Dealing with Bad Career Decisions
A Case Study
John’s one of my clients. He’s a shipping and receiving supervisor. For six years, he worked for the same company. He left in 2006 and over the last seven years, has worked for six other companies.
Twice, his job was eliminated by corporate upheavals; the most recent an acquisition that took place this week after he had less than a year on the job. The other times he left? Who knows what happened?
When John contacted me this week, he thought updating his resume and signing up with a recruiter were good ways to find his next job. I wasn’t sure either was the answer.
John doesn’t have a college degree and is not a graduate of an industry-respected professional development program. He finished high school and holds a few certifications. His skills and education were gained on the job.
John’s in a tough place and he got there by making some bad career decisions among which are:
- Changing jobs too often. Maybe this was because he didn’t do enough research to find out about the company and its history before jumping in. Maybe it’s because something or someone offended or upset him and he decided to leave.
- Lack of planning. Instead of thinking about his career in the longer term, John just looked for a job and grabbed whatever was offered first.
- Inertia. Other than attending some mandated training programs offered by his employers, John took no other actions to increase his knowledge level, get a college degree, earn respected industry credentials, or in any other way make himself a more valuable employee. He just showed up every day.
What Can John Do Now?
If you’re old enough to remember Norm from the television show Cheers, you’ll remember this observation he made: “It’s a dog-eat-dog world, Sammy, and I’m wearing MilkBone underwear.” I think it fits today’s employment market perfectly for people in John’s situation.
The employment market is brutal. No matter what numbers you hear, the unemployment rate is about 17%; maybe even higher. A lot of people are looking for jobs and companies can pick and choose the best candidates. They don’t have to take chances on people like John; workers who lack important credentials and who may hang around just long enough to get trained then move on. It’s expensive to train people and employers want a good return on that investment.
Most of the jobs for which John applies require at least a two-year college degree. John has a family to support so he can’t take off a few years to go back to school. Here are some things I suggested to John that might get him employed again in the near-term:
- Before looking for a recruiter, find out if recruiters represent people at your job level in the industry. Ask your former employer how the company replaces people at the most senior position you’ve held. Do they go to recruiters to find candidates? Do they just post ads online? Do they find someone in-house and move them up? Do they use other ways to find candidates? Uncover the methods so you can get a direction and put together a job-search plan.
- If you find out recruiters are not the best choice, consider calling companies in your geographical area that are most likely to need shipping and receiving supervisors. For example, large retailers, wholesalers and package transport firms. You can probably buy this list from a reputable list house for a small investment. If not, do some intensive research through the Internet, the Yellow Pages, trade magazines, newspapers, and networking to locate the right companies.
- Personally visit the companies you identify as possible employers. Go to the dock manager and tell him, “I want the hardest job you have.” Tell him you’re a hard worker and have a lot of experience. Instead of taking a resume with you, hand him a leadership addendum or career biography that highlights your value and downplays your job changes. If he asks for a resume, tell him, “I don’t have a resume with me. I can put one together and send it to you, but can we talk for a few minutes now?”
- Revise your resume to eliminate or combine some jobs so the frequency of changes will be less evident. Keep the resume accurate; just alter the way information is presented.
- Spend six to eight hours a day applying for jobs online and through other methods. Network with your friends, former associates, family members, fellow churchgoers, and anyone else you can think of.
- Contact some people you know and ask if they would agree to be your job coach or mentor. This could be a former supervisor, a trusted friend, a family member or anyone else you consider successful in his or her career. If you can’t think of anyone, you may consider hiring a professional job coach.
- Read the trade magazines. Search the Internet. Follow industry trends. Learn as much as you can about the shipping and receiving industry and your job in particular. Sharing this information with people you talk to about employment opportunities will greatly increase your credibility.
- Get into a professional development or college degree program. There are a lot of options that allow you to work while studying. Even if you have to borrow the money or get a second mortgage, make this investment in your future.
- Don’t give up. Stay focused and positive. When you do start getting interviews scheduled, do your homework to find out about the company and how much potential it offers. Don’t repeat the habit of just taking whatever job comes along. Make sure it’s the right job with the right future.
Sue Montgomery is founder and president of Resume Plus (www.resumeplus.com). She is a professional resume writer and career coach who markets people for the jobs they want. Contact Sue directly at 937-254-5627 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.