By Stephanie Wilcox (Connecticut)
Good news, bankers and insurance professionals: financial services companies in New York are hiring again, and you’re among the most desired candidates. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that employment in the industry grew by 6,800 in New York City from the end of February through May, the largest gain in financial services in almost two years. Whether you’re returning to work after being underemployed in other disciplines or industries or returning from a hiatus of child or eldercare, now is the time to differentiate yourself, demonstrate your value, and define your own brand, according to Jan Melnik, executive resume writer, job search coach and career management expert. Here are the top five tips to get that promotion, raise, or new job.
1. Don’t Underestimate the Power of Your Profile
The single most important thing you can do is reflect a broad skills set that includes very specific core competencies relating to the field of financial services. Look for positions matching what you want to do, and find the key words you see over and over. Then, put those words right into the profile/qualifications section on your resume.
“The profile is the most important piece of real-estate on your resume,” said Melnik. It should follow your contact information and take up roughly one-third or more of page one. That’s right: One-third or more – this is your chance to shine. And don’t be confused by the objective section. The profile is different in that it’s customized to what the recruiter, HR department, or hiring manager is seeking. “Getting this section on your resume absolutely precise is the number one thing,” said Melnik. She recommends finding five job ads that you would apply for to see the key words used for that level position.
2. Create CAR Stories
The rest of your resume should include strong CAR (Challenge, Action, Result) Stories; a bulleted line describing a challenge you faced, the actions you took, and the results. Consider your most recent positions, and come up with two to three CAR Stories for each. People don’t do this, or they don’t do it consistently or well, so their resumes read like obituaries pointing out tasks and responsibilities, rather than key contributions and measurable achievements. To avoid this mistake, make sure your CAR Stories magnify what’s in the industry. If your resume can be used in another field, you haven’t done enough research.
CAR Stories are also important in preparing for interviews because it will help you precisely and articulately express your key contributions. “If you prepare well in writing your CAR stories, you will interview better,” said Melnik.
Cindy Kraft, a Florida-based CFO-coach, is also a big believer in having CAR Stories, but she suggests CAR plus SI (Strategic Importance). Your strategic importance is measured by where you were when you started something and where you ended up. It can also be what you strategically positioned the company to do better or that it could not have done otherwise. Add these right to your bulleted list.
“This is where you show that you’ve made the company more than it costs to keep you on board,” said Kraft.
If you’re looking for a promotion or raise, instead of waiting for your annual review, make appointments quarterly with your boss to show them your “CAR folder.” The more an employee can make their boss look good, the better it is for both of them.
3. Arm Yourself with a “Leave Behind” Document
It’s also critical to take the time to build a “leave behind” document that extracts from performance evaluations or letters from satisfied clients. This is a single page document with the very best pull-quotes said by others on your behalf, with three or four lines for each source. This is backed up with a second sheet that lists the references and contact information for each of those people. You’ll present it and leave it behind at the conclusion of your first interview.
“This is probably the easiest way for an interviewer to see you are what you say you are,” said Melnik.
4. Create a Business Plan for the Company
To demonstrate you are proactive, action-oriented, goal-focused, and you’ve done your research, put together a 90 or 180 day abbreviated business plan highlighting what you would do in your first months on the job for the position you want to hold. It’s a lot of work, but it’s worthwhile to flesh out the ways you will make a difference to the organization while showing your personal brand.
“It shows you’re ready to be a member of the team or that you’ve already been given the promotion,” said Melnik. “If your business plan is carefully done, you can really knock it out of the park.”
5. Have a Mentor, Be a Mentor
Mentoring is valuable because no matter how long you’ve been in the industry, you can always learn something else. Aim to be a mentor to someone coming up behind you. It’s not only beneficial to you and others but looks great on a resume. Having a mentor within the company can help make sure people who need to know about your accomplishments know about them.
Finally, more so than ever you’ll need to be on your game when it comes to networking, whether you want a job, promotion, or raise. “You should be leveraging your friends, family, colleagues, and social networking sites,” said Michael Pratt, vice president of Human Resources for ING Investment Management, a leader in the financial services industry. “Word of mouth is key.” From your email correspondences and documents to your appearance and briefcase, all these things should be woven together in a deliberate and branded way that shows who you are as a professional. But more than anything else, Kraft’s best advice is, “You have to understand your value and what it is you bring to the table that someone will pay to get.”