Position Yourself in Tough Times

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Last week's announcement that the national unemployment rate is at 6.1% can't have come as a huge surprise to most of us, considering the breadth of dreary economic news these days. In addition to my work at the Fool, I also write professional resumes, so I am constantly pulling together polished documents for executives who are out of work.

Don't think that you're immune from job cuts: August's layoffs have ranged across all industries and job classes. Here are just a few of the companies that have recently announced job cuts:


Number of Jobs Cut

Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX  )


General Motors (NYSE: GM  )


Wachovia Corporation (NYSE: WB  )


United Airlines (Nasdaq: UAUA  )


Abbott Laboratories (NYSE: ABT  )


Alcoa (NYSE: AA  )


Tyson Foods (NYSE: TSN  )


* Early retirement program.

Given all this uncertainty, you might want to keep your resume up-to-date in case the axe falls at your employer. What you may be surprised to learn is that writing your resume can be a lot like investing -- there are some key strategies that work well for both. Here are five top resume (and investing) tips to position you through good and bad economic times.

1. Dig into the numbers
You wouldn't invest in a stock without running the numbers behind the business, would you? Well, potential employers feel the same way about job candidates: they want to see real numbers behind your performance. No matter what your current job is, look for quantifiable results to illustrate what you can do for the new boss.

If you're in sales, then it's easy to talk about the number of new clients secured or the percentage of revenue growth that you've delivered. Engineers can discuss the efficiency gains that they've generated or the exact amount of quality defects they've resolved. IT folks should tally up the added productivity they've provided through their cutting-edge automation systems. You should look to quantify your successes wherever you can to highlight your true value and set yourself apart from the pack.

2. Be clear about your goals
The most successful investors typically set clear goals. The same can be said for successful job hunters: think about what types of jobs you are best suited for and what roles you have enjoyed the best. Maybe you've done marketing and advertising, but your true passion is operations. In your resume, highlight key operations work that you've had success with and consider taking on additional projects at work to expand your experience.

Of course, this is a lot easier if you're currently employed. But even if you're out of work and desperate to find a new job, know what your strengths and goals are. Your determination will come through to hiring managers.

3. Know the buzzwords -- but use them wisely
Listen, it's great to have the industry lingo down, and it's great to display to future employers that you understand concepts like core competencies, synergies, or paradigm shifts. But a sentence like "I introduced key continuous improvement core competencies, creating valuable corporate synergies and paradigm shifts" can come off like a game of buzzword bingo to potential hiring managers.

Before you use a buzzword -- or buy stock in a buzzword-heavy company -- make sure you understand what those buzzwords mean. Just because a company touts its "virtual living room audience experience" or "software + services" strategy doesn't mean a stock is poised for growth. Similarly, if you use buzzwords in an interview, be prepared to explain them.

4. Keep it simple
Great investors insist on keeping it simple. Peter Lynch boiled his investment summaries down to a few lines, focusing on top corporate highlights and growth strategies. Resume writing is the same way: List your top accomplishments, but don't drone on about your daily meetings, weekly conference calls, or other day-to-day work in your resume unless they really show results.

Some folks like to add every single thing they've done over a 25-year career, providing hiring managers with a five-page document in tiny, unreadable font. No one is going to spend that much time reading your resume except for you. Make it easier on yourself and those who will be reading your resume and skip the unimportant details.

5. Don't make it personal
In resumes and in investing, it's hard to stay objective. Your resume is one of the few tangible documents you have that outlines what you have done not only over your career, but over the course of your life. Your investment portfolio can be the same way. On a resume, it's positions with previous employers; in your portfolio, it's picks held too long. Either way, your personal soft spots can be inadvertently on display.

Hiring managers want to see what you can offer them, and while playing the drums in the high school band may be important to you, it's not something that will help you to land a job unless you're looking to be a musician. Detail about your family or hobbies is usually a waste of space; limit your resume to professional business, and leave your bowling-league trophies to talk about at lunch on your first day of work at your new job.

For related Foolishness:

The Motley Fool owns shares of Starbucks, which is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick and a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Colleen Paulson is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and does not own positions in any of the stocks mentioned above. The Fool's disclosure policy has an impressive resume.

Read/Post Comments (1) | Recommend This Article (4)

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  • Report this Comment On September 12, 2008, at 3:51 PM, Ray9425 wrote:

    Another tip that might help folks in their hunt for work is adding a video to their resume. I think a few companies offer it, but I know actually specializes in it. Just a quick, 60-second video intro of you describing, well, you! And letting your (cross your fingers) future employer see your personality and energy totally helps you stand out from the crowd. If you go to their website, they let you create a video intro, post it and search job listings - all for free. They also provide fill-in-the-blank scripts and coaching. They even give you your own URL link (called ProPage) to your resume and video that you can e-mail to anybody - even put it on your LinkedIn.

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