Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The game of resume

Question:
I developed a strong desire to get into new home building and development when I returned home. This stems from the Habitat-for-Humanity type of work that I did rebuilding homes during my deployment in Iraq. Research on homebuilders in my area shows they prefer (but don't require) a 4-year degree for an entry-level Production Supervisor. I am also interested in internships. Do I need to submit two different kinds of resumes?

Answer:
You can use a resume and submit applications, but here's what I suggest. Pursue companies, not jobs. Pick the four or five best builders in your area that you'd really like to work for. They may not be the biggest, but they should be the ones you have a real affinity for. Find out who finances their projects. This is pretty easy. On large developments the name of the bank is often on a board right at the site. Or, you can call the developer and ask what bank is financing the project. (This isn't so kooky as it sounds. People call others in their industry all the time for referrals to banks, lawyers, and so on. But don't let on that you're looking for a job -- not yet.)

Then go visit the bank. Meet the vice president who handles the relationship with your target company and explain that you are evaluating various companies in your town because you want to make a career investment. "I'm not going to join just any company. I spent a year in Iraq, and had a lot of time to think. I realized that if you work for the right organization and if you're willing to invest your time and effort in it, that's your best future. I want to pick the right company. So I'd like to ask you: what kind of company is Developer X?"

Then let the banker talk. The discussion will likely veer toward other builders, too. You will learn a lot. Your goal, at the end of the meeting, is to make a judgment. Which company that you discussed with the banker is the best? Finally, ask the banker if he can recommend someone for you to talk with at that company.

Such a personal referral is so powerful that you will not need a resume. You will have an introduction. It will be based on the personal effort you made to talk with someone who knows the people at the company. There's a huge difference between that and sending in a blind resume.

Try this with a few target companies and banks. You can also talk with lawyers, real estate firms, and other businesses related to the one you want to work in. People in the industry use this kind of method to check one another out all the time. This is what makes business go 'round. And it's a lot more fun than mailing resumes.

Make your job search personal. It's not about resumes. Managers hire people who take a personal approach, and who are referred by other people they trust.

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