Don’t blow your cover & Resign with good grace

Article 1 - Don’t blow your cover

The letter that accompanies a candidate’s resume should be precise and to the point.

Many candidate’s letters begin:  “Dear Sir/Madam.” This salutation indicates an applicant who has done so little research on the company that they don’t know to whom to address the letter. An inauspicious start.

Further, many letters go on to say: “I am applying for the position advertised recently.” When? Last year, last week? Again, this conveys a certain vagueness, a lack of grip on the details. State clearly the position you are applying for, any reference numbers associated with the position and precisely where you saw the advertisement. This provides the employer with feedback on their advertising success and will create a positive impression.

Many applicants allude to a “confidential CV”. Why do job hunters so commonly insist their CV is confidential? It is a sales and marketing brochure promoting your talents – you want as many people as possible to read it. What should the recruiter do if confronted by this demand for confidentiality? Refrain from circulating the document to colleagues who may be involved in the hiring process? In most cases, it is unnecessary to include such statements.

A typical paragraph starts: “My employment history will indicate extensive experience in this field.” The phrasing here is awkward – why the future tense? This could be improved by making it more straightforward: “I have a lot of experience working in X.”

The paragraph is often followed by another that consists of a list of duties that the person claims to have experience doing.  Nowhere is there any evidence to support these claims, nor is there any evidence of any achievements or reference to how well he or she carried out any of the achievements. It is one thing to work in a role that involves certain responsibilities and quite another to discharge those responsibilities effectively.

The next paragraph often consists of a single sentence (poor form) that restates that he or she is applying for the position. This repetition is unnecessary and awkward.

And the all too often concluding paragraph I is a touch too assertive. “I trust that my application will be given every consideration…” (Why does he or she feel the need to remind the employer to be fair – minded?) “…and respectfully request that you contact me to arrange an interview.”

Now hold your horses.  You are telling me what I have to do? I don’t think so. Instead, how about: “Thank you for considering my application and I look forward to meeting you for an interview at your convenience.” This is both optimistic and polite.

Ideally, a cover letter is succinct, crisp and polite. It is addressed to a real person. The first paragraph states you are applying for a position and you state the title, reference number and where and when it was advertised.

The second paragraph is a brief highlights package that refers to a couple of relevant achievements that enhance the fit between you and the role on offer. The third paragraph says that you are available to be interviewed on the employer’s terms as suggested above.

The good news is that cover letters are not hard to get right. Like a lot of job hunting, it is about researching the role, succinctly emphasising the fit between you and the role, and conveying this in a positive and polite manner.

Jim Bright is a professor of career education and development at ACU and a partner at Bright and Associates, a career management consultancy.

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald April 2-3, 2010


Article 2- Resign with good grace

When it’s time to move on to a new job, do so with aplomb.

You might fantasise about a call from a head-hunter offering three times your salary but, for most of us, the reason to leave one job for another is often simple: it’s just time. Maybe you’ve been passed over for a promotion or perhaps you’ve held the same position for longer than you’d planned. Another common reason to look elsewhere is that your boss is staying longer than you expected.

Once you’ve made the decision to leave, you have two priorities: securing a new role and making sure you leave your current employer, with grace and dignity.

It’s important to leave your existing firm as professionally as you intend to join your new firm.  Most people invest time and energy in the professional workplace building ‘personal equity’, which has nothing to do with shares and everything to do with profile, persuasiveness and the ability to get things done.

Personal equity in the workplace is what you develop with your peers, the team reporting to you and your management team – the people who help you get things done. So it’s vital that your reputation remains untarnished when you resign. Your peers, colleagues and managers will be referees in hundreds of conversations – both on and off the record – for the remainder of your career. You cannot afford to burn your bridges or do anything that will damage your relationships.

The first step to leaving properly is to tell your boss that you have another job, to provide a written resignation and then to discuss the logistical issues of leaving dates, handover plans and succession. Another important item for discussion is determining what happens to your current projects; if you leave before you finish an assignment for which everyone is depending on you, you’re unlikely to be remembered well.

If you burn your bridges or act in a way that doesn’t reflect the manner in which you acted during your employment, a bad reference will follow you.  Never forget that it’s a very small employment market place and you wouldn’t be the first person to find out that six months after joining a new firm your new boss is the same person you had in your previous employment.

A stylish exit won’t make up for poor performance in the job but it will influence people’s memories of working with you.

Unfortunately, people usually remember the negatives as opposed to all the great things you achieved. Leaving badly may result in your colleagues remembering you as someone who can’t be trusted; as someone who is unprofessional and self-centred.

Final last words should be chosen carefully.  It won’t serve you well in future if you go around bad-mouthing the people and the company you have been working for. The consequences of not leaving with style, grace and dignity include receiving negative references, not getting a job in the future or missing out on a future promotion because someone remembers you as not being a team player.

Most people change employment based on their technical expertise or industry. But it’s important to remember that people who are thinking creatively about their careers often move across industries; others take time out from working for one company to run their own consulting firms. This means one thing is always certain: you never know when your past can catch up with you, so make sure it’s a positive experience.

If you remain positive, professional and trustworthy at this time, it may well be remembered down the track by someone who becomes a key influencer in your career. For example, you may get a new job or a promotion ahead of others based on what other people remember of you. You might even win that huge contract based on the ex-boss who is now a client of yours remembering you as someone he or she knows they can do business with. So its important to make the last impression count.

This may even mean organising your own farewell party.  If the firm doesn’t have an official leaving party for you, extend the bough of friendship and invite out those who you have worked with for coffee, lunch or after-work drinks. Don’t just exit without saying goodbye.

How to go out in style

  • Know your work contract and its notice period. Ensure there is no clash with the start date of your new job. Check any entitlements owed such as holiday pay or bonuses.
  • Tell your manager before you tell your colleagues. Discuss leaving dates, handover transition and the best way to inform clients and customers. Put your resignation in writing.
  • Continue to work out your notice period with the same commitment and enthusiasm. Finish outstanding projects, do a thorough handover and don’t burn bridges by being ungracious about your boss or your company.
  • Collect references.
  • If you’re asked to do an exit interview, keep your comments constructive: don’t vent.
  • Near to your last day, inform your clients and customers the name and contact details of the person who is taking over your role. Where appropriate, pass on your new contact details.

Ann-Maree Moodie is the managing director of Boardroom Consulting Group.

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald April 2-4, 2010