Archive for October, 2013

Safe Transition: The Path to Your New Career

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

In the midst of an unstable, ever changing economy and job market, many professionals are looking to transition to new industries, fields, and disciplines to take advantage of where the growth is.

Of course, a career change can have a major impact on your overall well-being and happiness so it’s not just about the money or the opportunities. After all, we spend the majority of our waking hours at work; it’s crucial to find something that challenges and inspires you on a daily basis. If you’re doing something right now that you wouldn’t necessarily classify as your “dream job”, don’t worry. With a little bit of hard work and planning, you can position yourself to transition into a new career that makes you excited to get up and go to work.

Career-changers need to take a slightly different approach to their job search, as there are a unique set of challenges and obstacles that must be overcome. You need to understand how you can most successfully position yourself to reflect your new career goals. It’s important to determine whether or not your “old” skills apply to your new career target and if you’ll be able to convince people that you are the person for the job even when you’re competing against candidates that may have more relevant experience.

And, of course, you need to plan and determine the proper course of action well in advance to ensure the transition runs smoothly. Here are a few tips on how you can make a successful career transition:

1. Decide what you want.

“Know thyself” may sound like a cliché, but it’s crucial if you want to make sure you find a role where you’ll be happy. Avoid moving from one job or career to another before you narrow down how you want to spend your working hours. For example, ask yourself if autonomy is crucial, or if using your creativity is most important.

When you make a change, take the opportunity to focus on yourself and your needs. Don’t skip this step; take the time to identify and evaluate what you want to do next.

2. Find Your Measure of Success

Money. Fame. Power. These are the traditional measures of success in the world of work. While there’s nothing wrong with any of those metrics, they don’t capture the whole picture. Figure out your personal definition of success and then go after a career—and a lifestyle—that lets you get what you want.

3. Start with a Fresh Mind

If you are bitter about your current job or you’ve had some failures in the past when trying to transition to a new career, it’s time to start over fresh.

It’s easy to beat yourself up and use your failures as an excuse for not picking yourself up and moving on. But as long as you live in the past, you’re denying yourself the future that could be yours. If you can stop lingering over mistakes and could-have-beens, you’ll find a new reservoir of energy that can help make your career transition a faster—and happier—project.

4. Budget for Good and Bad Days

Debt is a dream killer. So before you begin a major transition, figure out if you can afford it. Start by calculating how much money you’ll need to survive time off for retraining and job hunting. If you can’t afford a career change right now, determine if you can reroute or expand your current income to save up 6-12 months of living expenses. Remember, a few hours spent doing the math right now will save you loads of time and stress later on.

5. Do Your Homework

Focus on identifying an industry that is strong or emerging in your targeted area and has similarities to your current industry experience.

If you’re unsure which industries are easiest to transition to, look for former colleagues who held a similar role to you and have moved on to other companies – what industries are they working in? What companies have accepted their previous experience? This is a good place to start.

Once you’ve identified what industry you want to target, begin immersing yourself in their terminology. Subscribe to industry-specific online newsletters and blogs, join professional groups online and attend networking events or trade shows where you’ll learn more about the industry and meet new people. Identify connections in your current network that work in your targeted industry, and take them out for a cup of coffee to pick their brain. This is a great way to gain valuable insight into the market and uncover unpublished opportunities.

Instead of assuming anything, make sure to use actual research and data to make your decisions and choices about your future. Use all of the resources available to learn about companies and positions, including online and social media tools. Use sites such as to find reviews of organizations written by people who work there, and comb through company websites and social media streams to get a sense of company culture.

6. Get Your Hands Dirty

Hands-on experience is a quick teacher. Although you might have a dream career you’ve always thought of pursuing, you will never actually know of it’s the right path for you until you are in the thick of it. Even if you’re crunched for time, there are still ways to test the waters of a new career before you take the leap: find someone you admire and ask to shadow them for a day, do a short-term volunteer stint, or schedule a half-hour informational interview.

7. Build a network

The single most effective way to uncover new opportunities within your chosen field is to start connecting with people who are already doing what you want to do. Be creative in your approach to contacting with people who may be influential within your targeted industry or who may be able to point you in the right direction. Do your homework before you reach out to people so that you can speak intelligently about the job and inspire confidence that you are worth investing their time in.

Network strategically. You must connect with people who can introduce you to decision makers. When you meet new contacts, make sure they understand why you’re a good fit for the type of job you want. Use social media tools such as LinkedIn and Twitter to find and target individuals who can be your allies and develop relationships with them. When you target your networking, you will find people willing to advocate for you, which makes all the difference for job seekers.

Also, learn to ask for help. It’s tough (maybe impossible) to head into new territory and to succeed without help. Set aside your pride in order to reach for something new. Career change is hard at first; but it gets easier.

8. Look Beyond the Traditional Job Search Documents

While your resume and cover letter will certainly play a role in your job search, don’t stop there. Because employers will be looking at your resume to find how your past experience matches their current needs, you need to find other avenues to convince hiring managers that you’re the right fit. Write an article. Start a blog. Build a dynamic LinkedIn profile. Social media and Web 2.0 sites give job seekers an incredible opportunity to cultivate a personal brand that didn’t exist just a few years ago. Those who take advantage of those opportunities will be rewarded while those who don’t will have a much more difficult time.

Making a career change can be both challenging and exciting. The largest obstacle you will face is the resistance of others who doubt your qualifications in your new field. The key is to stop looking for your dream job and start doing it.

Keys to a Successful Engineering Resume

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

Did you know you can engineer your resume to be a powerful marketing tool? While engineering jobs can encompass a wide range of different specialties (mechanical, reservoir, nuclear, electrical, software, etc.), there are effective resume strategies applicable across disciplines. Here are seven key tips (culled from the minds of recruiters and hiring managers alike) to keep in mind when crafting your engineering resume.

Tip #1: Think Precision

Precision is paramount when it comes to engineering projects, and the same holds true for engineering resumes. Failing to proofread and correct all errors on the resume is a common mistake engineers make. It’s imperative that you have a well-prepared, professional resume with no spelling or grammatical errors. Triple-check it and have other people go over it as well to make sure it’s perfect.

Tip #2: Be Concise

There is a tendency among engineers to go into information overload on their resumes. However, resumes often get accepted or rejected in 30 seconds or less, so you must be concise.

You should create a resume that is crisp and to the point. Scrutinize your resume with an editor’s eye — just because you think the information is relevant doesn’t mean the hiring manager will.

Tip #3: Add a Project List

Depending on your engineering specialty and years of experience, you may find a dozen or more key projects should be included on your resume. When this causes your document to overflow onto a third page, a separate project list sheet is an effective solution. List projects by employer or client, and give a short — even one-sentence — description of what you did. Most importantly, don’t forget to include your project outcomes.

Tip #4: If recent project experience is lacking, use a DIY project

Sometimes inexplicable things happen and an experienced engineer finds themselves on the unemployment list for a while. These employment gaps can result in an employer having a hard time justifying even taking the time to talk with the candidate. This is why these gaps should be filled with learning experiences from do-it-yourself (DIY) projects. Create something and go through the design process of gathering requirements, block diagramming and prototyping and put that experience and maybe even some lessons learned on the resume! This will show the prospective employer that the individual is self-motivated, passionate and a number of other things. The best part is that when they call for an interview, the candidate can bring what was designed and talk about the process, the hardware design, the software etc. It might just give that edge needed to even beat out the competition.

Tip #5: List Key Accomplishments

Use bullet points to make your resume easier to read. When writing bulleted accomplishments, keep the text to a few key points and quantify the results so employers understand the significance of your work. Here are a few examples:

  • Conducted process mapping studies to improve throughput by 36% and ensure compliance with customer specifications.
  • Regarded as one of consulting firm’s most highly requested mechanical engineers, maintaining 89% or higher billable utilization for the past 4 years.
  • Co-developed material for cooling radiators that saved $300K/year.

Tip #6: List Useful Skills

Forcing an employer to read between the lines is a dangerous game. Listing project details is one thing but an employer also wants to know in general the types of skills the candidate has. Having a technical expertise section that lists various items such as hardware, software and programming language and provide a quick overview summary of what an individual brings to the table can be very beneficial.

Tip #7: Review and Update Quarterly

The worst time to update a resume is when an individual is looking for a job. Going for long periods of time without updates usually results in gaps of information or misrepresentation from just forgetting what was done. That is why it is useful to set a periodic time, whether it is every quarter or twice a year, to sit down and update the resume with new projects, skills, etc. Sometimes employers will include employee resumes in proposals in order to show a potential client that their team has the skills necessary to get the job done. If a resume isn’t kept up to date then the team could quickly look like they are not up-to-date with the latest and greatest techniques and cause the employer to lose business.