Taking the Tiger by the Tail – Seizing Control of Your Career Destiny
Dawn Rasmussen, CMP
President, Pathfinder Writing and Career Services
I began Pathfinder Writing and Career Services after working over five years as the state school to career director for a workforce training program in 49 high schools in Oregon. During this time, I coached literally thousands of people on how to write résumés and provided job interviewing training to help new workers prepare for their careers. Additionally, I worked with employers on student placements in their businesses.
Since then, I have been a frequent guest speaker, and have led the introduction course for the hospitality academy for homeless and at-risk youth at New Avenues for Youth, where I also taught students the importance of having an effective résumé.
Throughout my own career, I have always maintained that mentoring and volunteering is an important part of giving back to the community, and have received several top industry awards, including the Meeting Professionals International (Oregon Chapter) Mentor of the Year Award, President’s Award and the Oregon Governor’s Tourism Achievement Award. I currently am volunteering my expertise to the Portland Job Finder support group and also teaching a free class on résumé writing through the WorkSource Oregon (Oregon Employment Department) to help teach people the power and impact that résumés can have on a person’s career.
- Build a forward-thinking resume – a strategic, keyword rich document that is a career blueprint.
- Understand your value proposition and how to go about finding the types of companies that appreciate your career assets
- Learn to build a ‘spiderweb’ of network contacts.
Why did I attend this session?
Now who wouldn’t want to attend a session with this title? Seize control of your career destiny! Once this session got started, it really could have gone on for hours. People have so many questions about the layout and design of their resumes. The downside of this session was that it was scheduled to run from 8:30 AM to 9:45 AM (that’s what it said on the Z-card), but it was cut 15 minutes short by Dawn. Perhaps she didn’t know she had 15 more minutes? There wasn’t enough time for Q&A either. Several audience members piped up and asked questions during Dawn’s presentation, but she kept saying “Okay we need to move on now” (or something to that effect). The presentation was too rushed, it was difficult to even take notes. I was hoping materials might be available online, but I haven’t been able to find them. Thank goodness I’m a fast typer! Here’s what I took away from this session.
What is Career Management?
- Career Management doesn’t mean you’re leaving your job, but rather getting the best knowledge and skills to be the best at what you do right now.
- Career Management is being open to possibility at all times (a dynamic, fluid experience and mindset)
- Career Management enables you to meet change head on so that you can respond nimbly to new opportunities or future job transitions
- Career Management prepares you to move laterally or within the job or if you’re laid off
Today’s job market is no longer a passive experience; you are your own advocate. If you don’t take control of your career you will get left behind. – Dawn Rasmussen
This become very apparent in a separate session I attended, Success: Moments that Matter with Hattie Hill. That session was a panel discussion, but what really struck me was how one of the panelists took control of her career. At the moment I cannot remember her name, terrible I know. Her story began that her husband had started a new job in Washington, DC, they were moving, and she had to begin a job search. She reached out to her contacts (80% of jobs are found through someone you know – Dawn Rasmussen). After she had exhausted her search via her contacts in the industry, she knew she had to do something drastic. She wrote her own job description. There was a former client she had worked with, she knew they had a need, and she created a job specifically for that need and presented it to the company. The company hired her, and two years later still say it was the best thing they have ever done. Wow.
If you don’t take control of your career, you’ll get left behind. – Dawn Rasmussen
What do employers want? How do you prepare?
- Be cutting edge: Employers cut those who are not highly skilled and knowledgeable
- Step up and invest in yourself: Employers are cutting back on company paid professional development – your career development, promotion and reputation depend on YOU
- It’s not job security – it’s employability: What are you doing to keep yourself employable?
- Be ready for the worst: Don’t wait until you HAVE to do something.
- Know your value! Do you know what you offer to your current/prospective employer? Be in the moment of where you are in your career and the value that you offer.
What about my resume?
There were so many takeaways on how to design your resume. Below are some of the pointers Dawn shared with the group.
- Have a professional email address
- Ditch the objective statement (employers don’t care what you want) – have a job title headline instead (create your brand)
- Resumes are not obituaries they are a career map. Theme your resume with correlating key words.
- Keywords – Don’t use skills or qualifications, instead careers expertise
- Work History – Theme it (chronological/functional format), show career progression, actions and results.
- Education: In an era of age discrimination, don’t put graduation year.
- Professional Development should be listed under Education; be specific and give details to session titles, year it took place, and sponsorship organizations (i.e. WEC)
- Affiliations & Involvement – How are you demonstrating your leadership by volunteering or bolstering your credibility by professional association?
- Update your resume every six months
- Keep track of your accomplishments, professional development and leadership roles
Do I need a Cover Letter?
Absolutely! Dawn told the group, no matter what, you should always include a cover letter, regardless of whether or not you think it will be read. If you are emailing your resume, you can either attach a cover letter and mention the attachment in your email or provide the cover letter as the body of the email. Remember, even if you provide the cover letter in the body of the email, be sure to attach a formal copy of it with your email (along with your resume).
According to Dawn, never supply a potential employer with a list of references unless they specifically ask for them. If they ask for references, it’s usually because they want to hire you! Don’t forget to stay in contact with your references! You need to cultivate a network of top tier references and maintain a relationship with them. A reference should never be surprised to hear from your potential employer checking up on you – coach them on what to say, so they can be your cheerleader!
Final Thoughts on Career Strategies
- Keep yourself well read (keep on top of things)
- Educate yourself, keep learning
- Retain industry memberships
- Point yourself toward your next step
- Get on LinkedIn to build your network
- Make lasting connections – don’t be a one hit wonder or user (build a relationship)
- Build familiarity and cultivate internal advocacy for you
- Roll your skills into the next opportunity (leverage skills set for next job)
Your career is yours alone – you are your best advocate! You are the driving force behind getting what you want from your profession. Don’t be afraid to try something new, be brave!
Be positive – it will change your perception and others perception of you. Operate from a place of abundance – give back and you will be remembered as being generous. – Dawn Rasmussen