Susan Geary likes to say the days of writing your resume on a cocktail napkin are gone. Maybe that's because she's in the business of writing resumes. Or, maybe it's because she's witnessed changes in the job market over the past year, and she knows people have to work harder now to find employment.
She realizes that it's no longer enough to scribble your phone number down on a bar napkin and pass it to a potential employer, which was common in the booming days of technology and dot-com start-ups.
The resume writer sees growing uncertainty among those who have lost their jobs in recent months. And as waves of layoffs continue, the uncertainty gets worse.
"In an economy like this, people panic and want to land every job that opens up, even ones they aren't qualified for," Geary says. "But when they don't find a job right away and they read about layoffs in the newspaper every day, some think they will never work again."
Quantity vs. Quality
Geary, who works out of her home for the online resume service Resume.com, says desperation has become the calling card for some people who are jobless today. She recently received 18 pages of career notes from a woman who had held a variety of jobs, including positions such as interior decorator, catalog order-taker, baker and waitress.
"You can't write a resume from that," she cautions. "You have to be targeted and know what you want. If you think you can just load up your resume with a lot of skills or former jobs you've had, you're not going to get anything."
As a resume writer, Geary also coaches people on how to conduct themselves throughout their job search.
"It doesn't do you any good to get an interview if this isn't the job you want," says Geary, who counts four careers in her own background. "You put out an energy that is a little scattered and interviewers pick up on that. Employers want people around them who believe in what they are doing, who share a common goal.
"It doesn't do any good to try and fool them. If someone uses their resume to get a job interview and they aren't committed to that job or that business, they are in trouble. Unfortunately, they have backed themselves into a corner and they're not going to get that job or any other from that employer."
Last Hired, First Fired
The current economic uncertainty has reached into the ranks of the self-employed, who are seeking security by taking jobs with companies.
"They want security, but what they don't realize is that they are probably better off being self-employed," she says. "Sometimes they go out and get jobs and lose them right away because those last hired are the first laid off."
One independent graphic designer recently lost his major account and decided the time was right to end 13 years of working on his own and pursue a corporate position.
"I had to tell him he was probably making a mistake," Geary says. "Here was someone who knew what he was doing. Companies are eliminating jobs, but they aren't eliminating the work. They are outsourcing it. Here was someone who was all set up to take advantage of that outsourcing work and he didn't even realize it."
Geary doesn't think jobless people should panic. The current economy may seem sluggish, layoffs may seem to be mounting and the unemployment rate may have edged upward in recent months, but the economy is still relatively healthy and employers still need to get work accomplished.
"You have to display confidence in yourself if you expect someone to hire you," she says. "If you have the right skills and are able to build a resume that is targeted toward the job you are qualified for and want, you'll stand a much better chance of getting hired."
Or, she says, you can spin your wheels with a resume that tries to attract every employer's attention, but fails to land a job with anyone.