Career ICU

I've recently set up a career ICU.  If you know the function of an ICU in a hospital, you’ll know what I do for my patent. 

I have been recruiting ibankers for years, but my patient is an executive assistant.  You may wonder why I took up such an unusual assignment without charging a dime.  Because I owe a favor to the person who refer this patient to me, and my patient
also work for executive search firms.  For privacy reason, I’ll call her Patience
in this article.

About the Patient
Patience has been out of a job for 20 months. She has 10 years of EA experience in the executive search business, good experience, good education, good English and professional appearance.  Her only disadvantage is age, as she’s beyond 50.  However the day when I interviewed her, I thought she just looked like 40.  I’m sure she’s pretty impressive in front of any employer.  But how come she took so long in job searching?

Resume Diagnosis
Patience came with an ad saying that she dearly wanted that job.  In fact, that job description perfectly matched her profile.  However she reported that she had sent her resume to many employers who were looking for exactly her type of experiences, however with very little responses.  When I continue to read her resume, her work history was really good.  She had only 3 employers in the recent 15 years, all reputable firms.  Unfortunately she ended with her last full time job, leaving the recent 20 months blank.  So I’ve decided to re-write her resume focusing on those 3 jobs and filling the gap. 

Apart from her search experience, I’ve also emphasized her strong secretarial skill sets, her willingness to take up extra duties such as the office’s environmental representative, organizing team building activities and being a corporate blog editor and so on.  So now her resume presents her as an all-round energetic woman who is totally dedicated to her job.

What about the 20 months’ gap?  In fact, she took a 9-month break and joined a reputable bank as a contract EA for 7 months.  And then she had another contract role at a search firm for a couple of weeks. In fact, her situation was not that worse because it is relatively easy to explain a 6-month to 1-year gap as sabbatical. 

Resume Prescription for the Career Gap
I added these two lines to her experience section:

Current contract:  EA at ABC Search Firm
**The day I wrote her resume, Patience’s contract was going to expire the next day, but she didn’t know whether it would be extended or not.  I didn’t specify a service period intentionally.  That way I was not lying however creating an impact that she was actively working.

Last contract:  EA at ABC Bank (service period)

Cover Letter Diagnosis
In fact, Patience’s problem all happened on her cover letter.  She’s been explaining why she lost her last job, and what she’s been doing since then, and how dearly she wanted to return to the job market.  As a matter of fact, there should be no complaints on a cover letter.  You can explain why you lost your last job over an interview, but not on a cover letter.  At the cover letter stage, employers are only interested in how you can contribute to their company.

Cover Letter Prescription
After reviewing the ad Patience showed me, I’ve re-written her cover letter and here it is.

Thanks so much for posting your need for an executive assistant on  I've had 10 years of experience assisting my previous employers in a similar role and I know I can contribute to your company the skills I've developed in these jobs––organization, dependability, multi-tasking, and positive problem-solving.

Could we meet for an interview? I'm eager to find out your expectations for the person you hire and to show you how I will work hard to meet them. Please name a date and time that is right for you and I'll be there, ready to get right down to business.

Full Recovery in Two Weeks
In two days time, Patience reported that she was invited to an interview.  In another 10 days time, Patience gladly reported that she received her dream offer. 

Final Thought
Patience was lucky enough as she was able to put up with a 20-month career gap financially.  What about you?  If at any stage you were stuck in your job searching, and that you couldn’t afford to wait any longer, seek help.  Seek help from professionals.  A second pair of eyes and brain can spot the errors you made and correct them. 

My career ICU was set up to serve one patient only.  As a headhunter, career ICU is not my focus.  If you need help like what I did for Patience, contact and speak with their industry specialists.  I came to know their founders because they used to be ibankers and they’ve been writing result-oriented resumes/cover letters for my blog readers.

Anna Maria D’Souza
June 2011