In the News
Section: Book Review
April 21st, 2007
Make the Right Career Move:
28 Critical Insights and Strategies to Land Your Dream Job,
by Rachelle J. Canter.
John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2007, 242 pp. ISBN 978-0-470-05236-5.
There are dozens of books in the stores that tell you how to land an executive-level job. They usually discuss the same themes: how to develop your career goals, how to write a resume, how to find out what positions are out there, how to network, how to interview well, and so on. Now, Rachelle Canter, a business consultant with a degree in psychology, has written this neatly packaged book that is geared to job-hunting attorneys, executives, and other professionals.
How is it different from all the other books, and what does it add? After all, it's hard to say much that's new about many of these well-worn topics. But all of us have been in the job market at one time or another, and just a few novel insights might be all a job-seeker needs to get over the hump and land that great position.
Briefly, Canter does put forward some relatively provocative ideas, although the reader still has to slog through too many jargon-filled "skill inventory worksheets" and similar exercises. Once she gets past the "career possibilities" stage and tackles resume-writing and job interviewing, she hits her stride.
A key case in point: Canter argues forcefully that an interviewee should ask what she calls "bold questions" at an interview. These might include, "Is there any way in which I don't meet your ideal profile for this job?" or "Do you have any reservations about my candidacy?" She says questions like this will benefit from the "startle effect" and will elicit honest and useful answers from the interviewer. This could be a way for an applicant to overcome hidden objections and receive an offer. It's fair to say that Canter's advice would not be given by many other job counselors, many of whom would contend that an interview is exactly the wrong place and time to be bold and take chances. Yet there are some occasions when boldness is the best strategy, indeed the only possible strategy, to land a job.
What to put in your resume
On the age-old question of one-page resumes versus longer ones, Canter comes out squarely in favor of ... two-page resumes. Most executives and lawyers, she says, can't condense their career achievements into one page, yet employers are not interested in reading too much. "A strong presentation of your track record will require two pages. Make those two pages count," she says. Again, the conventional wisdom advocates a one-page resume, but adherence to that truism might leave out something crucial.
Most notably, Canter strongly advises the job-seeker to carefully differentiate between job descriptions and accomplishments. We have all seen resumes that amount to a series of job descriptions. Canter's examples are as good as any: "Oversaw all administrative departments, including finance and accounting, facilities, MIS, and human resources," or "Developed standard documents for companywide commercial real estate lending program with an estimated $3B portfolio." These are fine as far as they go, but they don't say anything about what this applicant actually did for this company. Did she build a new department from scratch? Did he double the sales of a subsidiary? Did she successfully defend the company against a product-liability case? Those achievements are what an employer really wants to know, and very often, a resume doesn't provide them. If a reader gets only one new bit of advice from this book, it's that a resume should focus on accomplishments, not assignments or tasks.
Legal marketers will find some of the hints in this book to be quite helpful. So many job descriptions in our profession are rather amorphous, to say the least, and some can be weighted down by jargon. Stay away from those, would be her clear advice. Don't say that you "helped brand my firm and developed a comprehensive marketing strategy." That's a job description, not an accomplishment. It probably won't help you land that dream job. Instead, say that you "conceived a plan for airport billboard advertising that won five local marketing awards" or "made media contacts that doubled the firm's recognition in a key market in a year's time" or "helped build the firm's biotech practice into one of the top five nationally." It's like any form of good writing: specifics, specifics, and more specifics.
Reviewed by Jonathan Groner, Marketing Manager in the Washington, D.C., office of Jenner & Block. He can be reached at 202.637.6353 and JGroner@jenner.com.
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