Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Bringing the job market and marketplace into focus – Part 7: training, certifications and filling in gaps

Posted in job search and career development by Timothy Platt on August 26, 2010

This is my eighth posting in a series on job search in a tight economy, where effective search probably is going to involve at least something of a career change (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, postings 89 through 95) and my intent is to continue to develop this as a series of hands-on exercises designed to help you carry out a successful search. So far these exercises have focused on self-assessment and on throwing a wider net in systematically determining where you should be searching, and for industry and company, functional area and job level and for a reconsidered constraints box. This posting turns to the issues of identifying and filing in specific gaps in your resume and background to help you market your skills and experience as a best candidate. I strongly recommend that you read and work on the preceding exercises of this series, and that you also read Unemployment Gaps and Related Resume Problems and its Part 2 follow-up. I also recommend that you review a 17 part series I have posted in the Guide on longer Plan B job searches (see postings 56 through 72) as that connects into this as well. But here my focus is on career change and breaking out of a search rut where your career path up to now is not working as a guide for moving forward.

Look at what you have done and what you have to offer as if from the other side of the interview table.

• What are your greatest strengths that you can effectively present to that hiring manager – with value determined by how effectively these traits and qualifications would help the hiring manger meet their needs?
• How should you best prioritize and present them, and once again with the hiring manager’s needs and hiring due diligence in mind?
• What gaps do you see that this hiring manager would pick up on? If this means furthering and updating your skills in a familiar area by picking up some training in a new software package or some other new resource then focused retraining may help. If you see a need for certification to both expand your skills in some area and to validate your level of skills according to third party standards then this may be your best path forward in preparing for a new job.
• Be focused and specific, and both in how you use your retraining time and effort, and in how you make any monetary investments towards better meeting the hiring manager’s needs through this.
• Plan out both what you will do to fill gaps you have identified, and how you can best present this as meeting specific needs of the hiring company and for that hiring manager.
• That focus may be to the individual hiring company and hiring manager, or you may be seeking to meet the basic core needs for a type of position you are now targeting, but know what you are targeting and the type of audience you are seeking to favorably present yourself to and what they would be looking for.

I pick up on these points here, noting that it is very easy to simply take a certification preparation course or a specific-skills training program because it will expand what you have to offer, but without planning out or even considering how this will specifically connect into and aid your search. It should not be surprising that more than half of the time that a candidate gets that next job after completing a retraining program, they find they are not actually using much if any of the new skills they have just worked so hard to acquire. Certification and training programs should be selected if at all as a part of a larger, thought out strategy.

My exercise for this posting is to propose that you reexamine the sample job descriptions that you have found in mapping out possible new career directions to take, and with an eye for gaps in what you have to offer. Look for positions where you already meet much if not most of the requirements, but do not toss out ones where you do see gaps, and certainly if these could be readily addressed with specific training or certification that is of a duration and scope, and a cost that you could afford. Here, cost may very well be covered through a state unemployment office or similar program, and certainly if you can find an approved training organization or program that meets your needs that is on their authorized retraining providers list.

To expand on a very important point there:

• Find out what your options are for funded and supported retraining, and through both government-sponsored and private sector agencies and organizations.
• Find out what their caps are on how much expense they will cover, what types of retraining their will cover, where you can get funding support for taking this retraining at, and whether you can combine funding from more than one source for the same retraining options.
• Do your research and start out assuming at least some support will be there for you unless and until you prove otherwise as for many if not most people looking there are at least some partial expense coverage resources available to them – if they find them and apply.

Now look to professional organizations and other gap fillers, though I will discuss that option in greater detail in my next posting in this series where I will further discuss networking for a career change (as a follow-up to Posting 6 in this series) and taking this one into account, as effective gap identification and remediation, and networking go hand in hand.

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