How can I manage my job and my career?


Conversations with a Career Coach - Noel Choh


#ConversationsWithACareerCoach: As one door closes, another will open

By Noel Choh, Principal Employability Coach, Employment & Employability Institute, e2i

Many may feel uncomfortable with a career switch, especially if you’ve been building up your career in the same industry for a number of years.

But Matthew* wasn’t afraid to take the plunge.

When the sun sets on your career

Matthew never expected to lose his job. Having been in a business development role in the oil and gas (O&G) industry for over 10 years, this hit him like a ton of bricks. But he wasn’t ready to go down without a fight.

After all, Matthew was a pretty good candidate - well-spoken, confident, and had extensive experience in business development, having amassed a solid network of clients over the years. Finding another job should be easy, right?

However, when I met Matthew at the e2i Career Services Centre, he had been unemployed for close to seven months. Living off his personal savings was also becoming increasingly difficult and he was under a lot of stress and pressure.

With the O&G industry in a cyclical downturn, job openings were few and far between. Recognising that, Matthew kept an open mind and applied for jobs in other industries as well. He sent out resume after resume to over a 100 companies through jobs portals but not a single company responded back. I could sense his immense frustration as he said this to me.

“Will you help me find a job?”, he asked, with hope, hesitation and a slight desperation in his voice.

Sussing out the real issue

When clients come to me with this question, my first instinct is to work with them to figure out the root of the problem. A job search can be derailed by many factors - your resume, interview skills, lack of career direction - so it’s good to pinpoint where your strengths and weaknesses lie.

I was actually very heartened by Matthew’s positive mindset and openness to try for jobs in other sectors. An open mind always sets you up for a higher chance of success. Together, we identified some possible sunrise sectors that would have better prospects.

However, there was a barrier that was preventing him from getting his foot into the door – his resume.

After taking a closer look at his resume, I realised that there was a mismatch between his resume and the jobs he applied for. Matthew certainly had the skills and experience under his belt. But, his resume was too focused specifically on the O&G sector, and less on the transferable skills that potential employers were looking for.

One size does not fit all

The fact that he had sent out the same resume to all these different companies meant that he was not aware of the need to highlight how his skillset would be relevant to the job description.

I sat down with him to discuss how he could best work on improving his resume and offered the following tips:

1. Interpret the job description accurately - Matthew had to understand what was required for the job before crafting his resume. The most important thing to remember is that 80% of the work needed will always be encompassed within the first two lines. But many applicants tended to gloss over this too quickly.

2. Framing the resume - Resumes have to be crafted with context, so that the applicant's skills and experience addresses the employer’s needs. This particularly important for those considering a career switch. 
3. Formatting – How should resumes be formatted so that it would appeal to employers? This makes all the difference between a good and exceptional resume.

Sample Resume for finance sector

*This is a sample resume for a sales professional in the banking sector. A good resume should be customized to meet the specific requirements of the job description.

“Oh, I didn’t know I was doing it wrong all this time!” Matthew’s face lit up after our coaching session.

When it comes to making sure the right people see your resume, I stressed to Matthew the importance of reaching out and networking with his immediate contacts. It sometimes helps to bank on these personal relationships and referrals to put in a good word, or even just to make the introductions.

When I last checked in with Matthew, he excitedly told me about the interview opportunities he had finally been able to secure after sprucing up his resume.

I believe that as long as I help my clients seek out the right opportunities in sectors with good jobs, and focus on the value they can bring to prospective employers, success will come knocking on their door.

Are you a PMET or a jobseeker looking for support with employability skills?

A career coach might just be what you need. Book an appointment online to meet e2i’s Employability Coach. e2i also accepts walk-ins at e2i west and e2i central.

*Clients name and details have been changed for confidentiality reasons.