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Career Makeover

For job leads, face time beats high-tech tools

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By Cindy Atoji Keene
Globe Correspondent / August 15, 2010

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A year ago, Stephen Udden was laid off, a victim of outsourcing when the telecommunications company where he worked as a software engineer project manager moved operations overseas, and his office in the United States was shuttered.

The Foxborough resident has since been updating his skills. He has received business strategy training, earning a “black belt’’ in Six Sigma, a system for getting an organization to improve processes that awards achievement status similar to karate belts. He also became a Lean expert, or certified in streamlining manufacturing processes. But despite the new qualifications and years of experience as a technical support manager, his job search has been disappointing.

With two children to support, a mortgage, and the usual expenses of daily living, Udden is optimistic but admits he’s getting discouraged. Udden requested a Boston Globe Career Makeover, telling career adviser Elaine Varelas, a managing partner at Boston career management firm Keystone Associates, that he wanted to know why the hundreds of e-mails and applications he has been sending out haven’t led to jobs.

“I don’t want to be a droopy drawers, but the job search has been difficult and intense,’’ said Udden, 46. “I want to be part of the solution, not the problem.’’

As Udden’s experience illustrates, the movement of jobs and production overseas continues to handcuff the nation’s recovery. And it could be hampering his current job search, especially given shifts in the telecommunications industry.

“What are the odds, given your qualifications, technical level, and past background, that you would spend over a year looking for a job?’’ said Varelas, who contributes to Boston.com’s Job Doc blog. “A huge part of this is about the economy. It’s comparable to you looking for a job with one arm tied behind your back.’’

Udden was conducting a very efficient job hunt, focusing on e-mail connections, job boards, and social networking websites such as LinkedIn. But he may have been relying too much on computerized job search tools. He needed more “face time,’’ said Varelas.

“As a technology guy, that is your expertise and comfort zone, but it’s the in-person connections that yield the best results,’’ said Varelas, who added that just sending out resumes is one of the least successful ways to get a job.

Varelas urged Udden to set a goal of having at least 10 in-person networking meetings a week, a task he could meet by identifying a list of target companies, finding leads inside those organizations, and setting up informational meetings.

“Your focus should be, ‘How can I get myself in front of a hiring manager or make a new connection?’ ’’ said Varelas, who added that it would take about 40 or more phone calls to set up those 10 meetings. “Face-to-face networking takes a lot of work, energy, and time, but with better outcomes. Job hunters think they’re going to make one phone call and get a ‘Yes, I’ll meet with you,’ but it’s not that easy.’’

Varelas said Udden also needed to reorganize his resume to more clearly reflect the various corporate transitions that he survived in 12 years with his last company: He held various positions with the same company during several mergers, as start-ups were sold to Fortune 500 technology companies.

The way his resume was organized, his work history appeared to be divided up into two-, three-, and seven-year stints, when actually, Varelas pointed out, “You’ve been running with the same guys for 12 years.’’

A simple reworking of his employment history would more accurately reflect Udden’s longevity as a 12-year employee.

“The organization changed hands three times, and managers evaluated your skills each time and decided that you couldn’t be eliminated — you were valuable enough to keep,’’ she said. “You survived the chainsaws of corporate culture, which swung many times, but had the versatility to stay in a technical environment for many years, and your resume should reflect that.’’

Finally, on a more superficial note, Varelas encouraged Udden, who was wearing a heavy brown plaid jacket on a hot summer day, to dress more traditionally, with a solid blue or black suit.

“There are other ways to show your one-of-a-kind uniqueness,’’ said Varelas. “Strive for the sharpest, most professional presentation every time you go out and represent yourself.’’

To be considered for a Career Makeover, send an e-mail to careermakeover@globe.com.

Related

Career Makeovers

A special Globe series helping stuck job seekers get on track

STEPHEN UDDEN
Goal: Rehiring as a technical program manager after being laid off when his previous employer moved operations overseas.
Problem: Despite searching for a year, his job hunt is yielding few results in a competitive market.

Recommendations from career adviser Elaine Varelas:
■ Don’t depend entirely on technology — e-mails, job postings, websites — to make contacts.
■ Set up at least 10 face-to-face networking meetings a week, by identifying a list of target companies, finding leads inside those organizations, and calling prospective hiring managers.
■ Rework resume to reflect industry continuity by clarifying work history and related roles.
■ Strive for professional, conservative appearance with clothing.