You have to know yourself to sell yourself
For anyone looking for a job, the task of putting together a CV that will stand out from the crowd can seem daunting when faced with a blank piece of paper.
But for those searching for a new job after being made redundant from the oil and gas sector, there’s a whole range of issues to consider.
The Scottish Government’s initiative for responding to redundancy situations, Partnership Action for Continuing Employment (Pace), offers guidance and advice from a range of key agencies aimed at helping people to take the next steps in their career.
Careers adviser Ann Cadiz works for Skills Development Scotland (SDS) – the organisation that leads the delivery of Pace support in conjunction with a number of partners including the Department for Work and Pensions – and delivers workshops to people dealing with redundancy from oil and gas.
“They help people to identify their skills, strengths and achievements, to structure their CV, to highlight their transferable skills and to sell themselves to employers,” Ann said.
“We link that to developing career management skills as no matter how old you are, you have to be aware of opportunities, understand what employers are really looking for and know your own strengths and weaknesses. You’ve got to know yourself to sell yourself.”
For many people leaving the oil and gas sector, identifying their transferable skills can be a challenge.
“Before workshops, I ask HR departments to supply everyone with a copy of their job descriptions, and that helps people to identify the skills that they could transfer to another job.
“We do a mind-mapping exercise with four sections: Skills, Achievements, Qualifications and Personalities and we ask what people have to offer in these four areas.
“I also say to people that if they’re struggling to identify key skills they should have a look at the My World of Work website which includes a few simple psychometric tests which can help people determine their skills and strengths.”
Another area which people often overlook is considering how CVs are screened to produce shortlists for interviews. With posts often attracting hundreds of applications, employers can use software to evaluate how closely a CV matches the job description.
“Applicant tracking systems use parsing to spot the rarity of key words and phrases,” Ann said.
“This is why it’s so important that your CV is targeted towards a particular vacancy. You have to echo the key words and the phrasing of the job description as the software will pick out these things.
“Sometimes this software can’t deal with PDFs so it’s best to submit it as a Word document and it often doesn’t like tables or fancy graphics either.
“Similarly, it’s best to set out dates in full, so write ‘2011-2013’ rather than ‘2011-13’ and try and avoid acronyms. You can write out the whole name then add the acronym in brackets.
“Another question that people often ask is whether they should keep their CV to a maximum of two pages and I tell them that this is less important nowadays.
“In the oil and gas industry there are many people who have done a lot of different jobs with different companies and in different countries, and you can’t narrow it all down to just two pages. People should use what they need to use, within reason.”
Ann also addresses the question of whether employers in other industries are reluctant to hire people with a background in oil and gas for fear they will quickly return when the sector picks up.
“What I say is that they should use their covering letter to address that issue before it even comes up,” Ann said.
“Make it clear that you’re looking to move out of the sector and away from the cyclical nature of the industry. Then you can talk about the experience you have and all the skills you can transfer into that other sector. Explain how your skills will fit into that industry.
“And when people don’t get shortlisted for a job they often assume it’s because they previously worked in oil and gas, but they are less willing to consider whether the quality of their CV is harming their chances. I like it when I read a CV and I can hear that person’s voice.
“A CV is a marketing tool, so use it to sell yourself, make it personal and don’t just tell people why you’re a good match – show
them. You must have the evidence to back it up.”
To find out more about Pace support visit www.redundancyscotland.co.uk or call 0800 917 8000 to speak to an adviser.