People who know that my wife and I are into sailing often ask us what we most enjoy making for dinner when we are on the boat. My standard response is reservations.
The hard part is, of course, picking the restaurant. Are we in the mood for Mexican food, Pizza, French, Italian, or Chinese? Fortunately for us, although you can’t always tell by the name of the restaurant what they serve, all restaurants have enough common sense to stake out their areas of expertise when being listed in the telephone book, or in the many local brochures available at our favorite harbors. No restaurant would consider keeping their area of expertise a secret. It just wouldn’t be good for business.
You also find that the display ads in the telephone book or in the local brochures are fairly brief. There is no laundry list of the exact items they serve, just some sketchy information to “whet your appetite.”
If only most folks looking for that new perfect job had as much common sense.
More often than not, the 90-second announcements I hear lack this clear “staking out of territory.” Hey, if your background is manufacturing, please let me know. If it is treasury, please let me know. If it is publishing, please let me know. The essential nature of your background should not be viewed as a limiting factor, but rather as a key element in whether I have some significant connection to you and would have interest in getting to know you better after the meeting. If you obfuscate because you are trying to change directions in your career, you are more likely than not to end up meeting no one or the wrong people.
Just think how you would feel if you thought you were going to a fine restaurant and instead ended up at a pizza parlor. Truth in advertising is important.
I have been struggling for some time now to come up with a clear rationale for staking out your territory in your 90-second announcement and on your resume in a summary statement and I think this is really it.
As we examine the process by which those who review your resume make their decisions, it is very much analogous to restaurant selection in the sense that if I am looking for a manufacturing background, the resume needs to say that, clearly and in the summary at the top of page one or I won’t select it for a detailed reading.
Similarly, the companies at which you have worked also need to fit the profile I have selected. If you haven’t annotated the companies on your resume by following their names with a two line description of what they do, you are leaving the reader to guess the nature of their industries. And the rule is, when in doubt, move on to the next resume.
Consider too that detailed menus with elaborate descriptions of the meals offered and how they are prepared typically are only viewable once you have decided to go to the restaurant and have already been seated. The analogy here is that long summaries with everything but the kitchen sink don’t work either. Get me interested in your broad background and I will surely “read more about it.”
In our efforts to be all things to all people, we end up being nothing to anyone.