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Submit a Resume or Get Engaged

I’m surrounded by young people this week. Many of them are holding temporary assignments while they either figure out what they want to do or get a phone call with the right job offer. They’re in USAJobs, applying for jobs, and they are busy comparing and submitting their resumes.

“I’m getting good feedback about my resume – what’s strong and what’s weak.”
“I’ve asked some more experience people for help with my resume and they’ve given me some really great feedback, I changed what I had written…”

These young people have all the right credentials – better credentials than I had at their age. They all want jobs.

Getting resumes together, polishing and checking by more experienced mentor figures or peers is a good thing. We all have to play the paper game. As much as my former HR people might not like me saying this, it is not enough. A resume is just a piece of paper. You’re smile, your story, and your winning personality are much more powerful.

The thing is, when there is a job opening, a lot of resumes come in. Anyone who has ever placed an ad on monster.com knows how many resumes can flow in – it’s brutal. The people receiving these resumes see a stack of paper with words on it. They immediately look for ways to reduce the pile. The cut the pile down for grammar, spelling, dirt smudges, and anything else they can find. Losers go in the trash. When the stack gets small enough, it’s a lot more manageable.

I was never big into being a sheet of paper amount stacks of papers. I wanted whoever was going to hire me to know me personally. If that wasn’t possible, then I wanted whoever was going to hire me to get a personal recommendation from someone who they knew and trusted.

Let me provide a few real- life examples from my own life. When I was young, I had a thing for New York (my home town) deli’s. My love of the deli can be traced back to a kind deli worker who took pity on me when I was maybe 12. I was walking home from school after lacrosse practice. It was hotter than heck, I had maybe five miles to walk, and I was exhausted and dehydrated. I stumbled into a deli along my route and asked for a glass of water. I had no money and I felt desperate.

The guy behind the counter gave me the biggest ice cold lemonade I’d ever had – and charged me a single dime – which was all the money I had in my pocket. It was one of the finest drinks in my lifetime. Right then, I thought deli’s were the coolest place in the world.

A few years later, I wanted to work in one. Help wanted signs all called for a minimum of five years experience. I walked past the signs, asked to see the manager, told him my story and asked him to give me two months. I told him if I couldn’t learn what I needed to learn to be a great deli worker in two months, he could fire me. No harm. No foul.

I think he liked my pitch because I started that week, and later became one of the fastest chicken cutting, sausage making, lemonade swinging deli workers he had on his team.

Later in life, as I transitioned from the Navy, I was being recruited by a few companies. The offers I got came from a network of people who knew me and knew I was getting out. The one I ended up working for offered me $42,500 as an annual salary. I thought I was worth a lot more, but I had to start somewhere, so I again struck up a deal with the hiring manager.

“I’ll accept $42.5 for the first year to give you a chance to get to know me.” I said. “But I believe I’m worth a lot more than that to you. If you agree with me at the end of that year, I want a new salary of $60,000, deal?”

He accepted my deal. A year later I was making $65,000. The year after that, $80,000.

I landed a job as the CIO for Navy Medical Logistics because I knew a lot of CIO’s and helped a lot of people with CIO related work long before the job for CIO was open. One day I was asked to step in for 30 days to cover for a PHD who left for another job. Six years later, I had a string of CIO success stories behind me, and I was recruited from that job again.

The next job came from my involvement as a CIO in all kinds of tri-service (Army, Navy and Air Force) projects. I volunteered for extra projects, wrote extra papers, sent free advice, analysis, insights, and other helpful things to people I knew and built a lot of relationships. When Congress passed the law to establish the Defense Business Transformation Program, I was called in to get the program up and running for the Military Health System.

Three years after that, I was once again helping people above and beyond my job description. I was going out to lunch with the SES responsible for the overall program for the Defense Department. I had grass roots experience, a successful program behind me, and evidence that I could do what he’d been trying to do for a few years. I offered him a sounding board and insights into what was going on out in the field. Two years worth of lunches later, I was again recruited to take a senior position on his staff.

If I filled out a resume at all in 20 years, it was usually to check the box AFTER I was essentially hired. Essentially, HR needed a resume for the file, so I filled one out, followed the job announcement that was in USA Jobs (the one whoever was recruiting me told me about), answered their questions, got my congratulations letter and showed up for work.

I never thought about what I was doing as applying for jobs. The whole discussion was frankly foreign to me. I knew where I was supposed to be and how I could best help. I found out who needed help and I simply started helping. I didn’t need to be compensated for helping and never asked for it.

Resume building is a nice exercise, I suppose, but engaging and building relationship is better. My career is proof. What method for landing jobs has worked for you?

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Carol Davison

David, as an HR specialist I see the integrity, validity and legality of your plan. What do you recommend where the only way to get promoted is to go to another organization?

David Dejewski


This strategy works very well in situations where the only way to get promoted is to go to another organization. The essence of this strategy is building your network.

As you can tell from my story, I’ve been recruited several times from one organization to another. The key is that I was pulled. I did not push my way in through the front door. Someone from the inside knew me, liked me, trusted me and respected me as a result of my networking efforts. They saw something they liked and pulled me in. At that point, the resume and associated paperwork was a formality.

Andrew Krzmarzick

That’s largely my story, Dave:

– 1st job: friend who knew someone at a non-profit got me the interview with COO

– 2nd job: applied without a contact…turned out to be a not-so-good situation

– 3rd job: friend hooked me up with consulting opp, which led to a Director-level position

– 4th job: friend invited me to apply for a position at the place where he worked

– 5th job: friend invited me to apply at an organization where he worked

– 6th job: friend connection

And that doesn’t count my couple of gigs way back in high school…a teacher and friend’s parents hooked me up with those, too.

It’s all about relationships.

David Dejewski


I’m sure this explains some of your success. What did you do while you were in these positions to build the relationships that lead to the following assignment?