BI Career Development – December 2011

When writing resumes IT professionals know that they need to connect technical achievements with the business value that they provide. This is a simple concept, but simple doesn’t mean easy. It may be easy when your career is marketing, sales, or operations where the work that you perform has a direct connection with financial outcomes. But in many IT roles it becomes much harder. Much of IT work is infrastructure – essential stuff but not direct drivers of revenue increases and cost savings. For job roles such as network administrators, system administrators, data analysts, database administrators, and computers operators it is difficult describe links with the common value statements of reducing costs, improving business processes, and assuming additional job responsibilities.

It is even more difficult to make the stand out statements that distinguish you from just another “so what” resume. Simply put, you’re not likely to get that break-through resume if you think about your contributions in traditional ways – focusing on corporate or organizational value statements. These kinds of statements are often a stretch, and they completely miss the opportunity to describe your value in terms of how you help your colleagues and team members, and how they rely on your expertise to help them do their jobs.

Thinking about your value statements differently – in terms of your contributions to a team – creates language that strikes a chord with many IT managers. Hiring managers in IT want to understand your professional achievements and the results that you produce as part of a team. They are typically seeking people who can become valuable contributors to the team by adding breadth and depth to overall team competencies. You don’t tell these stories with creative but questionable connections to the corporate financial statement. You tell them by seeing your job, your roles, and your responsibilities through the eyes of those who care that you do it well – the people who depend on your skills every working day.

To demonstrate the point, I‘ll use a recent client as an example. This individual supported mainframe systems and web developers by reviewing code, testing programs, and conducting quality assurance. His primary responsibility was to schedule production jobs and verify that they ran to conclusion without failure. He also had responsibility for change control of production code – ensuring that every change to production is formally and systematically migrated from development, to test, and then to production. Proper documentation and change history were also important.

Overall his achievements don’t sound particularly exciting, and for some they might even seem dull. Mainframe production support is what is; necessary but not particularly exciting. There is little you can do to add pizzazz to monitoring production batch work and running mainframe jobs. And it is even less practical to attempt to create statements of financial value contribution from such a role.

Here are some excerpts from my client’s original resume – the one that he was using before we worked through the rewrite process.

  • Pushed web applications from development/staging environment to testing and on to production.
  • Implemented first source control system (MS Visual Source Safe) for web developers to use with .Net applications. Made recommendations to improve current source control practices and wrote documentation that met organizational standards.
  • Maintained documentation for Job Control Language (JCL) and application deployment on group SharePoint site.

These are accurate statements, but they are the stuff of “so what” resumes. You need to get beneath the surface of day-to-day responsibilities to describe this role as an important function. The original resume reads like a summary of the job description. It is missing the critical and compelling part of the story – the contribution that my client made to the successes of his colleagues and team members. The original resume describes his role as independent and isolated, when in reality he filled an essential role for the development team. His ability to handle a many of details and let nothing fall through the cracks was recognized and greatly appreciated both by developers and by production support programmers.

A typical developer is focused only on whatever new code, database, or application is being deployed. A typical production support and maintenance programmer focuses primarily on the things that need to be fixed or enhanced. Production control techs coordinate all of the changes coming from development and maintenance, while simultaneously ensuring that all of the existing and relatively stable production systems continue to run as they should each and every day.

This important role is a critical part of the message – the breakaway from another ho-hum resume. The team-value message makes a powerful professional branding statement:

Appreciated by developers and production support programmers for exceptional production control, precise attention to detail, and thoroughness, letting nothing slip through the cracks. Proactively managed development and maintenance changes, ensuring that all production systems continued to run per Service Level Agreements (SLA).

Describing your job through your co-workers’ eyes tells a different story about the value you provide to your organization. You’ll capture the interest of IT hiring managers who are looking for someone who will fit within the culture of their existing teams. The real purpose of your resume is to get interviews. Telling your story and describing your contributions in this way is certain to make a real difference in interview opportunities.

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About Jennifer Hay

Jennifer combines career coaching and resume writing skills with a broad knowledge of information technology to provide specialized and targeted career guidance services to IT professionals. Jennifer's varied background of IT positions, technical training, career counseling, and educational advising make a solid foundation for IT career counseling. Her interest in the human side of career development makes each career plan personal and individualized. Her unique and IT-specific assessment methods help people to make the best career decisions. A disciplined approach to planning and action helps to turn decisions and plans into real career successes. Please visit Jennifer's website or contact her through email at jhay@ITresumeservice.com.

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