When career coach Belinda Boo first saw Mr Abdullah Shafie’s resume, she thought that it was too long with unnecessary details. It was four pages, with the first page stating his first job from all the way back in the 1990s.
Unsurprisingly, the 49-year-old logistics did not get any response despite sending out about 20 job applications.
Recounting her first meeting with Mr Shafie, Belinda said: “I asked him: ‘If you were the hiring manager who reviewed your resume, would you call yourself up for an interview?’ That’s when he realised a resume is an extension of him. The resume actually represents the first meeting with a potential employer.”
Over the years, the veteran career coach from WSG’s Careers Connect has worked with many jobseekers like Mr Shafie who have lost touch with the job market and are finding it hard to keep pace with the changes.
Most think that having the competencies to execute their work would be sufficient in their job search but do not realise that they also need to know how to sell themselves in the job market.
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Mr Shafie’s wake-up call came in March when he found out that his company was relocating to East Timor in October. Reluctant to move overseas, he opted to look for a new job.
“I was an atypical employee. I was focussed on achieving my work targets and didn’t set much time aside for training or things like that,” said Mr Shafie who was a logistics director in his previous company.
He soon realised that his experience of 20 years in the logistics sector did not help in his job search as much as he thought it would. Mr Shafie had not updated his resume in 12 years. And when got called for interviews, he lacked the proper interview know-how to win over his potential bosses.
“When I went for interviews initially, I wore short sleeves, had my shirt tucked out and slouched in my seat,” he noted.
After five months with no success, his wife, who saw posts about WSG on Facebook, persuaded him to approach the agency for help. That was where he met Belinda.
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Power of planning
Belinda used a back-to-basics approach with Mr Shafie. During their first one-hour session, she scrutinised his resume and interview style and highlighted areas that needed improvement.
“I realised that when Shafie talked to people, he didn’t maintain eye contact with them – which signalled a lack of confidence,” she said. “His resume also didn’t showcase the skills specific to the needs of the role he was applying for. When I spoke to him, he was well experienced in the logistics area. But it just wasn’t reflected in the resume.”
She referred him to three workshops focusing on interview skills, resume writing and networking. The last workshop, known as ‘Career 360’, also provided a form of peer support, as it brought together job-seekers faced with similar challenges.
“The candidates came from different industries, so we could exchange our views and ideas with each other. It gave me new perspectives on job hunting,” said Mr Shafie.
He learnt to condense his resume to two pages by highlighting relevant skills-sets which he later uploaded onto job portals. He also heeded Belinda’s advice and obtained a forklift license to further bolster his resume.
“The trainers pointed out areas to work on, and I am thankful to them. Changes had to be made.” For instance, they told me to cut the irrelevant information in my resume, such as the minute details of my previous job roles, and my last pay received. I should share all of this at the interview instead,” said Mr Shafie.
“At the interview workshop, I also learnt good posture, grooming and the importance of understanding the company profile before going for the interview.
“So now when I go for an interview, I sit up straight with hands on my lap and stop myself from fidgeting too much,” he added.
These changes produced results. Seven companies called him for interviews the next day after he submitted his resume. Within the week, five returned with job offers. “I was spoilt for choice, I didn’t know which one to choose,” he grinned.
He eventually selected a store assistant job at a French aviation company, beating 17 other candidates. It was a lower-level position compared to his previous job. But this job offered him the best work-life balance, which was a top priority for him. Besides working, Mr Shafie is also pursuing a course in religious studies.
“I will need the time to further my studies,” he said.
His willingness to sculpt himself into a more employable individual was a winning strategy that was crucial for his success.
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Coaching for career success
Mr Shafie’s coaching journey at WSG’s Careers Connect lasted six weeks, during which he received regular guidance from Belinda via phone calls and email.
“Belinda was like a guardian to me. She personally guided me and called me to check on my progress,” he said. “Even after I found my job, she asked whether I was coping well and whether I liked it.”
Belinda, however, insisted that credit went to Mr Shafie for his proactive attitude. “My first impression of him was that he was very open to suggestions, and very attentive when I talked to him. He realised that a long and unattractive resume was an obstacle to his job search, so he quickly amended his resume to two pages to highlight his skillsets,” she said.
As Mr Shafie’s experience shows, a close partnership between a jobseeker and WSG’s Careers Connect will increase the former’s chance of re-joining the workforce.