Career Coaching fun!

Jan 14, 2009 by

Dave Jones - one of many

Flickr image: Dave Jones - one of many

I recently attended the American Humanics Management Institute, held in Indianapolis, IN. AH does a ton of amazing work preparing the next generation of nonprofit leaders for the workforce. The main audiences for AHMI are students and the campus directors who help make their programs happen. In addition to those folks, AHMI also brings together Humanics’ nonprofit partners from around the country, like yours truly. I attended it last year when the Institute was held in Kansas City and had a great time, so going back was a no-brainer. I got involved in a bunch of activities this year, but I think my favorite was career coaching with the students.

Now, let me be clear: I am in no way a professional career coach. But I have looked for a bunch of jobs and been a professional nonprofit employee for close to 7 years, so I thought it might be helpful to bring some of that experience to bear with the AHMI students. Plus, it was fun! I met with two students for 30 minutes a piece and each had different career issues on which they wanted guidance.

The first young woman has some questions about her resume. She presented me with a two page long list of all of her accomplishments and experience. I immediately recommended cutting it down by at least half. She seem surprised – apparently a professor recommended making it that long…um, huh? I can see having a two page plus resume after 20 or more years of experience, but right out of college? Not quite. The other thing I noticed right off the bat was a lot of vagueness in describing her job duties for each listed position. I think that resumes should provide quantifiable (if possible) and specific information about job roles and responsibilities – the task-oriented stuff in other words. By contrast, the cover letter should go into the bigger picture, skill-based info; how can your former or current job responsibilities translate into the job you want to get?

I also gave her my thoughts and opinions on a couple of other resume issues. Personally, I like to avoid those “objective” statements in resumes and list my educational info toward the bottom. Objectives always seem like kind of a waste of space to me – obviously you want a job at my company, so why not spend your time explaining why I should hire you above the other 50+ people who applied? In terms of the education listing, I started that when I was a recent undergrad, mostly to de-emphasize that fact that I was so young. I continue with it now because I really believe that my experience is more important than my (bachelor’s) degree.  When (if?) I get my Master’s, I may have to reevaluate that decision.

The second young woman had a simple, but profound and difficult to answer question: how do i find a job? Wow! If I knew the answer to that, I’d be making the big bucks…was my first thought. But then I regrouped. I thought about all the job searches I’ve done and all the ground work I’ve done in preparation for my next search and the answer became (somewhat) clear. I recommended that she focus on two parallel tracks for searching: first, the traditional job-seeking search through websites, aggregators, newspapers and any other job listings available; second (but maybe more important), working her personal and professional networks.

Over time I’ve become a die-hard believer in the power of networks and networking. It was through my networks that I got my fabulous job at the Utica College Womyn’s Resource Center as well as my first post-college job at the Feminist Majority. Friends drew me to another job at NARAL Pro-Choice America and things have continued from there. I recommended she join me on LinkedIn and put out the call to all of her friends, professional contacts, professors, family and others about her job search. In service of that goal, I also recommended she peruse a fabulous free e-book from Chris Brogan, community and social media guru, on using the social web to find work. How can you go wrong with all these amazing tools and resources at your disposal?!

What do you think? Am I totally off-base about the resume elements? Are there more tips for enterprising young nonprofit professionals to consider when looking for jobs? Anyone out there looking for a totally amateur career coach? 🙂

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