Your Career Q&A: Making the Most of Your Experience

By Martin Yate Feb 9, 2016
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​This week’s Career Q&A advises on how to highlight skills from previous jobs. Best-selling author Martin Yate, a career coach and former HR professional, takes your questions each week about how to further your career in HR. Contact him at the e-mail address at the end of this column.

I am currently working for a manufacturing plant under the supply chain umbrella. However, I would like to change my career to the HR umbrella in the same company and I’ve applied to a few positions, but I haven’t been interviewed for any. My HR experience is from a job I held almost 15 years ago, as well as from church leadership roles I hold, and I list all of these at the end of my resume. Should I change things around to make them first although they represent my oldest work experience?

No name or city

Yes, get those experiences up front where they will help your resume get read with more serious attention. Even though you have been with a company for a while and are applying for internal positions, don’t assume that everyone knows you and your superior abilities.

All too often, after a few years with a company, we get categorized, stereotyped and pigeon-holed. And when filling out an application form or writing a resume that is a chronological recitation, we probably won’t deliver the information that drives the outcomes we’d prefer. For this situation, I’d suggest a two-step approach:

Step One. To generate an internal transfer, get to know all the people who work in your target HR department. You might start with a simple hello when you see them in the parking lot or elevator. Then reach out to request a coffee or lunch meeting to learn more.

If your professional responsibilities necessitate interaction with the HR department, go out of your way to give their needs your personal attention and follow up to make sure they are happy with the results. And make sure they know your name and what you do for the company. Most people don’t recognize the efforts that HR handles on behalf of all staff, so when appropriate, a compliment for their good work is always appreciated.

Step Two. Recruiters are said to spend between five and 45 seconds scanning a resume, and are especially alert for skills and experience matches on the first half page of the resume. That you haven’t even received a courtesy interview tells me that they probably have never read far enough to see that you do indeed have some relevant skills.

Treat the pursuit of an internal transfer or promotion as seriously as you would an opportunity with another company. That means knowing the job’s requirements, prioritizing those required skills and then writing a resume that speaks directly to those needs.

Have a question for Martin about advancing or managing your career? From big issues to small, please feel free to e-mail your queries to YourCareerQA@shrm.org. We’ll only publish your first name and city, unless you prefer to remain anonymous—just let us know. We look forward to hearing from you!

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