Last week I wrote about my concerns with the idea of "personal branding" - my feeling that it focuses people on the wrong things - having them look inward rather than outward. So this week I wanted to talk a little bit more about my preferred approach - what I call the value-based approach to job search.
The idea is to determine what unique value you have to offer that the market needs. The important concept here is the second part of that statement. You have lots of things to offer - you might make a mean vegan curry and be able to raise one eyebrow but not the other - but if the market doesn't need those particular skills, you won't get a great response when highlighting them on your resume ;-)
This means you have to decide exactly what you want to do before writing an effective resume. You simply can't write a resume that grabs attention if you don't understand the concerns of the person reading your resume. And you can't understand their concerns if you don't know who they are. So targeting a position clearly is step one.
I love it when my clients can tell me exactly which position they want because I know I can push all the right buttons to get them there. But usually, you won't know the exact job - you just have to know what it would look like (for example "I want to be a marketing manager in a company that sells youth-oriented products. It has to be fast-paced and small to medium sized as I don't work well in big corporations.")
This type of targeting helps you address every word of your resume to appeal to the type of hiring managers who work in companies like this.
But it's not enough to throw a bunch of generic buzz words at the wall and hope that will open doors. You have to show how your unique combination of skills, experiences and personality traits mean that you will add value to that type of company.
This means you need to think back over all the times you have added value in the past. (Ask yourself 'what would be different at XYZ if they had never hired me?') Then determine the common theme that runs through those experiences.
In my past life as an HR executive, the theme that ran through my career was aligning HR with business goals. I was always the person who came in and turned HR from a "no" function to a "yes" function - one that supported the business goals and helped move the business forward. This usually meant replacing some people, changing a lot of policies and developing an entire new strategy for the HR function, and it was this that was my value-added.
Knowing your value-add abilities allows you to decide on a resume structure and on what to include (and what to leave out). You've done a lot of different stuff in your career but you don't have to include it all. Just focus on the stuff that communicates your value-added.