How Google's Resume Workshop Gave Me Fresh Perspective
Student Veterans of America | July 21, 2017
Written By: Maureen Elias
A couple weeks ago, I had the opportunity to go to Google's office in Washington, DC, for a Veteran Resume Workshop. I have to admit, walking in was quite nostalgic. Last year, one week after the Bowie State University Student Veterans Association became a chapter of Student Veterans of America (SVA), I was in this same location, in this same room at the SVA Leadership Summit (now SVA Chapter Leadership Academy) to learn all about creating a business plan and elevating our chapter to greater heights. At that time, my leadership opportunities had been limited and I was completely intimidated and overwhelmed. Now, I was back at Google DC but for a whole other purpose. I was there as a soon to be graduate looking to shape my resume into something that will make me an exceptional candidate and help me find employment at a company that aligns with my value system and career aspirations.
The Googler aligned with me to shape my resume was Leo Kahng, the Mid-Atlantic Sales Manager for Google Cloud. Yes, I squealed a little at that title too. The fact that Googlers are willing to take their time to work one-on-one with veterans was pretty amazing. I knew he was going to be wonderful because my previous experience working with Googler Sybil Anne Strimbu, a Legal Specialist, was outstanding. She helped me develop and write a business plan, resulting in a business plan that earned our SVA recognition on campus and help in following through with our plan and earning us the Bowie State University Student Organization of the Year Award. Given my stellar experience with Sybil, Leo had some pretty big shoes to fill.
Leo did not disappoint. As he worked with me to shape my resume to fit the career path I want to follow, he said something that truly made me think. He said that he chose me because my career path was so opposite from his, that it would cause him to think in a different way and he was excited about that opportunity. Googler Megan Anne Stull, one of the presenters at the training, spoke about stretch moments and looking for opportunities that will cause us to stretch our skills or ideas. So, watching this stretch moment in action was pretty cool. The end result of our collaboration was a resume that forms and shapes my military and life experiences in a manner that displays those skills and attributes in a manner that will showcase me as an asset to the companies to which I am applying.
Getting a job is not just about getting the perfect resume, introduction, and nailing the interview. It is also about doing the research to find a company that aligns with your value system and has a culture you want to be a part of. Values are hard wired into you. Take the time to look at the values page on the company's website and see if some of them align with yours. Look at the culture of the company. If you have a family, will the company support your needs as a parent? If you crave change and flexibility, an ultra-traditional company may not be the right fit for you. I had not really thought about these concepts before. There are many other things I learned at the workshop. Here are some of my favorite takeaways.
When it comes to resumes, it is no longer a one size fits all kind of world. The best way to get an interview with the company you want to work at is through the recommendation of someone within the company. But you can still score an interview with a well-prepared resume. Look at the language of the job you want. Find a way to work in key words and statements from their webpage directly into your resume. This does not mean copying the job description or their webpage word for word, but instead, show what you know and what you can do by using language similar to that of the job listing. Basically, tailor each resume to each job you are applying for.
So what are some of the advantages of service in the US Armed Forces? Alan Berson, co-author of Leadership Conversations, points out a few keys desirable skills military service instills in their service members. Employers see that you have military training and know your time in the service has developed in you the training, discipline, strong work ethic, and ability to be a team player. For younger veterans, you will have had far more experience with responsibility. And your ability to get things done despite adequate resources demonstrates entrepreneurship. As a service member, you know how to quickly assess strengths and weaknesses of people, programs, and strategies. You understand the concept of watching out for one another. You have been exposed to and worked with others of very different cultures. You are familiar with some of the latest technology. And lastly, your time in service provides you with a comprehensive work history, including promotions in pay and rank.
Some people hear the word networking and immediately roll their eyes. Others feel hives climb up their skin and their throat begins to close. Networking is not about how many business cards you can hand out and collect. The key to successful networking is cultivating genuine connections with others. It is a quality over quantity issue. Don't know what to say? Not a problem! People love talking about themselves. Find the commonality that you share and build upon that commonality. Focus on building the relationship. Once you have started that relationship, maintain it. Cultivate the relationship before asking for anything. Alan Berson reminds job seekers to remember the acronym, RBIT: Relationships Before Issues and Things. It is important to remember, when you do ask for that recommendation or endorsement, it then becomes your job to fulfill their word. Otherwise you risk making them look bad and weakening their power to recommend others.
Once your resume is cultivated and recommendation given, it is now time for the interview. The interview is one area where that transition from military service to civilian employment does not always translate well. Within the military, it is not culturally appropriate to "toot one's own horn". Service members don't like to talk about themselves. We are team focused. But, in an interview for a civilian job, when you are talking about what the team accomplished, be sure to add the "I" part that you contributed. Don't have job related experiences? Tailor your experience or exposures that show or demonstrate an aptitude for that work. Translate your military information to your audience. Not just your job experience, but your awards as well. We all know what an ASM versus an MSM means, but most civilian employers do not. In the words of Alan Berson, "Own who you are!"
Veterans need to prepare for the interview as if we are preparing for an Intel briefing. You probably got your interview thanks to a contact. Use that contact. Ask them how to prepare, who you are meeting with, and what will your day look like. Find something about the company that evokes your passion. Look up the company's executives on LinkedIn. Search for news about the company. Do research on the hiring manager. Then take that information and weave that Intel, in a natural way, into the conversation. Really listen to what you are being asked, then give a brief specific small answer and ask if they would like you to tell them more...then do it again...and again. Let the interviewer lead you in the direction they are taking you. And always have questions! But those questions should be thoughtful questions that show you care about the company and that you have done your research.
So, those are the secrets to employment I learned at the Google Veteran Resume Workshop. Now you have been armed with the knowledge shared with me. Don't just look for a job, look for a fit. Seek out those companies that align with your values and desired work culture. Research the company and position and work it into your resume. Take the time to cultivate genuine relationships. And prepare for your interview as if you were providing an Intel brief to the general. And lastly, remember to tell them you want the job! Good luck job seekers!