She zigged when she should have zagged….

Here’s a fairly recent career dilemma that one of my clients was experiencing.

I’ll call her Sally. She has been an individual contributor (IC) for the past few years with two separate companies, both in the same industry. After being an IC for a while, Sally realized it really wasn’t her jam. I mean, she didn’t hate her job – she just didn’t love it.

Ironically, she had voluntarily left a management position a few years back after deciding she wanted to “expand her horizons” and took on a non-management role.

Things were fine but Sally found she wasn’t that engaged or challenged. She decided she’d go back to a management job with another organization, since this kind of opportunity wasn’t available where she currently worked.

Sally was pretty confident she had a good a shot at this because she did hold a previous leadership role where she managed a small team – although it was over 5 years ago.

The challenge

Sally started applying to jobs online but got no interest. She did get a response that she didn’t have “management experience” which she did. Obviously the employer either didn’t see it on her résumé and Linkedin profile or it was code for “your experience is too old”.

Recruiters told her that it might be a challenge to transition into a management position from being an IC for so long, especially if it’s in a different industry.

Sally was becoming increasingly more frustrated and started to think that she might never break back into a management position.

If you’ve ever been in a similar situation, please keep reading.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way!

My best advice is, DON’T GIVE UP!

That management job is out there for you, you just have to take the right steps to get there which will require more planning, preparation, and strategizing than if you were making a lateral move.

Applying online is part of the problem

If you are applying to jobs online, recruiters, HR and hiring managers are looking for the “perfect fit” candidate who has all or most of the job requirements.

For a management position, they want someone who’s already doing that job for an organization, preferably in the same industry.

Employers typically aren’t looking to take a risk on someone who might have management experience from a few years back which – from the employer’s perspective – would require too much of a learning curve for them to get back into the swing of things.

Recruiters aren’t paid to help you

Here’s something else to keep in mind.

If the employer is paying a third party, agency recruiter to find them potential candidates, they will expect that hired gun to deliver them a “Perfect Fit” candidate.  They’re not going to accept “close enough”.

This is precisely why working with a recruiter doesn’t always help the candidate.

I wrote an article about this that you can read by clicking on this link.

That being said, there are employers out there who can be flexible and will look at candidates who might not be the “Perfect Fit” but look “promising”.

BUT …….you really gotta knock their pants off!

The employer wants to be impressed. We’re going for “WOW!” here – not “WTF?”

That’s only going to happen if you effectively express what your VALUE is right off the bat, so that the employer understands 100% how you can help them achieve their business goals and objectives.

Your résumé, cover letter, and Linkedin has to deliver a powerful marketing punch that knocks their pants off (or at least their socks) which makes them think:

“This person looks good. Even though they haven’t managed a team in a few years, they’ve demonstrated excellent leadership successes that align with what we want to achieve. They could be a contender. I’m going to put their résumé aside. On second thought, I’m going to contact them right now to see when they’re available for a quick call!”

Communicating your career success stories

Notice the piece about “leadership successes”?  it’s absolutely essential that you come up with as many career success stories as you can that clearly express the kind of value you can bring to the table in a management position.

To come up with career success stories, you could ask yourself questions like this:

How many people did you promote (or help to promote) and what did you do to achieve that?

How did you transform a low-performing team into a high-performing one?

How did you improve a negative team environment?

What leadership awards or recognition did you receive?

How did you motivate, inspire, and gain consensus from even the most difficult individuals?

Infuse your career marketing documents with the juicy stuff

Once you’ve established about a dozen or more compelling career success stories that clearly show the kind of leadership skills the employer is looking for,  you’ve got to strategically add these to your résumé, cover letter, Linkedin profile and any other piece of marketing collateral you’re sending out.

Don’t just throw these gold nuggets anywhere because there’s no guarantee that the reader is going to get to the bottom of the first page of the résumé, much less the second or third page. You need to capture their attention and “hook” them within 6 to 10 seconds. Why? They’re busy and you’re applicant #187 out of 200+.

This is why your documents should be “front-loaded” with your leadership skills, knowledge, and achievements. That means, leading with the management piece, not the individual contributor piece.

The older your management experience is, the more challenging it is to do this but it’s doable.

Use a modern résumé format

And no, please do NOT for the love of everything sacred, use a functional résumé format because many of the computer ATS systems can’t read it properly and recruiters, HR, and hiring managers HATE the functional format with a passion.

You need to use the modern combination format also known as the  “hybrid résumé”. It’s basically a blend of the reverse chronological and functional formats.

For more information on résumé formats, please read this previous article.

It’s all in your messaging

If you are applying to jobs online, your résumé must lead with a strong professional profile which positions YOU as a strong fit for the role. A professional profile is a short branding statement which tells the reader who you are, what your specialty is, and how you help organizations and stakeholders.

Once again, for the love of everything sacred, do NOT use an objective statement, as that is a completely outmoded practice that will make you look, well, outmoded.

For more information about creating a short value message (elevator pitch), read this article

For more information about creating a strong value summary and headline, read this article.

Create a strong Linkedin profile

You also need a Linkedin summary that isn’t a total rehash of your résumé, snoozarific or reads like War and Peace. None of those will get your profile read.

What you can do is use the résumé profile as inspiration or the jump-off point in creating the Linkedin summary which incidentally is 2000 characters long.

Do not under any circumstances cut and paste the résumé profile into your Linkedin summary “as is”. At the very least, you should expand on it by including more details that you can’t in the résumé profile.

For more information about creating a Linkedin summary read this article.

As for the content of your Linkedin profile, it should also highlight whatever leadership experience you have and relevant achievements.

If you’re targeting a management position but your Linkedin reads more like you’re an IC, you likely will either get NO responses or you will attract the wrong kinds of opportunities which is a waste of everybody’s time not to mention the fact that you will be missing out on opportunities.

You need a strong cover letter to “sell” the career transition

Once you’ve got your résumé and Linkedin optimized for a managerial position, the next thing to tackle is the cover letter.

According to statistics, a large percentage of recruiters actually want you to send a cover letter, so it’s worth including with your application even if it isn’t a requirement. Sending a cover letter can’t hurt PLUS you can address things in the letter that you can’t in a résumé or Linkedin profile.

Click on this link to read the article about the benefits of including a cover letter.

The kind of cover letter you want to write for making a career change like the one that’s being discussed in this article, is one that addresses any objections the reader (i.e. HR, recruiter, hiring manager) will undoubtedly have about considering someone who’s not a “sure thing”.

Remember, the employer is going for the candidate who represents the least amount of “risk”. That’s why they are seeking to hire someone who has current managerial experience, ideally in the same industry.

If you can demonstrate that you’ve got the goods in the cover letter and provide specific examples of where you have transferable skills, knowledge, and experience as well as highlight specific achievements, you’ve  got a waaaaay better chance of landing the interview.

You’ve created your career marketing documents – now what?

This is where the rubber really hits the road. While you need a standout résumé , cover letter, and Linkedin profile this isn’t enough – they’re job search tools not the be-all and end-all. You need to know how to optimize these tools to attract interviews.

Have a heart to heart with your current employer

Your first strategy should be having a conversation with your current employer to see if there might be an opportunity for you to transition into a leadership role. Going through the process of creating your career marketing documents where you uncovered your value will help you communicate why and how you can be an asset in a manager position.

Apply to jobs online (but you could still hear crickets)

If there is no leadership type of role available at your current place of employment, you could apply to jobs online with your new and improved documents.

While your conversation rate should be higher than before you made the improvements, this is still the least preferable method to land a job, particularly if you are out of work and the clock is ticking.

According to experts, it takes on average one month for every $10K you want to earn to find your next job, so for a $60K employee, that would be 6 months.

Take a proactive approach

The way you can really accelerate your job search is to network by reaching out directly to hiring managers to uncover job opportunities or set up informational meetings. I’ve talked about informational meetings in this article.

I highly recommend you retain the services of a career professional to help you position and sell yourself for a career transitition.  One wrong move can get you disqualified from the running. Feel free to contact me here.


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Hi!  I’m Diana.

I leverage over 10 years recruitment and sales/marketing experience to create attention-grabbing résumés, cover letters, and Linkedin profiles that help job seekers stand out, get noticed, and get hired. You can learn more about my story here and about how I can help you here.

Need help? That’s what I’m here for!

Are you in the midst of a job search and not getting the results you want? Or are you’re thinking of making a change and want to make sure you get started off on the right foot? Then I recommend you reach out for some help. You can contact me directly here!

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