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Make yourself marketable

I'm having a problem in trying to make myself more marketable. I am and have worked on Lotus Notes (eight years), AS/400 and CL (four years), SQL (12 years), C(three years), COBOL (two years), Intel and Motorola ASM and BAL(two years), Hypertalk for the MacIntosh, Rexx and OS/2, Windows NT, 2000, XP, 95/98, 3.1, DOS, a little MVS/VSA, CICS, VSAM, Unix (various flavors, including Linux) and some experience in networking and hardware (including building PCs and routers from discarded parts, which isn't easy). In other words, a jack-of-all-trades and a master in a few.

Every time I try to sell my skill set, there seems to be a ready made excuse to discount it. I have heard things such as "we don't want legacy programmers" or "you are overqualified" or "we don't need senior people here" and the mother of all excuses "but you haven't used most of these skills at your full time job in the past 2 months, right?"

If I don't list most of my experience, I fear being passed over, but if I list as much as half my experience, then the resume reader's eyes will glaze over and discard the resume. What skills do I need to develop to become more marketable and how? What can I do allow me to capitalize on my experience to the maximum? The market is so confusing right now. It seems like to get contract work now, you have to be nine different experts all in one with experience in every single computer, programming language, operating systems, and every little quirk in their business processes with a working knowledge of every single job in a 500+ person company/division, and you have to had done all of this within the last week and only have two years experience.


I guess the operative word in my message to you is -- Homework. You stated. "But every time I try to sell my skill set, there seems to be a ready made excuse to discount it." It is likely that they have no need for the skill that you are 'selling' them so you need to find out 'What skills do they need?"

Everyone listens to the same radio station "W I I on the FM dial"... in other words "What's In It For Me". When a company is looking for a new employee they are actually looking for someone to satisfy a need that THEY have. Ergo, it is up to you to discover what that need is and to position yourself to be THE solution to the problem.

Companies have a sea of resumes to sort from and do not have all the resources to sort through all of the resumes piled on a desk. They barely have time to make a "first opinion" or perception of each candidate. To be successful, YOU need to help them discover why you are the one and only. This comes from:

1. Understanding what THEY need.
2. Being prepared to tell them how YOU will address that need.
3. Helping them understand HOW you will fill the need.

Focus on how THEY will benefit from your employment... not how YOU will benefit. HOMEWORK!?!? Do your research... get online.. go to their website, try to read between the lines of the placement ad to discover what they are doing, technically, and how you can help them accomplish THEIR goals. If you get to an interview, ASK QUESTIONS about THEM. A good interviewee will listen more than he talks.

Target your resume to highlight the skills that you have that satisfies THEIR requirements. It's great that you have MVS/VSE experience but, if the company isn't looking for and MVS/VSE programmer.. don't bring it up unless they ask and then briefly answer the question and ASK if that will be a skill that will help THEM.

Resume tips:

Include a section for "technical skills" at the top of your resume and include some buzz words for your potential employer. Drop the number of years for each skill. Tailor your resume to address each position in which you apply for.

The more homework you do, the better you will be prepared and the better your chance of success.

Your skill set gets you the interview but its your preparation that gets the offer...I guess that covers it.

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This was first published in January 2003

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