• April 2010

What would you like to know about landing that next great job?

By Sharon Armstrong
owner, Sharon Armstrong and Associates
co-author, The Essential HR Handbook

I recently asked readers to send in questions to get their perspective on re-entering the workforce. Here is their feedback, and answers to their interesting questions.

Question: I have never been tech savvy and now it’s even harder than ever. Every job ad asks for software I don’t know at all or where my skills are very weak (Excel and Powerpoint). What is the best way to learn and/or brush up on technical skills when the treadmill is running much faster than I run?

Sharon Armstrong says: I think employers these days do expect a certain level of computer expertise. So you are smart to start thinking about how to get that training. It’s the only way to compete. I’d approach it two different ways…find a good friend who can help you brush up on Excel and Powerpoint and look for a course where you can learn new skills. If you google computer skills training, Washington, DC, you will see some options pop up. Or ask friends for training recommendations. It’s a good use of time. Make sure you indicate the training on your resume so potential employers will know you are a lifelong learner.

Question: How useful is Craigslist for finding jobs? I have responded to probably over 100 ads over the past year and have gotten maybe 3 “thanks for your resume but we’re hiring someone else” responses. Are Craigslist jobs real and/or are other website job postings a worthwhile use of my time?

Sharon Armstrong says: Only 10% of job seekers find jobs online. It’s the least effective way to search. If applicants combine applying for work with networking to see who knows whom at that company, that is the double whammy that does work. So establish a list of all your friends and colleagues and keep them posted on your target jobs. The ideal is to have one (or more) of them walk your resume into HR, or to the hiring manager, with a recommendation after you’ve applied in the conventional way.

Also, sending resumes without cover letters is a waste. I know you don’t always have that option, but when you do, always take it. Let the company know you know who they are and make a link between your skills and their needs. Cover letters should be more about the company than the applicant.

Question: What is the best way to augment or highlight ten years of volunteer experience, much of it at a leadership level? Do people reviewing resumes look at that at all?

Sharon Armstrong says: Definitely highlight your volunteer work on your resume. You can put it under a Professional and Volunteer Experience heading. Or do a separate section for Volunteer Work. I prefer including it with other work experience. List all of it chronologically. I think many reviewers give it weight — if you do.

Here’s to your fabulous career!


About Sharon Armstrong

Sharon Armstrong has over 20 years of experience as a Human Resources consultant, trainer and career counselor. Since launching her own consulting business in 1998, Sharon Armstrong and Associates, she has consulted with many large corporations and small businesses. She has facilitated training, completed HR projects and provided career transition services for a wide variety of clients in the profit and non-profit sectors.

Sharon received her Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Southern Maine and her Masters Degree in Counseling from George Washington University. She is a certified Professional in Human Resources (PHR).

Sharon is the co-author of a humor book, published by Random House entitled Heeling the Canine Within: The Dog’s Self-Help Companion in 1998. Career Press published her first business book, Stress-free Performance Appraisals: Turn Your Most Painful Management Duty into a Powerful Motivational Tool in July 2003. The Essential HR Handbook: A Quick and Handy Resource for Any Manager or HR Professional was published in August 2008. Her next book, The Essential Performance Review Handbook will be published spring 2010.

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