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Career Corner
Résumé isn't enough

Kathleen Wells, Ph.D. -- Graduation looms, and you experience joy and relief simultaneously as the last exam is administered.

Then the fear sets in. How are you going to get a great job with a degree and little else? By developing a powerful marketing portfolio and networking your heart out.

A marketing portfolio consists of three parts. As your career begins to take shape, this can be composed in a two-page layout--showcase your specific skills, tell the reader you are very good at what you do, and use clear, concise language.

1. Background Summary -- This portion contains a straightforward objective, professional summary of qualifications, accomplishment statements, and education.

The objective should be short and to the point. For example: "To obtain a position as a Computer Engineer." Do not add superfluous detail here (e.g. "using organizational, design, and customer service skills"). Those skills belong in the summary below. Do not add anything that emphasizes what's in it for you rather than the company. My clients often want to add something about the position having growth potential. Even if you fully intend to grow with the company, the hiring manager may not want to know that you plan to move out of his or her department any time soon. Keep these objectives short and simple.

The professional summary is a single paragraph that describes your skills and experiences. This may be the only paragraph that a busy hiring manager reads before tossing your portfolio aside and picking up another. Keep the sentences short and powerful. If you are heading into a new field, tell the employer about your experience and allow them to ask how long you've been at it. Don't attribute yourself with ambiguous experiences, such as a "theoretical knowledge of business management." Instead, be specific: "Assessed XYZ Company and designed a plan to decrease spending while increasing revenue." It doesn't matter whether or not it was a school project, or a volunteer exercise, but that you have the experience. But if you have little or no work history to draw on, you might need to pump up the professional summary with a few basic self-management skills ("A dedicated team-player who enjoys challenges and learning").

The accomplishment statements are sometimes called CARs. The origin of this acronym is easy to remember: "A particular Circumstance where you used a skill the company needs, the Action you took to resolve the problem, and what the Results were. Create a one-paragraph example of some specific skill. You might use "Assessment" as your heading. Consider this example: "Assessed the operating procedures for XYZ Company and designed a strategy for decreasing overhead while increasing revenue. This resulted in savings of $50K and a 33 percent increase in the customer base."

Always include three to five of these CAR statements or accomplishments, and you also need to be able to draw on these kinds of statements for interviewing. For your education section, simply add a chronological list of educational milestones, beginning the most recent degree and working backward. Include special training or seminars if they support your objective. Do not list high school experiences if you have college or special coursework.

2. Relevant Work History -- Include all chronological work history that supports your desired position. If you have nothing that fits, and you still have several months to go before graduation, find a position doing something in that industry. Even volunteer work will significantly build your experience.

If you have not previously worked in your intended field, focus all your other efforts on any aspect that will support your objective. For example, if you have been working nights at a restaurant but want to go into computers, you can focus on excellent customer service, communication, and assessment skills. If you handled complaints and diffused difficult situations, you can tout those abilities. The trick is to keep your eye on your target objective.

By doing your research and knowing exactly what that company is looking for, any transferable skills from your former jobs will make you better at the new one.

Be sure to list this information in reverse chronological order, beginning with the most recent job and working backwards. If you have had lots of short-term jobs, or if there are large gaps in your work history, omit dates altogether. Call this section "Relevant Work History," because that title makes no claim to being comprehensive -- just the facts that support your objective.

Assemble the information in paragraph form and add two or three one-line bullets under each job description. These bullets should describe short accomplishments ("Supervised a team of 4 employees that was recognized as the most effective in the company").

3. Skills Assessment -- Save your detailed computer expertise for this area. This is an excellent way to showcase specifics without taking room from the main body of your document. Create two columns and break your experience down into relevant categories, i.e., administration, supervision, management, computer software, etc. Then, under each heading, list the things that you do in that area. Supervision might break down into training, evaluation, mentoring, and other areas. You can leave the list this way or make it even more effective by self-assessing your skill level. Put a scale at the top of this section. I counsel clients to use: "1-Some Knowledge;" "2-Competent;" and "3-Highly Skilled." Give each of the items you listed (training, evaluation, mentoring) a rating that reflects your experience in that area.

By combining these three parts into a cohesive, attractive, and persuasive marketing portfolio, you will have an edge over the resume-dependent jobseeker. If you always keep an eye on your target objective and target company, you will secure more than your share of interviews!

Kathleen Wells, Ph.D. is a professional career counselor and college instructor with two published novels and more than 50 articles to her credit.

(c) 2001

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