Tom Sweeney

It's a coming of age tale….

Posts Tagged ‘Resume Writing’

Understanding the Government of Canada contracting game…

Posted by sweens on March 17, 2009

Often in ones professional career, an individual may need some event to take place that pushes them to start or try something they have always thought about. Tough economic times will offer some of those people the opportunity to branch out and try something they have probably thought about doing for a while.

I have spoken to several individuals lately who through their own actions or their employers actions, have found themselves in a position to start their own professional ventures (mostly starting their own consulting practice). While this is an exciting step in the careers for many professionals, it can also be a difficult and frightful one.

Since the Ottawa market is obviously in a bit of uncertainty these days, many of these new ‘consulting professionals’ are looking to break into the Government world as the Government is obviously the most stable and biggest spending organization Ottawa has to offer during this time. However if you have never contracted into the Government there are a few things you should try to do before you tackle that market space.

The first step is to obtain a security clearance. These days it is almost impossible to get a contract with the Canadian Government without a security clearance. They run from Level 1 to Level 3. Level 2 and Level 3 require more personal information and can take 8 months (or more) to be processed so starting early is not a bad thing. I would recommend that candidates obtain a level 2 (also known as ‘secret’ level) clearance as some of the major departments (DFAIT, DND, Health Canada, etc) often require this level of clearance. Level 3 clearance is almost never required unless working on top secret projects for organizations such as CSIS or DND. Candidates can obtain a clearance via the following URL:

 Secondly, candidates should wrap their head around the whole procurement process that exists in Government contracting. Candidates should be aware that contracts valued under $25000 can be directed to an individual without going to a competitive process. Anything valued over this amount, must go to a competitive process and will likely require the assistance of a staffing firm who has procurement vehicles into the Government. Unfortunately, candidates can not simply walk into a Government department and get hired on as a contractor (as can be done in the private sector).

Thirdly, candidates should be prepared to tailor their resume for each position they apply for, as well as be prepared to complete a skills grid. As mentioned in an earlier blog post, the Government values metrics and the ability to justify why they chose candidate ‘x” over candidate ‘y’, which is where this resume work comes into play. Candidates should be submitting resumes that reflect the requirements for each position they are applying for. This resume along with the skills grid will increase your chances of landing your desired contract.

As more people look to Government contracting over the next while, understanding how the process works and how to achieve the success you are looking for is crucial for any successful consultant.

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Resume Writing: Raw skills VS Industry experience…

Posted by sweens on February 13, 2009

When you sit down to write your resume, there should be two areas you are trying to reflect within your resume:


1)      Your industry experience

2)      Your raw skills


INDUSTRY EXPERIENCE: What I mean by ‘Industry Experience’ is that you are trying to demonstrate that you have worked within a given field (financial, medical, pharmaceutical, etc) and have gained experience from that industry which in turn makes you more qualified for a position with a new company relative to your previous industry experience.


RAW SKILLS:  What I mean by ‘Raw Skills’ is regardless of what industry you were working in, you are aiming to demonstrate the skills you developed previously.  This could be project management, people management, technical skills, etc.  Your resume is aiming to reflect that your skill set is transferable across different industries and not just specific to one.




Well first of all, this is important to think about because there are currently more people looking for employment then normal.  These people often represent larger organizations to which they have been employed by for many years.  I have also seen a lot of candidates lately from organizations that are declining in terms of both size and industry.  As such, the likelihood of finding employment within that industry is shrinking.



Let us assume that someone is laid off from General Motors or Nortel these days.  Both of those companies are cutting staff but more importantly their respective industries are hurting.  In the case of Nortel and General Motors, if someone is laid off from either company tomorrow, they will unlikely walk down the street and find employment with one of their competitors.  This is simply because these industries are not hiring like they were a year ago.




This is where marketing your raw skills rather then your industry experience comes into play.  Candidates should evaluate what their most recent industry is doing.  Is it growing, holding steady or in decline?  If it is declining (especially rapidly) then you should be aware that there are likely going to be less jobs available within that industry and you are likely going to switch industries to find employment.  This in most cases means that your previous industry work experience is un-related to your next opportunity and you should therefore aim to market your raw skills, rather then your industry experience. 


This means to talk less about the products you worked on and focus more on:

         What you were doing

         How you did it

         How big your team was

         How your brought in structure

         Did you set up processes



The aim for current resume writing should be to maximize your chance of getting the opportunity you are looking for.  Understanding where the market is going and what to present on your resume are vital to reflecting the image you need to be casting on others.  Talking about your industry experience that is totally un-related to the job you are applying for can often saturate your resume with information that the reader is not looking for, and the important information you want to show through, can be lost.

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Resume Writing: What do I do?

Posted by sweens on February 12, 2009


‘What do I do’ is an interesting question you should be asking yourself when you are writing a resume.  Let us begin with the following idea:


 If you do not know, how is a recruiter going to know?


You may find it amusing that I mention this; however it is not uncommon for me (and many others within the industry) to read the resume of a candidate and come out if it wondering what this person actually does.  This person is one who has many skills and tries to convey them all in one shot. 




I can offer two suggestions.  The first being that if you feel the need to put all of your skills (Project Management, Business Analyst, Technical, etc) into one resume then your resume should demonstrate your work experience and what you were doing for each position.  You should then create a separate section within your resume to highlight your skills in each of the areas you wish to showcase.  Adding multiple job titles or varied responsibilities tends to leave the reader wondering what your actual job was.



The second, and the better idea of the two, is to create separate resumes that highlight one specific skill set.  As I have mentioned before, recruiters are looking for past experience relative to the current position they are searching for.  Meaning, we are looking for ten years of project management experience rather then ten years of experience where some of it was project management.  If you create separate resumes for each skill set, this will strengthen your position within that skill set. 


Remember that a recruiter is looking for ‘the’ candidate; so increase your odds of being that candidate and give your resume the best chance of making the impression you need it to.  Marketing yourself as a ‘firefighter’ – someone who goes from problem to problem – is a skill set that is valuable within your company because the company knows you.  It is not valuable for someone looking for a specific level of expertise because it is hard to nail down where your specific skill set is.


In conclusion, if you are interested in a position as a business analyst, make sure your resume says ‘my objective is to be a business analyst and here is where I have done business analyses’.  This is going to be your best bet in separating your resume from the other candidates who all want the same position. 

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