Are you a Swiss Army Knife?
Today’s featured job seeker is facing a dilemma that is increasingly common. Brendan Tripp has had a long, diverse career that has developed his skills in a variety of areas. He’s doing a lot of things right in his search – he’s active on social media, and he’s a regular contributor to a Chicago area job seeker blog. Though he is qualified for more than one kind of role, employers are not responding, which has resulted in extended unemployment. I asked Brendan about his experience, and at the end I’ll share some tips that may help Brendan, and others in his situation.
You describe yourself as a Generalist. If you could write your own job description and get hired today, what would that job look like?
It would be a communications gig that encompassed classic Public Relations, Web development, Social management, Conferences/Events, Publications (dead tree and digital), Audio and Video production, various Marketing elements, even Graphic design.
What have you done to try to target specific jobs?
I try to steer the attention in the cover letter to terms used in the job description. I’m happiest when “wearing many hats” but am willing to go into a job that’s only using 1/5th or so of my skill sets. I’ve described the situation as my being a Swiss Army Knife . One employer is looking for a Phillips screwdriver, I have all the function of the screwdriver, but they’re looking for something with a yellow handle, and the next is looking for a bottle opener. I have 100% of what’s needed for the job, but they’re envisioning something else. Most places [employers] these days are looking for a particular complex polygonal piece to specifically fit into a tightly defined hole, and if you’re bringing MORE to the job, it just confuses the recruiters and other gatekeepers.
Which of your previous jobs gave you the most inherent personal satisfaction? What was it about that job that made it a great fit for you?
I ran my own publishing company for a decade. While I worked 14 hours a day, 7 days a week on that (literally), I loved the immersion in it all … I used to quip that “I did everything but write the books” (which included editing, design, typesetting, contracting printing, negotiating deals, warehousing, pr/advertising, and yes, even sales) in that role.
I also really liked my last job, where I was Director of Communications for a “metaverse developer”, working primarily in the virtual world of Second Life. I had to invent systems for doing publicity “in world”, which was fascinating. As the company shrank in the economy of ’08-’09, I kept taking over parts of the business when other people left … by the end I was publishing a line of books, cranking out almost all of our web code, doing the graphics, developing events (both live and virtual), and writing all our proposals, pamphlets, and promotional materials, on top of my main PR functions.
It’s bragging time. What career accomplishments are you most proud of?
- I led projects where some simple regional PR grew brands (in the absence of any advertising) for major blue-chip clients
- I turned what had started out as just a way to publish my own poetry into a respected niche press
- I took a client’s mess of scattered web elements and pulled them into a Social Media based hub that hit “the Alexa hundred thousand” within a few months of its launch.
How does this illustrate your personal brand?
I suspect I have to go back to the Swiss Army Knife concept for a “personal brand” image. I have experience doing a wide range of different functions, and producing excellent work in each.
Are you a Swiss Army Knife too? Are you facing similar challenges in applying for specialized jobs? If so, here are some tips from ResumeSmith you may find helpful:
- Use multiple versions of your resume. If you are qualified for 5 job types, have a specific resume targeted to each kind of role. While remaining honest about your work history, you can select only the accomplishments and skills most relevant to that kind of position to highlight. Chose only the key words or skills required for that job to include in the summary, and instead of using a “Summary” heading, use “Qualified for JOB TITLE”. In these cases, less is more. To use Brendan’s polygon analogy: if the employer is asking for a hexagon, and you’re an octagon, leave off the additional two skill sets so you appear to be a hexagon. By having multiple versions of your resume ready, it saves time during the application process. Any additional targeting can be addressed in the cover letter as Brendan has been doing.
- Only include the most recent 10-15 years of work history. Many job seekers in Brendan’s situation are baby boomers, and are victims of age discrimination as well as discrimination as long-term unemployed. There is no rule that says you must include your entire career history – in fact, many recruiters prefer that you don’t. The only exception to this would be if you are targeting jobs where your oldest work history is the only relevant experience you have to offer. For most job seekers, this is not the case. So, leave older jobs off your resume and LinkedIn profile.
- Remove graduation dates. Unless you are a recent graduate and you are relying on your degree as a primary qualification, there is no need to list a graduation date. It reveals your age unnecessarily.
- Be sure to use the right resume format. Recruiters prefer Word documents (in .doc format, not the newer .docx) over PDF format. Some ATS systems can’t scan your PDF for key words the way it can scan a Word doc. Set your margins and page breaks to be sure it will look the same with other print drivers and on Macs. Additionally, if the employer’s ATS requires you to paste a text-only resume into a web form, format it so that it’s still easy for a recruiter to read. Even ASCII (text only) resumes can have line breaks to add white space, and you can use tildes ~~~ or equal signs === to create borders, as well as ** for bullet points. Spend some time formatting your .txt resume once, and it becomes easy to paste it into web forms quickly and still have great formatting.
- Conduct a social media audit. Up to 80% of recruiters will Google you before calling for an interview. They’ll check more than just your LinkedIn profile. They’ll read your Facebook posts, blog posts, and anything else they find. If you have anything public that you wouldn’t discuss in a job interview, you should either remove it or adjust your privacy settings to keep your personal life personal.