Facing layoff from Cisco? Plan your job hunt strategically

Cisco Systems layoffCisco Systems announced its largest layoff ever in July 2011, and employees are certainly feeling the aftershocks.

With 6,500 staff being cut (up to a 14% drop in its workforce), Cisco has announced that it plans to restructure in order to maintain a competitive position.

If you’re one of those affected by this or other layoffs, what should you do? It’s no secret that professionals have bemoaned the state of the job market now for several years.

Will YOU fare better? Yes (and you can read more here about your chances of finding a job quickly), but you’ll need to map out a plan that is as sound as any project you’ve ever tackled.

Consider that most people going through the shock of a layoff tend to react quickly, aggressively responding to posted jobs without taking time to regroup or prepare a plan. This is at least one main reason behind a job search that drags on for too long.

Then, there’s your competition: even though like Google, Apple, Yahoo, Citrix, and NetApp will be waiting at Cisco’s door to lap up well-qualified talent, there’s no shortage of eager job hunters ready to outdo your search tactics.

Therefore, it pays to take these key steps in your search:

1 – Decide if you’re able to relocate.

One of the biggest decisions you’ll face in the job search is also one that can have the most impact. If you have the ability to put down roots somewhere else, you’ll become a better candidate for other technology companies outside of Cisco—and for recruiters.

2 – Map out your desired targets.

You’ll need to not only identify the best companies for your talent, but also research their needs.

What is going on inside your target companies or industries? What business challenges do they face? And most importantly, how will YOUR skills make a difference there?

When you sit down to write a cover letter directed toward these firms, you’ll be glad you went through this exercise. Spend some time online and within professional journals to extract data on what these companies need, then write directly to their pain points.

3 – Polish your resume – but not in a vacuum.

Yes, your resume needs to be as ready as possible to compete against others, but don’t forget that a large part of what gets someone hired is the reaction they get from employers.

Therefore, it makes sense to circulate your resume among former Cisco colleagues and networking contacts for feedback—ensuring that you haven’t missed anything critical about your skills or projects.

This is true even if you have it professionally written – you’ll want to verify that your resume writer understands technology.

4 – Identify networking venues (online or otherwise) and potential contacts.

Networking doesn’t always mean in-person contact, but the more personal, the better. If you already belong to a professional or trade association, start using these contacts. If you don’t, now’s the time to join one.

Getting involved at either a local or national level in these associations can help boost your visibility, as can joining Groups within LinkedIn. Here, you’ll want to join in professional discussions, but on the subject of technology or engineering topics, NOT to advertise your job search.

Within LinkedIn, you can also use the Advanced People Search function to gather names of potential contacts, either because they work at your target companies or they have some insight to offer. Don’t forget recruiters, either – online networking gives you a good chance to check them out.

5 – Maximize your LinkedIn Profile.

If you’ve ignored your LinkedIn Profile for a while, now’s the time to beef it up. Recruiters like to look carefully at your job titles, education, and critical achievements online before considering you for a potential slot.

You’ll also find (as many of my engineering and leadership clients do) that your interviewers will look you up on the site, and so you’ll want that Profile to be more than ready – with a professional or personal headshot, a powerful Summary, and solid listing of job titles and accomplishments.

Following these 5 tips will give you a strong head start on the competition you’ll encounter, both in the job market at large and from other Cisco employees.  

Even with substantial job market challenges, strategic planning pays off with a faster job search – and a better position on the other end.

CIO Resumes: Mining IT Projects for Strategic Benefit

Are you a rising star in the IT world eager for a shot at the CIO role? Ascending from IT Director or VP takes more than just showing how you’ve leveraged the technology itself: you’ll need to first put yourself in the C-suite on paper.

As described by my recent article in ComputerWorld, most would-be technology executives stumble when it comes to resume writing at the CIO level.

Transitioning your value proposition to reflect officer-ready qualifications requires a significant transition from the traditional, skills-based resume that helped capture your last job in IT.

Here, I’ve included simple steps that can transform your IT resume from mundane, project-by-project details to a leadership brand message designed to land a CIO role.

First, I recommend making a list of the projects you’ve led, then answer the following questions about each one: 
  • What made these initiatives attractive to stakeholders (in terms of ROI)?
  • Were the benefits external or internal to the company (with impact to either the company’s customers or business users)?
  • How did the company leverage the new technologies from a PR standpoint?
  • And last of all, what competitive edge was gained from the project?

Now, take these project details and add specific budget or cost figures to demonstrate scope, as shown by these examples:

“Contributed to $4M total savings by working with regional CEO to incorporate SaaS and cloud technologies…”

“Delivered automation solutions that increased business productivity 43%—even with $300K reduction in operating costs…”

As you can see by these sample phrases from actual CIO resumes, focusing on the bottom line can help decision-makers review your credentials in a more strategic light.

In a future column, I’ll cover CIO resume writing techniques that showcase (and capitalize on) your executive relationships.

Struggling to write your executive resume? Try these branding tips

If your idea of writing an executive resume is trying to list all your tasks and group them under each job title, you’re in for quite a surprise.

The information that actually makes employers want to call you is quite different than just the descriptions of your previous jobs, as it involves creating a personal brand message with a clear, unmistakable promise of leadership value.

In this market, your job search is almost guaranteed to take longer if your resume doesn’t reflect your specific strengths and the impact of your work for your employers.

However, don’t despair: there are quick, real-life branding exercises that you can undertake in the executive resume writing process that will get the response you deserve.

In the process, you’ll also be able to turn around your perspective of resume writing, gaining a valuable lesson in how to self-market and promote your unique leadership background.

To jumpstart the process of executive resume-writing and related brand analysis, try these 3 tips to make your task easier, before writing a single word:
1 – Ask others for feedback.

This may seem like a backwards step, but if you discuss your job search and resume purpose with trusted colleagues or friends before putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), you’ll actually have a better vision of the end goal.

Specifically, most people around you can clearly see your value in ways that you cannot, because they have likely benefited from your leadership qualities, organization skill, and technical proficiency.

Here are some great questions to ask your network, which will help generate resume ideas: 
  • What reasons would you have for recommending my work to my next employer?
  • What company-level problems did you believe I was able to solve when we worked together?
  • How you believe I’ll be able to add value as a leader in my next job?
  • What did you see as my top 3 contributions to profit, employee performance, or cost savings in my last job?

Next, you’ll want to keep these ideas in a list next to you during the leadership resume-writing process. Use them to add color to your resume profile and flesh them out in more detail in your executive work history.
2 – Make a list of career wins.

Right off the bat, make a list of your top achievements over the course of your career – including everything from leading a challenging project to success to turning around a non-profitable company division.

Give yourself permission to remember (and savor) the highlights of what you’ve been able to do that brought you kudos from others. Don’t forget that the impact might have been external to the company, as many executives often garner praise from industry insiders or analysts, as well as from their teams.

You’ll want to create success stories from each of these accomplishments, and then put them in the classic Challenge-Action-Result format for your resume writing efforts. Describe the Challenge or situation first, then the Action that you took, and most importantly, the Result of each project or achievement.

These stories will now become the foundation for accomplishment stories in your executive resume, and can be used to replace what would usually be the classic list of tasks performed at each job.

In addition, you’ll want to add more facets to each story during the resume-writing process, supplying employers with more proof of your leadership performance as you recall the details.
3 – Inject some personality into the process.

Give some thought to the role you are seeking. What type of qualities does the perfect candidate for this job display? What are his or her professional attributes?

This isn’t hard to picture: for example, a COO might be extremely analytical or improvement-focused, while the ideal IT Director would tend to challenge the status quo and take a firm stance with vendors.

Now, tie these qualities back to your own experience. In what situations did you display these attributes and what were the results of your leadership at the time?

What’s important about this exercise? It allows you to start with an employer-side view of the ideal executive leader, giving you the same perspective they’ll have when scouring your resume for proof of these qualities.

As a result, you have some goals around which to center your leadership resume, rather than just starting with a list of mundane tasks that everyone performs in your field.

In summary, you’ll need to transform your perception of executive resume writing from what you’ve been led to believe, and start the writing process from a standpoint of brand value that can help you differentiate your experience – a solid first step toward capturing a better response for your leadership skills.

The Amputated Resume: Is Yours Missing The Tie-In to a Promotion?

I’ve seen an alarming trend among self-written resumes lately, where job hunters are positioning themselves for promotion, but have failed to include any information that substantiates their placement at this level.

If you’ve decided that it’s time for the next step up in your career, you’ll need to pack some punch by leading with a resume title that clearly shows your intent.

But if you forgot to include supporting detail—or it’s too low-key to resonate with employers—then you just wrote an amputated resume, which is missing the critical tie-in for your desired change.

In other words, you need to Show.Your.Readiness.

As an example, I’ve worked with candidates who are ready to take on the role of IT Director or CIO, and have a great career progression: previous systems analyst work, project management skills, and infrastructure-building activities.

However, their resumes show experience that is related to lower-level jobs (such as Systems Architect, Project Leader, or even IT Manager), with no mention of directorship skills such as executive team collaboration, board-level relationships, or infrastructure decision-making.

The result? The candidate keeps wondering why the resume isn’t clicking with hiring authorities—who still see a technician coming through on paper.

If you’re struggling to make an upward move, here’s the changes I’d recommend for your resume:

1) Include specific competencies tied directly to your goal.

Elevate employers’ view of your skills with a list of keywords that closely match your desired title.

Not sure what these competencies look like? Use indeed.com or jobing.com to find a good cross-section of job descriptions, then pull the requirements shown for each job into a keyword list.

2) Take your career experience out of micro view.

So, you’ve met deadlines and made your boss look good? Take it a step further, looking at the projects you’ve worked on and how they impact the company, not just your department or team.

Now, you’ll want to flesh out this impact in more detail, including dollar or percentage figures on the overall benefit of these projects and adding these metrics to your resume.

3) Remove skills that pull you down.

While you’re boosting your image on paper, don’t forget to take off skills that only a lower-level candidate would display.

Examples are basic computer experience in applications such as Microsoft Word or Outlook, or obvious competencies like technical documentation. Most employers will assume that you possess these skills—given that your target is at a higher level—so use your resume real estate wisely!

Remember that your resume, like any marketing piece, should be shaped for a specific audience with a precise message, and you’ll be able to fill in the missing links to your desired promotion.