How do I craft my resume and job search to find a job I will love?
July 2, 2014 12:58 PM   Subscribe

I had been developing what I thought was a good career, but now I've hit a bump in the road and I'm experiencing frustration in finding a employer I want to stick with. I don't like the last few places I worked at and I'm not proud of the work I did while there. Please help me decide how to craft my resume and job search! More (wall of text) inside...

My current resume is in reverse chronological order, with the most recent job being near the top. Putting in the last two jobs I had would make it very obvious that I look like a job hopper. This however is NOT who I want to be - in the past I held a job (let's call this Job A) for several years, was last to be laid off and first hired back during the recession and held that job for another three years before I decided it was time to move to another company to grow professionally. I left Job A amicably with plenty of notice but I have no desire to return there.

This was all fine and dandy and I found work at Job B with the promise of learning about project management. Something new! I was excited. Unfortunately, after six months at Job B I felt like I was learning even less than I had at Job A as they had problems micromanaging their employees. I was suffocating and went back on the job hunt. I found Job C which seemed good enough on paper but when I started I discovered it was the opposite - the boss was never around and the project was a complete disaster. (In the interview I did ask what project I would be working on, but he was not clear I'd be working on this one or the horrible state this one was in - in hindsight I don't even think he realizes the extent to which it's a mess, despite what I tried to tell him.) While there was no time allotted for any sort of learning curve or project familiarization, I did what I could to clean things up and get things done - I did pretty well in this department but the few times the boss came around he was never fully pleased. So after three months of stress and frustration at Job C, I was let go.

So now I'm at home, unemployed. I made space on my resume for Job B, and was able to drum up a few mediocre bullet points about the type of work I did there but it is lack luster compared to what I have listed with Job A. It makes me cringe to think about putting Job C on there, which according to the chronological order of my resume it should go at the top. Should I just leave Job C off completely? What about Job B, does that stay on? If I took off both Job B (6 month stint) and C (3 month stint) there would be an 9 month gap from Job A until now. Should I completely rearrange my resume, so that way dates aren't as important? Is there a way to shuffle Job B further down the resume? How would that work?

On another note that I could also use advice on - Jobs B and C have really taken a hit on my self confidence. The take away I've gotten from both jobs is that I need to improve on the communication front. I either need to behave completely, do as I'm told and never speak up when I disagree, or become a full on head strong opinionated employee that speaks her mind all the time - something that could bring more trouble than it is worth. I've tried to walk the line between the two with mixed results. (As a woman in male dominated workplaces I'm finding some difficulty breaking through and holding my ground.)

One last thing I'm possibly considering is moving back home to Denver - I've been in NYC for over eight years, and while I love it here (outside of work), there's so much to do and I've developed a wonderful community of friends from many different walks of life... this may be a good time to relocate to be closer to my parents. They're getting older and there many not be that many good years left - it might be time. Maybe employers will be different there? I do notice that the job market is not as saturated for my industry. I am not certain about that idea though, as I feel like I may still have another couple years of NYC left in me. I don't know. I do feel a bit beat down and I think I just need to rustle up some confidence again. As much as I'd like to take some time and recoup, I don't have the financial reserves to make that happen. I'm trying to focus on my better qualities - I am very capable and intelligent person, despite what has happened at these last two jobs. The next job I take needs to be a GOOD one, one that will last and that I actually care about. I often feel rushed through interviews, and while I try to craft questions that will help indicate what the workplace to come will be like, I seem to never really get a good feel for how things will be until I start. I've heard about elaborate interview processes that people go through for other types of jobs, but my industry doesn't seem to hold that as a standard, especially the smaller companies that lack HR departments. What questions do I need to be asking to assure this next one will be a good fit?

Any feedback, encouragement, ideas would be really great. Thanks in advance!
posted by cristinacristinacristina to Work & Money (7 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I think you should leave C off your resume. B is borderline -- put it on the resume if it's a more impressive company than A, or if your work at B is closer to your dream-work-role than your work at A.

If you put both B and C, it raises a lot of questions. Just B wouldn't be too unusual.

A 3-month gap after 6-7 years of working at the same company isn't that weird. People travel or take time off.

It sounds like you need to take charge more in your interview process. First, apply to a lot more companies, since this gives you more confidence and leverage. It's the equivalent to a person who goes on dates every week versus someone who has one date per year. If you only apply to a few companies, you will naturally be more nervous and become more likely to settle for whatever you can get.

Think about what you could've asked to suss out the problems you now see at B and C. Could you have found previous employees (e.g. on linkedin) and ask them for the down-low on that company? Could you have asked to eat lunch with the team during interviews? Did you feel comfortable with the manager, or did you always feel intimidated from day 1 (but you thought being intimidated was normal)? Decide on a few things you will do in your next set of interviews.

In terms of confidence, that comes from taking action. When you grit your teeth and send your resume to 100 companies, you'll feel more confident. When you go on 20 grueling interviews, you will be more confident, because only a kick-ass person can do that! If you just sit at home and repeat positive self-talk, there's a limit to how much that can work.
posted by vienna at 1:31 PM on July 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Lou Adler's book, The Essential Guide for Hiring and Getting Hired totally reset my approach to resumes and interviewing. I found it incredibly helpful - especially its emphasis on making sure the job you're interviewing for is one you'd actually want. His approach to asking questions of employers in the interview process made me opt out of being considered for a job making 25k more than I make now because the questions exposed that it was an awful place to work (or at least would be an awful place for me). He also gives a lot of good tips on how to best sell yourself without being gross or disingenuous.

It sounds like you need to practice being assertive in the interview process, and doing so should also put you on a better communications trajectory within the organization since they'll be introduced to you as a practical and direct communicator.
posted by snaw at 1:35 PM on July 2, 2014 [5 favorites]

Have you heard of The Creative Group? I think they have a NY office. They are a placement agency that might be open to representing you and giving you lots of feedback about your resume and prospects.
posted by Hermione Granger at 1:36 PM on July 2, 2014

I mention this regularly on AskMe because it's the single most effective tool I found to reshape my resume: the free and paid resources at Blue Sky Resumes. It helped me think about the type of place I wanted to work and tailor my resume accordingly. Their $50 resume course really helped me understand that I needed to craft a resume focused on how I added value at previous jobs rather than just regurgitating my job description, which really doesn't highlight strengths or say whether I was any good at what I did. They have templates, and they discuss different formats, if you want to try a skills-based resume, rather than a chronological one.

Good luck! Retool your resume and get out there interviewing, and you'll start to feel more confident. You can do it; with some thought and planning, your next job will be better.
posted by deliriouscool at 3:06 PM on July 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you do decide to leave Jobs B & C or just C off your resume, be prepared to talk in interviews about what you've done with your time. I don't know what field you are in but is there something you can do right now that is job related, a class or volunteering or self-teaching, etc.? That would give you something better to talk about rather than "I was a lousy job for a few months." Don't lie about the Job C but show you spent your time off productively.

Spend some time on Ask A Manager. There's tons of solid job hunting and resume info there.

Good luck!
posted by Beti at 5:15 PM on July 2, 2014

Seconding Ask A Manager.

I also highly recommend The Riley Guide. Tons and tons of great resources. There's even a whole section about handling a job loss, which may also be useful to you.
posted by SisterHavana at 9:30 PM on July 2, 2014

I agree that you could leave Job C off your resume, and I would stick with a chronological format. In my opinion, skills-based resumes can make it look like you have something to hide (an opinion that's also shared by Alison of Ask A Manager).

Regarding the hit to your self-confidence: I've been there, and it sucks. This is a good time for you to reflect on your strengths and weaknesses, but ultimately you may find that the problems you've experienced have more to do with Workplaces B and C than with you personally. Maybe there are some confidence-building activities that you can take up while you're unemployed; for example, posting on message boards or LinkedIn groups that focus on your profession, or starting a professional social media presence for yourself via Twitter or a blog.
posted by neushoorn at 1:26 AM on July 3, 2014

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