fun. :)

    • #20
    • January 17, 2016, at 1:11 PM PST
    • Like
  21. Seawriter Contributor

    MarciN:Thanks, guys. I was dreading this, and it has turned out to be a lot of fun. :)

    If you want some more fun, you can sign up for a day in February. We are seeking volunteers. The theme is Special Days, and you can read about it here.

    Seawriter

    • #21
    • January 17, 2016, at 1:22 PM PST
    • Like
  22. Teresa Mendoza Inactive

    Casey:Literally the only thing motivating me to go to work every day is the thought of losing my job and having to write a resume. But at least now I know who I’m gonna call the minute I do need one.

    You and me both, Casey. Actually, I’m even more discouraged about finding a new job after reading this. I have never done any of the suggested tasks. Plus, I’m old.

    • #22
    • January 17, 2016, at 4:22 PM PST
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  23. MarciN Member
    MarciN

    TerMend:

    Casey:Literally the only thing motivating me to go to work every day is the thought of losing my job and having to write a resume. But at least now I know who I’m gonna call the minute I do need one.

    You and me both, Casey. Actually, I’m even more discouraged about finding a new job after reading this. I have never done any of the suggested tasks. Plus, I’m old.

    That just gives you more achievements to list. :)

    • #23
    • January 17, 2016, at 4:43 PM PST
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  24. TempTime Member

    Love this MarciN. You are a continuing inspiration to me. I will put this one in my “RicoKeep” file.

    • #24
    • January 17, 2016, at 7:13 PM PST
    • Like
  25. MarciN Member
    MarciN

    TempTime:Love this MarciN. You are a continuing inspiration to me. I will put this one in my “RicoKeep” file.

    Thank you. :)

    • #25
    • January 17, 2016, at 7:55 PM PST
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  26. MarciN Member
    MarciN

    If you haven’t put a resume together for a while, you could try taking a couple of weeks to do it, a tiny bit each day, and it would get itself done.

    So day 1 you’d start a document and just put the heading in. Day 2 and day 3, write the education section. Day 4, your first job, day 5, your second job, and so on.

    While your working on it, put a folder together that contains any hard copies of the documents you dig up and refer to while you are writing each tiny portion.

    • #26
    • January 18, 2016, at 9:35 AM PST
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