As I have talked to people and researched the best strategy for marketing myself during my job search, I’ve reached the conclusion that I should try to sell myself in the same way that labels sell the products that sit on retail store shelves. For example, the information on the front of a box of laundry detergent might claim that it “rids clothes of more stains.” Taking this analogy further, if the benefits I offered companies had to be condensed down and made eye-catching on store shelves, what would the labeling on my box be?
In many ways, this isn’t that far from reality. When I send in my cover letter and resume, I am in fact competing with thousands of other professionals who might also be just as qualified for the job I’m applying for. When I fill out an application and attach my resume, my hope is that it promotes me in the same way that packaging attracts customers in the stores.
I’ve filled so many different roles in my twenty-two years as a professional that it is hard to boil down what I can do into a couple of simple lines. Many of my jobs evolved over time, and in other cases I evolved to fit the responsibilities that I was given.
About twenty years ago, the finance director for the organization I worked for at the time asked me what I did. I don’t remember exactly how I replied, but I remember being flabbergasted and a little insulted that she was asking me that. First of all, my title seemed self explanatory: I was the Website Coordinator, and worked for the Communications department. I managed the organization’s website and other electronic marketing. In retrospect, however, it was 1999 and the Internet wasn’t as critical to businesses back then as it would be now. And, my role was a relatively new one. We were also gathered inside one of the conference rooms, and were in the process of filling out postcards which would be sent to members asking them to renew their membership.
My response was most likely unsatisfactory, because a few months later my role was outsourced and I was downsized by the organization. I’ve often thought about this brief encounter with regret, wondering how much this had to do with the decision to make this change, and if there could have been anything else I could have said to change things. But, if it’s conceivable that the wrong words can cost me an existing job, then they become so much more important when trying to obtain one.
If I had to pick out one role I’ve filled consistently throughout my professional career, it would be “facilitator.” That’s because I’ve always found myself in a position where my key contribution was to ensure that things kept moving smoothly, or that projects were completed on time and efficiently.
When I worked for my first job at HomeTown Online, I fulfilled my main duties which consisted of answering user support phone calls and building websites for clients. But, I also took on the responsibility of meeting with clients and helping them to plan out their websites. I also worked on marketing material which promoted our company’s services. I also volunteered my expertise to the news staff who worked in the front of the building and sat in on their meetings, with the goal of providing them with insight on how to present news stories on the web.
At the Michigan State Medical Society, I applied my skills I learned at HomeTown Online towards my communication with co-workers and managers from different departments. My work may have been steeped in a lot of web development terminology, but at the core I needed to listen and understand departments’ needs and produce finished products on the website which met them. I also participated in a number of committee-run projects which related back to my work for the organization.
The work at Special Olympics Michigan was somewhat similar to what I did at MSMS, however as the Website Developer AND Public Relations Assistant, I gained some experience serving as facilitator in the real world. I planned banquets, invited keynote speakers, and coordinated with celebrity guests during the state games.
Dow Chemical is where I picked up additional skills as a user support specialist, but when I connected video conference and audio calls I was basically a virtual facilitator. We would routinely connect a call early and check in with meeting leaders in case they had any questions about the room’s equipment. Later, I served as a real world facilitator setting up rooms for any meetings that were scheduled to take place there, and overseeing the equipment.
The definition of facilitator fits with my role at EduGuide, too, but I think that it came about as a part of my evolution. When I started there, I had gone through several job losses, and one major move north. My experiences had taught me to be far more careful. I focused most of all on better understanding my managers and seeking out ways to contribute. It was my chance for redemption for the mistakes I had made in the past, but I think it was also a sign that I had opened my mind to new perspectives.
My biggest moment of clarity came about after most of the organization’s middle management had left. For a while, I was always working underneath a manager. During those times, I helped them by keeping track of details and following up on tasks that they didn’t want or have time to worry about. For example, early on I took on the task of managing our development backlog, communicating change requests to the development team, and answering developers’ questions. Later on, our project manager introduced the idea that I should begin running quality assurance testing, so I did that too.
But, as my managers left the organization, my responsibilities grew to fill the void they left and I realized that I would no longer have a middle manager to bring my concerns to–I had to go all of the way to the top. So, from that point forward I was helping to coordinate the web operations for the entire organization.
I continued to operate with a service mentality. I identified opportunities or risks, and asked a lot of questions about our projects. I also followed the virtue of “managing from below.” I felt a strong sense of ownership over my responsibilities related to quality assurance, user support, project coordination, and user documentation. There were several occasions when my proactiveness saved the organization time or money.
I currently serve as the public relations chairman for the Shepherd Maple Syrup Festival. Although this role involves maintaining a website and social media assets, I often find myself serving in the role of facilitator. During the last three years that I’ve held this position with the committee I have been guiding the organization towards a stronger public relations strategy. I’ve also worked with student volunteers during the last couple of years, putting me into a more managerial role as I’ve directed their work.
If I had to boil all of this down to the type of promotional labeling you find on a package, I would say that I am the type of employee who will help to improve your company, either through a positive growth-centered attitude, or my contribution to the company’s mission. Whether you are the World’s Greatest Manager, or someone who is looking to improve as a manager, I can help you with that. I am conscientious, experienced, and knowledgeable in the ways of technology and business. I am open to new ideas, and eager to learn.
My resume tells a broader story about my skills, but I do believe that if you are looking for someone who can understand project requirements, manage resources, and deliver results in a timely manner, I’m the right person for the job. And, I’d be happy to get connected.