Growing up in mid-Michigan as the daughter of an Engineer working in the automotive industry during the economic downturn, I became aware of how turbulent and unforgiving the job market can be at what most would consider a relatively young age. I watched my father go through waves of layoffs, finding himself alongside the masses of unemployed in mid-Michigan (and the country) as companies felt the reverberations of the suffering economy and automotive industry. Unbeknownst to me at the time, even during the waves of unemployment and financial struggle, my father, with his confident, unbreakable façade, was actively taking moments to share with me lessons about life and my eventual professional career. Lessons I carry with me to this day. Lessons I cannot thank him for enough. Lessons I feel need to be shared with others.
First and foremost, my father taught me to document everything. Especially professional achievements large and small. To track your achievements, keep a running list in a notebook or Word document. When considering what to list, reflect upon these questions: Did you save the company time? Did you improve efficiency? Did you streamline processes? Did you save the company money? Did you spearhead any projects? Did you go above and beyond the specifications of your job? If so, document it. In the staffing industry, no matter the fluctuating trends we see, one constant our employer clients find most impressive on a resume is what a candidate achieved during their tenure at a company. The more quantifiable the achievement, the more beneficial it is to your resume. And subsequently, you!
Using documentation from the first lesson, my father taught me a second lesson: always keep your resume current through frequent updates. Even when you are employed. During the times of unemployment I found myself amazed by my father. Instead of wallowing in self-pity over circumstances beyond his control, without fail, a day after finding himself working the unemployment line, I knew where he would be: on the computer printing off copies of his resume. Seemingly, seconds later he would be out the door, on his way to meet with the man who was part of our family’s saving grace: Robert, the headhunter.
Whenever my father found himself in the situation to visit Robert, no matter if he had held his most recent Quality Manager role for a handful of months or multiple years, he kept his resume at the ready, needing only to turn on the computer, open the document, and select print. His resume was kept current (not only in terms of listing the generic information of position, company, responsibilities, etc.) and as strong as possible through the addition and support of valuable information. Valuable information being selections from the continually growing, documented list of professional achievements.
The third lesson my father taught me is about attitude: keep it positive. No matter the circumstance, keep your outlook bright and you will persevere. The most qualified person on paper can easily find themselves removed from consideration for a position due to a poor attitude (toward employer, position, circumstances, etc.). Despite possessing impressive credentials, by and far, employers would rather employ a candidate who positive attitude than one who has the qualifications and a poor attitude.
The aforementioned lessons, although framed in the scope of unemployment, are not meant to make you wary, put you on edge, or serve as any sort of warning. From laborers to executives, unemployed or employed, the lessons transcend persons and circumstance. The lessons merely serve as measures of preparedness. Preparedness if, one day, you should find yourself seeking a new job. Whether you find yourself looking to relocate, for greater responsibilities, for a bigger title, for more of a challenge, to change fields, or because you do happen to find yourself unemployed resulting from a layoff, merger, acquisition, outsourcing, or your employer is closing its doors, you should be prepared for what could be. Think of it as an emergency car kit: it is necessary in a crisis, but has practical uses otherwise. You might need the shovel to dig yourself out of the snow or sand, or you might need the matches to light a fire and let it burn bright.
By Kendall Bolden
Photo: Posing with my father on my graduation day. Michigan State University, 2012.