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An Interview with Bill Burgess About Career, Industry, Title, and Job Changes

Q: I'm trying to change industries. How can I translate my experience on my resume to make a smooth transition?

The most common challenge for people trying to shift to another industry is translating their titles and responsibilities for potential employers. "People in banking, oil and insurance have a more difficult time moving over to consumer goods and services companies because the title don't translate accurately" says William H. Burgess III, President of The Burgess Group, a retained executive search and management consulting firm with offices in New York and Connecticut. "An assistant vice president in a bank may only be a branch or niche marketing manager, whereas the same title in a consumer goods company may apply to a product director controlling the entire marketing of a product."

Human resource professionals take the path of least resistance and won't try to do the translation, adds Burgess. "They don't know what the hierarchy was at your former company or what factor govern those titles, so, if you can, use a generic version of your title and, above all, focus on your responsibilities."

Do try to keep the details as short as possible. You should target no more than two diffrent industries and tailor a resume for each. Do some research and visit the company's website to find out about its hiring practices, job openings and titles you can cross-reference. "A resume is merely a flash card of your accomplishments." says Burgess. "Before you can get an interview, you must create an interest with the recruiter or hiring manager, and that means meeting their demands on paper first."

Q: I want to submit my rusume to an executive search firm. How should I contact them and what can I expect to happen afterward?

A resume and cover letter is the first contact you should have with the search firm. "Refrain from calling and giving your career history over the phone." says William H. Burgess III, president and CEO of The Burgess Group in New York City and Connecticut.

Remember that you are not the client- the companies seeking to fill positions are. If you don't have the qualifications being sought, your first contact will be your last and you won't hear from the search firm again. If, on the other hand, you are slected as a condidate, the firm will forward your materials to the client companies. Wait at least five business days before calling to inquire about your application status.

If you are matched with a client company, the search firm will contact you for a preliminary phone interview. If all goes well, you can expect to have several in-person interviews with the hiring company itself. If you are not chosen, the search firm may, but likely will not, notify you.

This interview appeared in Black Enterprise Magazine.

Bill Burgess presented his "Where Do I Go From Here?: Me and My Career" Lecture at York College's Economic Forum and Manhattan Metropolitan Club's Job Seminar

"Where Do I Go From Here? Me and My Career": Preparing for a Job, Job Search and other Recruitment Issues

By William H. Burgess, III

Do I Have Answers To These 5 Basic Questions?

  1. What are my goals? What should I be doing about my career? Next steps?
  2. When is the best time to start looking for a job? Another job? What does my resume look like and where is my resume?
  3. How do I re-package myself, i.e. change companies, industries, levels, specializations, from profit to nonprofit sectors?
  4. Do I need to re-invent myself? Tenure in the workforce vs. starting my own business or becoming a consultant, independent contractor or sub to a major contractor.
  5. The Power of Networking. Am I creating, sharing and coaching others in the creation of wealth?