Back to Basics: Resumes, References and Networking

Many job seekers start the hunt with a positive sense of urgency. You do all the right things, in the right order, and when weeks turn into months and nothing happens, you lose your way along with your energy.  If you’re bumping, slumping, and sputtering, it’s time to get back to basics.


The longer it takes to find a job, the more you’re apt to tinker with your resume. If you’re trying to be all things to all people, you may have a document that’s too fuzzy and too long for the recruiter who hasn’t the time or disposition to plow through your prose. Focus your thinking and you’ll focus your resume.

Objective: If you’ve done a variety of things and held a variety of positions in a variety of companies, focus your objective by specifying the position you seek. When responding to an advertised position, include key words that define the opportunity and correspond to your experience.

Summary statement: You don’t need one. It’s redundant. Your resume is a summary statement.

Simplify and clarify.  Bullet-point your accomplishments and reinforce them with quantifiable facts and figures that are evidence of your success.

Personal information: Stick with the essentials of name, address, telephone number, and email address.  If you’re a college graduate, include the name and location of your school, your degree and area of specialization. If you had a 3.0 or better, include it. If you didn’t, don’t.

Affiliations: Include professional and civic organizations and leadership roles/chair positions you’ve held. Do not include religious or political affiliations unless you seek their employment.

Selecting your references:

Ask permission from individuals you’ve worked for and believe to be professionally savvy, connected, and reliable. If they’ve moved, find them and describe the position you seek and the organization in which you’d like to work. Ask for their reaction to what you’ve shared.  Listen closely to their response and the degree to which they are supportive and encouraging. If you detect a note of hesitation, check it out. If they appear cool to the whole idea, rethink your objective or find another reference.


If your efforts appear to have fizzled, don’t give up on this most important search strategy. Networking opens doors to opportunities that can’t be reached in other ways. It’s a fact; more jobs are available than are advertised. Your quest is to find them. To do that you’ll need to talk to the people who know where they are.

Before you start making random calls, be sure you can succinctly describe what you do best. Then look for people who specialize in the field you want to enter or continue working. If you don’t have natural access to them, talk to people you know personally, who work in jobs that interface directly or indirectly with these people. If you’re not sure what your friends, neighbors, and acquaintances do and where they work, find out. Ask them.

Networking is a technique that enables you to connect your questions to the information you need, that takes you to the people who know, who in turn can introduce you to the jobs you want, and those who hire for them.

Yes, I hear you. Networking may not be for you if you don’t like to ask favors of people you know and like, or of people you barely know and don’t know if you like. You may be reticent, hesitant or reluctant to get out there and meet and greet. Get over yourself. You say you want a job, one that’s better than the one you currently hold or the one you no longer have. That’s going to take courage, creativity, focus, and connections that you’ve yet to fully tap. Start networking.

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Joyce Richman ( has been specializing in executive and career coaching since she started her own practice in 1982. She works in a variety of environments including: higher education, manufacturing, sales, marketing, media, technology, pharmaceuticals, medicine, banking and finance, service, IT, and non-profit sectors. A member of the adjunct faculty at the Center for Creative Leadership, Joyce is certified to administer a number of feedback and psychological instruments. Joyce has appeared regularly on WFMY-TV and is the career columnist for The Greensboro News & Record. She is the author of Roads, Routes and Ruts: A Guidebook to Career Success and co-author of Getting Your Kid Out of the House and Into a Job. A popular speaker, Richman conducts seminars and workshops throughout the United States, Canada and Europe. Her coaching profile can be found at