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Renew your job-hunting skills: how to advertise yourself.

Renew your job-hunting skills: How to advertise yourself

Sometimes the process of finding a job seems to become a job itself. A laboratorian's training is primarily technical. Although most in the profession also have good interersonal skills, they haven't taken the time to learn job search skills. This is especially evident among individuals who have worked many years for the same employer.

Last month, in the first of these two articles, I discussed the information-gathering steps essential to a job search. Writing down objectives and cultivating contacts are strong ways to launch the search. Using a notebook or note cards to keep track of the information gathered helps document your progress.

The next phase of job hunting involves advertising yourself in writing or packaging your skills. It consists of filling out job applications and preparing a resume, two tools that differ greatly in perspective and content. One is used by employers to summarize information they want from prospective employees; the other by job seekers to summarize information they wish to convey about themselves.

I have provided job applications from a local hospital to medical technology classes and asked each student to fill one out. The exercise graphically shows how much information can be required and how hard it is to remember certain details.

Are such details important? Suppose that on a visit to a laboratory you so impress the supervisor or manager that you are invited to stop by the personnel office and fill out an application. What happens to your job prospects, after several weeks of developing contacts, when you are faced with questions on a form and can't remember your certification number or the exact dates of your work history?

Over the years, I have reviewed many job applications and seen several common problems:

Qualifications such as a registry number, state certification number, or degree are not listed, even though the job posting may have clearly identified these as requirements.

Contact information is not listed correctly. A wrong phone number or address may be given.

Work history is inaccurate or incomplete. Dates are missing or guessed at, for example; there are gaps in the history or overlapping dates; information about previous employers is vague or incomplete; and the reasons for leaving previous jobs are rambling or too long.

The writing in applications is sloppy--poor spelling and grammar, crossed-out words, cramped penmanship at the end of lines to squeeze in more information.

Job applications usually don't vary much from employer to employer. With the help of colleagues in my community, I gathered examples of applications from several work sites and distilled the questions into a master list that I call a personal data sheet. I believe all of us should keep such records throughout our careers, in a notebook, on note cards, or in a word processor.

A personal data sheet can actually run several pages. As Figure I shows, it includes demographic information, a history for each job held, educational background, military status, certification, and references.

For each job history section, enter the job title, name of the department and supervisor, and name and address of the employer. If you aren't sure how to spell any names or titles, or don't remember the exact dates of employment, call the previous employer and find out.

Calculate your rate of pay in dollars per hour, month, and year. Even if you do not care to share these figures with a prospective employer, they will come in handy if a job offer specifies an hourly wage and you are used to thinking only in terms of an annual salary.

Reasons for leaving jobs are critical items in a personal data sheet, but that does not mean one should belabor the point when applying for a new job. I have seen applications chronicle disagreements with supervisors in bitter detail, make excuses for poor performance or tardiness, or interject long family or health histories.

Try to describe job changes positively and concisely, citing such reasons as a desire for professional growth, advancement to a management position, a desire to focus on specialist or generalist skills, or merely a change in hours. Family relocation is another common reason.

"Key accomplishments" are not always covered on job applications, but they should be on a personal data sheet as that information is needed for your resume. Use action phrases to sum up the most important work you have done. Start with strong verbs like "created," "coordinated," "planned," and "performed," and follow with a brief description of the work.

Contact references before you volunteer them on a job application. The best time to do this is when you are filling out the personal data sheet. Make certain that a proposed reference is willing to go beyond verification of your employment to discuss your accomplishments, responsibilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Also find out what attributes a reference is likely to cover if contacted, to be sure they do not differ from what you thought he or she would say.

The information on a personal data sheet is a very useful aid to completing a job application. Although applications are usually filled out by hand in a personnel department, they often can be taken home, typed out, and returned.

In contrast to the job application, the information in a resume and its presentation are controlled by the prospective employee. Entire books have been written on resume preparation, and professional resume writers are available for those who need help. Like advertisements in newspapers or magazines, a resume should aim to stimulate interest so that the reader wants to find out more about the product. In this case, you are the product!

Some resumes are lifeless. Terse, flat phrases give all the facts but not a clue to the individual's personality. Others are too slick: Replete with canned phrases, they all look and sound the same, as though copied from a single source. The best resumes are carefuly thought out and organized, use original phrases, and allow the character and enthusiasm of the applicant to shine through.

Some commonsense guidelines can be followed without sacrificing originality. For example, the resume should be visually appealing. Think of the procedural write-ups or work sheets that catch your eye. They usually have lots of white space in the margins; the headings and text, in capital and small letters, are easy to read; elements of information are logically grouped together; and the paper is white or a muted color.

When I see a resume with faded type from an old typewriter ribbon, erasures, characters typed over other characters, or slightly dog-eared paper, I wonder about the quality of the individual's work. Conversely, careful organization and neatness in a resume indicates to me that these qualities are likely to carry over into work.

Resumes generally follow one of two formats. The most common is chronological, focusing on the applicant's work history, with the most recent position listed first. The other format is functional, making work history secondary to a presentation of the individual's skills. Use the chronological format if your work history is steady. The skill-based format is better if you have a short or spotty work history or seek a career change.

The information needed to create a resume has already been collected on your personal data sheet and employment objective cards. Here is a widely used resume structure (see outline, Figure II):

Identification. This appears at the top of the page and states your name, address, and home telephone number. A work telephone number is optional.

Employment objective. Here a short phrase describes the job or type of work you seek, such as "medical technologist," "research technologist," or "sales position." If desired, the objective can be qualified: "An entry-level medical technology position in a metropolitan hospital" or "A supervisory position in clinical microbiology, with progressive assumption of management responsibilities."

Background summary. In a paragraph or as short statements, list functions and responsibilities your have carried out that will support your employment objectives. For example: "Ten years of experience in general chemistry laboratory, using automated and manual systems; set up lab safety program and coordinated phlebotomy activities; experienced with on-line laboratory information system."

Job history. List your work experience over the past 10 to 15 years in inverse chronological order. For each position, give the dates of employment, job title, a brief description of general responsibilities, and three or four significant accomplishments. This information may be paragraphed or indented with subheads.

Strive for clear, concise descriptions. Stating that you "performed routine urinalysis testing, including microscopic analysis" is better than "did bench work." And "performed complex maintenance procedures and instrument troubleshooting" discloses much more than "was assistant supervisor."

Emphasize your accomplishments with action words: "Consistently maintained laboratory turnaround for busy Stat lab; updated method documentation for Beckman Astra analyzer and added a section on 'Tips for Optimum Performance'; performed method evaluation experiments on new instruments."

Education. List college degrees and other courses that pertain to your career objectives: "B.S., University of Colorado--1972. Major in chemistry, minor in microbiology."

Although most resumes include an employment objective, a background summary, and a job history, the first two can be omitted or combined into one statement. Similarly, responsibilities and accomplishments may be detailed or brief, depending on what you wish to emphasize in the resume.

You may want to add such categories as professional associations, publications, other activities, or personal information. Since resumes are usually kept to one page, however, there is a limit to the amount of information provided under each category.

Do not list references in a resume. Often, the document is used as just a feeler to determine whether there is interest on the part of employers; at that stage, you may not want callers checking into your entire employment background. In addition, different jobs may require different references --some of them attesting to your technical skills, for example, and others to your administrative abilities or to your character.

A skill-based or functional resume uses the same opening categories as a chronological, work history resume. Identification and employment objectives appear at the top, followed by the background summary. At that point, significant skills and accomplishments provide the focus for the resume. Unlike the chronological resume's detailed job history, work experience is less important in the functional resume. It is merely a brief listing of employment dates, job titles, and work locations.

Resumes are used in a variety of ways. Attached to a job application, they offer a contrast to the more structured presentation of data on the form. They can be distributed by mail or in person to contacts you develop. Many laboratory managers and supervisors maintain a file of resumes that look promising.

The writing phases of job hunting involve a good deal of information gathering and communication of this information through applications and resumes. The most difficult part of the process is learning how to express your accomplishments concisely but enthusiastically and how to package your skills and work history in an attractive way.

Once you identify prospective employers and successfully package yourself, you are ready to go out on interviews. Good luck!

Photo: Figure I Outline of a personal data sheet

Photo: Figure II A common resume structure
COPYRIGHT 1988 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1988 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:part 2
Author:Romfh, Peggy
Publication:Medical Laboratory Observer
Date:Mar 1, 1988
Words:1865
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