Having diverse skills doesn’t always make it easy to land a job, even in this recession.
By Dave Willmer
“I’m a business analytics person who has strong technical skills, as well as the ability to interact with programmers and other IT professionals. I believe many firms could benefit from my combination of skills. But so far, I haven’t had much luck.What’s the best way for someone like me to land a position that takes advantage of my diverse qualifications?”
Dave Willmer responds:
Your blend of skills should make you a strong candidate in today’s climate for a couple of reasons. First, as firms strive to use limited resources more efficiently, well-rounded professionals who combine technical skills with an understanding of business needs become more attractive. Increasingly, companies are seeking people who can contribute to multiple initiatives and adapt to changing conditions, rather than filling one rigidly defined role.
Professionals who can build and traverse bridges between IT and business also tend to be highly valued during times of uncertainty.Many firms are keenly aware of their need for professionals who can use technology to uncover cost savings and guide strategic business decisions.When conditions improve, such personnel will be counted on to help organizations seize a competitive advantage. As your question suggests, however, even a strong combination of soft skills, technical skills and business acumen doesnÂ¿t guarantee an attractive job offer. Finding a rewarding position may have more to do with the way you present yourself than with your underlying skills or experience.
Shift your focus
When preparing your application materials, start by looking at the job description and pinpointing what the organization needs.Which of your nontechnical skills would most benefit the employer’s bottom line?nIn what scenarios might these skills be applied? The answers to these questions can help a hiring manager picture you saving the company time and money.
Because some of your key skills are far less measurable than others, a standard chronological resume might not adequately convey your potential value. To properly contextualize your work history, consider preceding it with an overview of your capabilities in several categories — for example, business skills, leadership skills and technical skills.Training or certifications in nontechnical areas can support your claims of strength in those areas.
Hone your case
Faced with multifaceted qualifications like yours, hiring managers can easily lose sight of the forest for the trees. They might appreciate your impressively diverse skills but have trouble connecting them to the firm’s current priorities. To help them do so, make sure your resume and cover letter portray your experience as concretely as possible. For example, you may be listing a number of soft or business skills — such as analyzing data and supervising others — but are you providing context around those skills?
In your resume, refer to specific projects and accomplishments to support your assertions. Quantify your achievements, such as reducing turnover by 20 percent, accelerating a quarterly process by three weeks or saving your organization $20,000 per year by using existing IT resources more efficiently. Use your cover letter to expand on one or two of these points specifically.During the reference check process, make sure to put potential employers in touch with former colleagues and supervisors who you worked with on these initiatives so they can talk about your contributions in these areas.Brief your references about the situations youÂ¿ve brought up with hiring managers so they are properly prepared.
Prove your value
Even a perfectly targeted resume and cover letter won’t demonstrate your value to an employer as effectively as on-the-job performance. Rather than holding out for an ideal full-time position, consider project-based and consulting opportunities. Many employers are hiring on an interim basis rather than investing in full-time staff. Such positions can often lead to a full-time offer, or, at the very least, yield new hard evidence of the benefits your diverse capabilities can provide.
Dave Willmer is executive director of Robert Half Technology, a leading provider of IT professionals on a project and full-time basis. Robert Half Technology has more than 100 locations worldwide and offers online job search services at www.rht.com.