6 Things every Engineering Student should know – Part 5: Maintain your Marketability

Last week, we wrapped up a detailed discussion on delivering results.  I covered that first because this is your first and foremost duty with any job – above all else, you must deliver results.  Now it’s time to talk about what you do next.

If you’ve gotten your first job, congratulations!  The battle for your next job starts now.  From this point forward, you must maintain your marketability.

Maintain Your Network
In the first installment of this series, we went into detail on how to build your network and why having a network is so crucial.  Now that you’ve got a job doesn’t mean you can stop doing all of the things that got you there.

Image Credit: Lafayette College

Don’t stop doing the things that got you your job

Let’s say you had more than one job offer and you accepted the one that was best for you.  Make sure to keep in touch with the people that helped you get the offers you didn’t take.  They saw something in you and were willing to invest a large amount of money (see last week’s article) to get you on their team.

Assuming you declined the offer like a professional, they won’t mind hearing from you.  Keep the lines of communication open – it’s a class act that will remind them why they wanted to hire you in the first place.  You never know what the future may hold, what opportunities you may want, and who might provide them to you.  The phrase “don’t burn bridges” applies more than ever here.

Additionally, make sure that you’re keeping up with people other than the ones that connected you to jobs.  That includes old friends, classmates, recruiters, professors, internship bosses, etc.  Treat your network like you need a job, because you never know when you actually will.

How to update your Resume
You should update your resume every 3 months.  Period.

Whenever you take over a new initiative, complete a project, or lead a new team at work, you need to put that on your resume.  As a rule of thumb, whenever you do anything new, it’s time to phrase it as an accomplishment and add it to your resume.

On the other hand, when you have ongoing responsibilities, take credit for them too.  If there’s something you do on a regular basis, chances are that it has a cumulative effect on the organization.  Update your resume to reflect the new totals (ex., Products sold, dollars saved, clients landed).

Even if you haven’t done anything new at work or continued any initiatives that you can take credit for, discipline yourself to go through this exercise.  If all you do is update the filename with the current month and year, do it.  Updating your resume is one of the best professional habits you can develop.

Pro Tip: How long your resume should be

Your resume should be one page long and not a word more.

Why? Recruiters spend just 6 seconds looking at your resume when determining if you’re a fit for the job.

Seriously.  That’s all the time you get, and they are not going to use it to read past the first page.  So if you have something amazing on page 2, guess what?  It might as well not be there at all.

Why to update your Resume

Let’s imagine that you’ve been working at your job for 4 years or so.  One day, you get a phone call from an old classmate.  His company has the perfect job opening in a city you’ve always wanted to live in.  The salary is great, plus you’ve got the right background and experience.  To top it off, he’s friends with the hiring manager and will put in a good word for you.

Image Credit: Adikos (Flickr)

Make a habit of updating your resume quarterly

This is as close to a sure thing as job opportunities get.  To seal the deal, he just needs you to send in your resume by close of business on Friday, and its late Wednesday afternoon.

The problem is this: You haven’t updated your resume since you started the job.

There’s just no way you’ll remember details of what you were doing over the last 4 years, and even if you did, 2 nights under pressure is barely enough time to jog your memory and craft a resume tailored to the job description.  The chances are high that you’ll make glaring errors, and mistakes like that can eliminate you early in the process.  Recruiters will assume that if you were careless when preparing your resume, you’ll be careless on the job.  Not good.

Compare that with the assurance of knowing that your resume was updated within the last 3 months.  All you need to do now is make sure your accomplishments are current and make final adjustments.  Then you’re ready to proofread and send it off.

Pro Tip: How to make your resume stand out

Over the course of your career, your complete resume may end up being several pages long.  That’s perfectly fine, because everything you’ve ever done won’t apply to every job.

Eliminate jobs and accomplishments from your resume that aren’t pertinent to the position you’re applying to.  Keep trimming until it’s down to one page.  Now translate your job titles and accomplishments so that they make sense to people in the industry you’re applying to.

The end result will be a resume that presents you in the best possible light for that job.  You’ll be a cut above the applicants that blast the same resume everywhere.

Be open to opportunities
I don’t care how much you love your job.  It might be your dream job for this stage of your career.  You might feel that the work is rewarding, the pay is great, and love the people you work with.

It doesn’t matter: If someone asks if you like your job or if you’re looking for something new, you ought to have one and only one default answer:

I am open to opportunities.

It doesn’t mean that you’re actively looking for jobs or that you dislike your current job.  It doesn’t mean that you’re in love with your job and would never want to leave, either.  It just means that if someone has a career opportunity that they want you to consider, you will consider it.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Foundation

The grass just might be greener on the other side

Think about how powerful of a position this is.  It’s good to have options.

If someone wants you to interview for a job and there is the remotest of possibilities that you might accept an offer from them, go to the interview.  It’s hard enough to find a job when you’re looking for one, so if a job comes looking for you, just hear the people out.

If you decide not to take the job, you haven’t lost anything – be a professional and stay in touch.  If you do take the job, then you’ve reaped tremendous benefits from simply being open to opportunities.

We’ve all heard the saying that, “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence”.  Thing is, if you look carefully, you might find that the grass you’re standing on now isn’t quite as green as you thought.

That sums it up for this week.  You’ll be in great shape if you keep your network warm, maintain your resume, and always answer the phone when a recruiter calls.

Next week, we’ll conclude the series by discussing something you really ought to do that no one seems to want to do.  Master this skill and your career will be immeasurably improved.

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