How Geography Plays A Role In Your Job Hunt Part 2: Reader Stories and Feedback

purple globe sm.jpgTopics that generate the most reader interest have focused on: resumes, retirement planning, age discrimination, jobs outsourcing, and salary negotiations. However, Part 1 of 'How geography or relocation issues play a role in a veteran's job hunt' generated by far the most reader feedback.

For this reason, I decided to share some of the job hunting stories of the column's readers. While each of these stories has a local twist, they all can be useful to the job-seeking veteran, no matter where he or she lives.

In this article, I'll share four reader stories. My comments will follow each story. The stories are:

  • Seeking a Human Resources Job in Tennessee
  • I Want To Go Back To Michigan!
  • Outsourced in Massachusetts
  • Highly Skilled in Louisiana

Seeking a Human Resources job in Tennessee

This jobhunter is a former Marine Reservist and veteran of Desert Storm. He has about 10 years of management experience with about 6 years in a Human Resources position. He has worked in a variety of industries--food service, financial, retail and industrial service--and is presently a general manager of a restaurant. His present career goal is to return to Human Resources but has been searching for a position in Tennessee and "has received no phone calls whatsoever."

When I reviewed his resume, I found it to be professional in presentation. He itemized his qualifications in the following manner:

"Team builder with leadership qualities and working knowledge of organizational methodologies. A professional with proven ability in execution of strategic plans, implementing new processes and employee development. A candidate with a strong work ethic combined with a commitment to excellence in all projects undertaken."

Sounds pretty good, doesn't it? (I think it does.)

Then, why can't an experienced, articulate, management professional, with a Masters in Business Administration, and quite a list of career accomplishments, get an employer to call him for an interview?

Before answering that question, I surveyed several of the mass-market, jobs websites to see what the "published" job market was offering in Tennessee. What I found were hundreds of jobs for Human Resources Assistants but only a handful for Human Resources managers.

This is the classic geographical job-hunting problem: highly qualified candidate with a weak market for his level of expertise. This situation always makes job hunting very competitive.

How can he remedy his job-hunting problem?

I reviewed the job requirements of the published positions for Human Resources Managers. What are they telling us? That is, what are the employers who wrote these job ads say they need.

I found these requirements mentioned over and over again:

  • Multi-unit HR support in a retail environment is highly desirable!
  • Compensation package in the upper 50s to low 60s. Union and automotive experience preferred.
  • Seeking experienced, energetic Human Resources Professional to work in start-up operation.
  • Prior experience in a start-up operation.

These "competitive" job requirements tell us that employers are searching for people with experience in their industry, who can handle more than one installation and are satisfied with a moderate salary.

Does our TN job hunter have these requirements?

After talking to him, I'd say, yes he does. But he did not "broadcast" them up front in his resume or cover letter. His current job as a restaurant manager (on page 1 of his resume) "hid" his Human Resources experience (on page 3 of his resume). This is our job hunter's main problem.

He has to review how he is marketing himself with respect to an employer's needs. He has to research the job market he is operating in and determine how he must market himself to be competitive.

His resume did not "advertise" him as someone who had what an employer was really seeking. Rather, he had a general resume that described what he had done. The resume screener would have had to spend some time with it to dig up the buried information. It's no wonder he had received no calls for interviews.

Always remember that a resume is less a historical employment record and more a persuasive employment proposal. Records are kept in a dusty vault while proposals are living documents that people take to "live" meetings and discuss their contents prior to making decisions.

I Want To Go Back To Michigan!

This job hunter is an Air Force retiree who wants to return home to Michigan. He is looking for something aerospace-related but says his "search and efforts have not been productive."

He attributes his lack of success to government budget cuts. To his credit, even though he wants to go back home, he is aware that his top secret clearance has market value. But he has "avoided security clearance job rich areas like FL, VA, D.C. and CA for now as I hope to find something near home."

He has been applying for civil service jobs. He reports that, "after my 12th interview for a GS job in MI/OH, I am ready to give up. In every case the agency filled the position internally, even though I was 'highly qualified'. I have applied via the Internet to major aerospace/defense companies but I can't seem to stand out from the other thousands of applicants. I am trying to expand my network people contacts but I am at the end of my list."

What is unique about this job hunter is that he is much more strategic about his career transition than most people. It appears he has a multi-channel job hunt approach and understands the impact of competition.

Before writing back to our MI-wishful job hunter, I visited the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) website to get a sense of the state's local economic trends. The data are not encouraging. Looking at the major metro areas of Michigan and starting with Detroit, the micro-economic picture is a dim. Detroit has negative job growth. The smaller metros are a bit better but not much.

The BLS data breaks out the data into major industries in the state. Listed below are MI industries ranked from the biggest employers to the least:

1. trades, transportation utilities
2. manufacturing
3. government
4. professional and business services
5. financial
6. education and health services
7. leisure and hospitality
8. financial
9. construction

Not much in the way of aviation or aerospace. This is probably the underlying problem of his job hunt. Aerospace isn't one of Michigan's big employers.

I also went to several mass-market, jobs websites to get a feel for who and what MI employers are looking for. The most frequent jobs that popped up were in sales and marketing. I looked through about 500 job ads.

These results make sense even though my conclusions from the quick check survey are not based on some statistical model. Why? Sales and marketing jobs are business development positions, which always lead the job creation curve. Once new business is booked, management, administrative and support positions are created.

This means that for our MI job hunter to get back home he must not only change industries but he must also apply his job skills in a new type of position--the double whammy career transition!

For example, his resume says he has done financial analysis, cost-accounting and planning in the military/aerospace field. He has to apply these same skills to a new business such as construction or automotive, etc.

His existing cover letter and resume do not reflect the necessary industry-and-position transition. His cover letter is targeted for aerospace/airline skills. Without changing it, MI employers would either see him as overqualified or mismatched.

Outsourced in Massachusetts

This job hunter is an Air Force retiree who has a Bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering and a Master's degree in Quality Systems Management. He has worked as a QA manager for several information technology (IT) companies over the years but always found himself laid off because "they didn't need a Quality Manager." In 2001, he found himself back on the job market because "after nine months their stock nose-dived and I was laid off again." Since then, he has worked temporary jobs.

When I reviewed his resume and cover letter, the first thing I noticed was his post-military career path has primarily been in the IT industry. Well, anyone who reads the newspapers or listens to politicians give speeches knows that information technology jobs are being sucked out of the country (outsourced) at a rapid rate. His job problems are indirectly attributed to this current symptom of globalization.

Initially, he contacted me because he thought he needed to redo his resume. This is a very common reaction of job hunters. But his resume was well-written. This makes sense because in his QA positions he was responsible for writing procedures and manuals and presenting training seminars. This man knows how to communicate.

What he did not realize was the effect of the global economy on his industry. So, what can he do?

Once again, you have to ask yourself the local economy question: What industries are creating jobs in Massachusetts. This was easy to find out: the biotech and medical industries.

So our MA job hunter has two choices:

1. Re-purpose his resume and cover letter to pursue QA employment in a new industry. From IT to the Biotech industry; or
2. Re-focus his job hunt to emphasize his supporting job skills: technical writing, training or project management.

Highly Skilled in Louisiana

This job hunter is an Army veteran with over twenty-five years experience in "Business Operations and Management including Program Management, Process Re-Engineering, Policy/Procedure Development, Test & Evaluation, IV&V, Sustainment, Integrated Logistics, Systems Engineering, System/Software Development and Daily Operations and Maintenance." His most recent position was working for a small company doing consulting work. He was extremely well paid but when the company's contract ended, so did his position.

He is seeking a "direct hire" position but has had some interviews but nothing firm. This job hunter has used an approach that most military vets have not used. He tailors his cover letter and resume to a specific job for a specific company and he mails his package directly to the CEOs (chief executive officers) of companies, bypassing Human Resources, hiring managers, headhunters, etc.

When I reviewed his resume, I said to myself, "Wow! He has done everything." It was well-written. But it was very long, about five pages.

When I mentioned to him about the length, he told me, "I used to have a two-page resume but it wasn't getting me anywhere. Some recruiters and others told me it needed to have more information, more specifics, so, I put together what you reviewed. The 5-page resume you reviewed has gotten me some calls and interviews, which is better than the zero I got with the two pager."

As an aside, I found his comment about resumes highly interesting. I have been often chastised by recruiters and headhunters who read this column and disagree with my assertion that a resume's depth is much more important than its length. I personally feel the length is not important if the job candidate is worthy of a long resume. This vet's resume was. Always remember to be open to experimenting and not always listen to the so-called experts. Do whatever works for you. For this man, a long resume worked while a short one did not.

Since his resume is getting him some calls, it really is doing its job. So, this job hunter's problem has less to do with the content narratives of his resume than with how he is using it in the jobs marketplace.

First off, he should contact an executive recruiter. He has an excellent track record and would be an attractive placement.

If he decides to go-it-alone, he needs to be conscious of the fact that in today's job market, he must focus and chunk his skills so it is in a quickly information-digestible format.

He should choose several areas of expertise. (For example, choose several for this list: contracts management, vendor relations, supply chain management, including logistics, distribution, warehousing, procurement, outsourcing and inventory control.) Then, re-purpose his resume highlighting the one professional theme up front while mentioning in abbreviated fashion his supporting skills and experience later in his resume.

He also needs to write a letter for each resume "theme" and target industries he knows. Continue to submit the resume to the CEO but also make a follow up call as well.

Finally, this job hunter needs to get some "face time." He needs to network and get on the business breakfast/lunch networking circuit. This is where business deals and jobs are sealed for his high level of management.

Lessons and Final Thoughts

Let's recap what we have discussed in this article and attempt to draw some conclusions about geography's role in job hunting.

Our TN job hunter faces a local job market of few jobs for his level of expertise. He needs to re-market his resume and letter in terms of not only his experience but employers' most pressing needs.

Our MI job hunter faces a regional job market that has little demand for his direct job skills. He needs to not only change industries but also change the type of position he is seeking.

Our MA job hunter faces a regional market where his industry is losing jobs. He needs to re-market himself for an industry change. If that is not viable, he needs to examine his supporting job skills and re-purpose his resume and letter to make them his primary skills.

Our LA job hunter faces a market that views him as a high-priced consultant. He needs to simplify his dense resume and focus and several professional areas and re-market himself for those areas.

. . .

I think there is a simple lesson to be learned from the experiences of these job hunters. In each case, they all (perhaps unconsciously) applied the military philosophy of employee acquisition: document all their experience and let the employer determine where it needs his skills.

While this philosophy works well for the military, in the civilian business sector, I have found they always seek out the specialist. This means a job hunter must focus and target his job hunt for a specific industry and a specific position. He must also form a self-marketing strategy the sets him apart from the other candidates in order to project a high level of competitiveness.

Randall Scasny

All opinions, advice, statements or other information expressed in this article are solely the author's and do not necessarily express the opinions of or the publisher.

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