CXO

Earn certs and gain experience before looking for a new job

Our career columnist suggests that even consultants in the hot field of disaster recovery should honestly assess their skills before trying to move to a new job. Also, find ways to make any resume stand out from the crowd.


Tim Heard is a technical recruiter for JC Malone, a career placement service. Tim shares his career advice by answering questions from TechRepublic members.

Question
I'm currently a consultant for a disaster recovery company in Kuala Lumpur. My scope of work involves developing business continuity plans for clients. I'm toying with the idea of taking a course to attain a Certified Business Continuity Professional (CBCP) certification. Is it worthwhile? I only joined this line of work in June of last year.

And what about job opportunities in Australia and New Zealand? I've always wanted to work outside the Asia region, but I wonder whether my experience is sufficient. Could you share some advice with me?

Sandy

Answer
I must admit that my expertise in this area is somewhat limited, so I contacted Scott Sattler, a consultant who works for Blue Cross of Puerto Rico and specializes in security issues related to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Sattler, who has worked in IT for 15 years, has a raft of certifications from Cisco, Microsoft, and Sun, and has implemented disaster recovery solutions for large-to-medium companies, offered this advice:

“I have met many consultants and IT personnel who are under the assumption that they know disaster recovery. Usually, that means they can restore a server or an application. By obtaining a certification such as the ABCP and eventually a CBCP (two vendor-neutral certifications offered by Disaster Recovery Institute International), you can demonstrate to the customer or employer thatyou know what you’re doing.”

Regarding your desire to emigrate to Australia or New Zealand, I think it's rather unlikely at this point in your career. With only six months of experience and no certification, you're a bit of a lightweight. There are probably lots of similar individuals already looking for jobs in those countries.

Also, you haven't adequately explained to me why you want to leave the company that has given you your big break by providing you with the basic training necessary to work in this field. In my opinion, you should stay in your current position for a minimum of a year to allow your current employer to recoup its investment in you and to establish a strong work history to list on your resume.

My advice is that you stick with your current employer for as long as you can. Make obtaining certification for your field a priority. After you've completed that, you might reevaluate your options. I think that you've gotten into a very promising field.

Question
I found myself out of work for 22 months due to a long-term illness. In searching for a new job, I had been advised to not mention the illness on applications or my resume and to refer to time working in years instead of months to cover the gap.

For example, on an application filled out on July 2000, I was to list employment at Company A as “1989-1999” and hedge the exact months I'd been out of work. This would imply that my unemployment started 12/99 not 1/99 (as was the case).

I found this worked against me because I knew it wasn't the truth. Not until I let the truth show and explained the reason for the 22-month gap—emphasizing that I was indeed recovered and being careful to avoid relapse—did I get respect from interviewers and obtain a job.

Tell the truth! You will be respected for being honest and forthright. What’s your opinion on this matter?

Mary

Answer
While you might be able to get by a strategy to de-emphasize a gap in employment of a few weeks, in general, it's best to do as you have stated: Be up front with the facts. In today's economy, it's very common to review the resumes of individuals with gaps in their employment record. In many cases, the gaps are the result of corporate layoffs, but illness and injury are also common.

Aside from ethical considerations about misleading one's employer, the fact is that most companies will perform a background check on any candidate that they hire. Generally, at the very minimum, such a check will include confirmation of past employment dates and a check for felony convictions. In either case, if you have misstated the facts on your application, it's sufficient grounds for immediate dismissal.

It would be naive, however, to assume that all hiring managers turn a blind eye to such information, so a smart applicant will do a bit of extra work up front to overcome what might be perceived as "flaws" on a resume. In particular, I'd like to focus on two simple things that can be done to enhance one's marketability.

1) Target your resume and your application
Get away from the mind-set that one resume is sufficient for all occasions. Changing your resume might mean simply changing the wording of your objective statement. If you're placing your resume online, it might mean crafting several resumes, each one emphasizing something different about your experience.

It also means that when you apply for a specific position, you include a cover letter that sells you to the hiring manager. I can't tell you how many resumes I have gotten from individuals applying for specific positions in which they either included a generic cover letter or no letter of introduction at all.

In the case of e-mailed resumes, I am often expected to read the person's mind. If you're sending a resume to a recruiter, whether an in-house recruiter or a professional independent recruiter, do yourself and the recruiter a favor and tell the person what you're looking for. In the case of independent recruiters, be sure to include the type of position you're seeking, the area of the country you'd like to live in, and the salary you're seeking.

I will never forget meeting a candidate at a job fair several years ago. I didn't know him personally, but knew of him, and spent several minutes chatting with him and reviewing his resume. I ended up giving him quite a bit of advice as to how he might improve his resume and concluded that we didn't have any openings for him.

Imagine my feelings the next week when I received his unchanged resume and a generic letter by e-mail, which thanked me for my time and stated that he now had a “strong vision as to where he fit within my company.” (Of course, he never elaborated upon the vision.) Needless to say, I was a bit miffed that he had completely ignored everything that I had suggested at the job fair, and his resume never made it to the desk of any of my managers.

2) Include letters of reference
Obtaining reference letters is something that does require a bit of extra effort on your part. It also requires that you do a good enough job that a manager feels that he or she is willing to say so in writing. It requires that you not burn bridges when you leave an employer.

Some of you will say that this is a waste of time. However, most resumes do not include attached references, so a resume that does include them has the opportunity to cast itself in a somewhat better light.

Regardless of whether some managers ignore such documents, there are many who actually take the time to read them.

If you opt to include reference letters, make them work-related and not personal. As nice as it may be, I don't care if your sister-in-law thinks you're a good person. Also, they should include the manager's contact information so recruiters can reach him or her.

Mary, I'm glad to hear that, despite your past illness, you were able to obtain a rewarding position. I wish you continued success and good health.

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