Jen Barkon helps you if you are getting a new job during divorce or a new job after divorce AND helps you if you’re new to the working world. Things to think about in terms of what kind of job, how to prepare a resume and where to search for opportunity – it’s all here!
The Highlights (for transcript)
- Craft the perfect LinkedIn Profile by gearing your successes and key accomplishments towards your ideal employer
- Don’t underestimate the power of confidence! Confidence is an essential asset that will resonate with employers no matter what level of experience you have.
- Diversity in the workplace can work to your advantage if you’re a stay at home parent
- Don’t let your ego get in the way of getting your job. If you’re great, and you have talents, and you’re confident in them, it won’t be long before employers recognize that.
OUR GUEST – JEN BARKON, VP OF HUMAN RESOURCES
Welcome to another episode of the exEXPERTS Podcast where we give you all kinds of information and tips on everything divorce. Why? We’ve lived it, so we get it! We’re Jessica and T.H.
Jessica: Today, we’re so excited to have one of my absolute closest friends, Jen Barkon, who is the Chief Talent Officer at a nationwide marketing services firm, here to talk to us about getting back into the workforce or getting into the workforce. If you are getting divorced, and you haven’t had a job in a long time or ever, this is going to be a really important conversation for you to hear. Jen has also worked at a mix of large international corporations as well as some smaller startups. She is the HR guru and has tons of advice and information and resources for anybody going through this stage right now. Thanks for being here Jen.
Jen: Thank you for having me. I’m so flattered.
TH: Hi Jen.
Jen: Hey TH.
Jessica: Start us off really by telling us, what is Chief Talent Officer because I think people are used to Senior VP of Human Resources and dry titles like that.
Jen: Yes. Chief Talent Officer is sort of the new vernacular for the artist formerly known as Chief Human Resources Officer or Senior VP of HR, any of the things and any of the titles that I’ve had in the past. But really, it’s evolved, and certainly having a C-suite title indicates to the organization that the people function is just as important as finance or marketing or any of the other shared services that sit in a corporation. There’s a bunch of companies that do it differently. Chief People Officer felt a little Mother of Dragons to me, so I went with talent because I believe that talent is what makes up the organization and everybody contributes to the organization based on their own individual talents. That’s where we landed.
TH: I also think that Chief talent officer is more approachable. HR is scary. They’re scary, they have rules, they know policies, they know everything and everybody’s secret. It sounds like, ‘Hey, I’m the Chief Talent Officer. Come and chat.’
Jen: We hope. We still have all the policies and rules, but–
TH: I know, but it sounds friendlier.
Jen: We are doing a better job of being more friendly. That’s for sure.
TH: Prior to May of 2020, I was producing large scale events across the country. Of course, now in the world of COVID and pandemics, it’s not so much about mass shootings and food poisoning. We have other issues that come into play with gathering tens of thousands of people together. I’m putting my resume together, and I was really having a hard time. What do I do? I’m an events person, so how do I pivot this? Online events? Do I not want events? It took a while for me to soul search and figure out what lane I want to be in.
What’s your advice for me even at that point in time? How do I even find direction?
Jen: Well, the first thing I would say is that we’re only eight or nine months into this situation, and everybody, every company and every organization is still figuring all of this out. You’re not alone in how do I pivot, and how do I change the way that I’ve always operated? I think my advice would be twofold. One is you definitely should explore whether there are ways to conduct your existing business differently, virtually, and there are plenty of examples of online meetings and online events. Just by way of example, last month, my company organized our annual Wellness Fair. Typically, that occurs in a large, large conference room with multiple booths from all of our wellness vendors, our health insurance company, myriad of vendors, and providers who contribute to our company’s wellness program. Luckily for me, my amazing team found a virtual provider. It was literally like you could walk into a conference lobby and you would see our company branding. You could visit each of those booths virtually, and you could collect swag and your virtual bag, and then it would be mailed to your house. There are really creative, new ways of doing this. I also think two other things. One is I do have to believe that this is somewhat temporary. We’re just starting now to hear about the light at the end of our tunnel with the vaccine. Things are going to come back online. They will come back online differently, but I don’t think that as you’re considering how to evolve and change the way you operate, that you have to do it permanently. I think it’s about maybe changing temporarily until we get through this. I’m optimistic that you’ll have the opportunity to get back to large scale in person events sometime in the next year. I’m no scientist, but I’ll listen to them to guide that decision, but I’m optimistic. The other thing I would say is I would peel back the layer on what you did with large scale events because underneath events is marketing, and marketing can take a lot of forms. You think about what you did and how you found vendors or coordinated resources for that, there are so many ways in which you could take what you did and apply it into a different environment that doesn’t require large in person gathering. One of the things that I will likely talk about as we continue this conversation is how to structure a resume and your LinkedIn profile. The traditional guidance of having it 100% chronological does not need to apply. You can really structure your resume and your LinkedIn profile in a way where you highlight your key accomplishments, regardless of when you performed them and lead with that. Because the truth is, the resume, the LinkedIn profile, they get minimal airtime, right? A recruiter is going to look at that for on average 20 seconds. You really want the headline to pop and you want to be speaking what’s most salient and important in that.
TH: I think it’s really important. Go ahead, tell us more.
Jessica: I feel anyone who is in the position of trying to get back into the workforce or trying to enter the workforce right now, that’s a huge piece of information that I think most people don’t know, so totally explain that.
Jen: Yes, I will as soon as my husband is done grabbing his computer out from under mine. This is the world of working from home hideousness that we’re all enduring. I’m sorry about my earthquake computer. In terms of structuring a resume or LinkedIn profile, typically, traditionally, I should say, you would see things structured chronologically with your most recent experience first. Sometimes that’s not the most applicable to the job that you’re actually seeking. Sometimes you’ve had a few jobs in the past that are more applicable. I think that’s a really important piece of advice, which is you likely shouldn’t just have one resume. You should likely have several that are tailored to the job that you are seeking. We could talk a little bit more about that. I do think that unless your career is incredibly linear like mine has been where I’ve been climbing my way to the top of the human resources function from absolutely day zero, then it makes sense for me to list my roles chronologically. But if you’ve had some shifts or some changes in what you’ve done, I think my husband would be a really great example. He started out in corporate law, and then went into commercial real estate. Then the commercial real estate market had its challenges and now all of a sudden he’s an executive recruiter in the real estate, private equity space. He’s had some movement there. I think what’s really important is to think about the job that you want and what they are looking for, and then elevate that to the top of your resume. What you’ll see in a lot of instances is the top portion of the resume has the opportunity to include either highlights or key accomplishments and then you can list all that information. Down below can be a rather short and succinct chronological listing of what your job was and where you did it and for how long, but everything that you really want the recruiter to look at is at the top and in bullet format.
Jessica: For someone who, for example, hasn’t worked in five years, ten years or more, we know as moms, we have a lot of transferable skills that are applicable to jobs based on our organization and our structure and getting shit done, all of that, but it has been challenging for employers to really appreciate the parenting skills and the everyday life skills that actually can be applicable to jobs.
What are the do’s and don’ts of someone who actually hasn’t been in the workforce for a little while?
Jen: Yeah. I think that there’s a difference between someone who hasn’t been in the workforce for a while and someone who’s never been in the workforce at all.
Jessica: Let’s start with someone who has been and has been out for maybe five to 10 years.
Jen: Right. In that instance, I would absolutely use the structure that I just talked about, where you highlight your key accomplishments and your key career successes at the top of the resume.
Jessica: From back in the day?
Jen: From back in the day from anything that you did. Ideally, everything that you list on your resume should be either quantifiable or results based. Speak to what you did that drove an outcome as opposed to a bullet that says responsible for managing blah, blah, blah. Well, you could have done a really shitty job at managing those people. Talk to me about where you had success and what your key accomplishments were. If I had my resume sitting in front of me, I would tell you my last job, which was a high growth mode startup, I talked a lot about helping scale the organization, growing the organization from 100 to 200 people, implementing the first human resources capital management system, and decreasing our benefit overhead. It’s all the things by X percent, I was really specific about what were the things that I personally drove and what were the successes that I had. I think go back into your career, think about the things that you’re most proud of, think of the things that you had direct responsibility and accountability for, and highlight those at the top of the resume. Go on, did you have question?
TH: You’re talking about quantifying it. What if you can’t? How do you get help to figure all this out? All this stuff that you’re saying is so great, and I have worked with a coach before, but if you’re just coming back into this five or ten years later, you almost feel like you’re obsolete. You may as well have never worked, and technology and everything else. Does it really matter what your numbers were back then if you’ve been out for so long, or it just shows that you’re capable of being successful?
Jen: Well, it’s funny the way that you frame that. You talked about the insecurity that comes with trying to reenter the workforce after a long hiatus. I think the one thing that I would say is that I feel I built my entire career on fake it till I make it. Don’t underestimate the power–
Jessica: I can vouch for that.
Jen: Don’t underestimate the power of confidence. If somebody is going into a job search feeling insecure, or ill prepared, or any of those things, that’s going to resonate. I think it’s really important that you lead with confidence and you approach not only your resume and your own history feeling good about what you’ve done. Jessica, to your point about being a mom, and all of the skills that builds, and how many transferable skills there are in running a household; think about that. Think about how good you’ve been at that. I’m not saying that you should sell that, because I actually don’t think that you should. I think that those are things that aren’t appealing to an employer. You’ve got to remember, employers have their choice, even in a very tight labor market, which we were in prior to COVID. We are now not in. The power has shifted back to the employer. It used to be pre-COVID that we were in the lowest unemployment market in the short history of our country, and employees had their pick. They really had the opportunity if they were strong to go out and get the job that they wanted, because the race for talent was just really rough. Now that dynamic has shifted and the employers are going to want very linear and transferable skills. I’m not going to sugarcoat it. It’s a tough time to be out there without recent work history, but I’m not saying it’s impossible by any stretch of the imagination. The one thing that’s working to this advantage is there’s been a much renewed and important focus on diversity in the workplace. When we talk about diversity at my organization, people typically think of diversity as issues surrounding race or ethnicity. Those are the biggest issues for sure, but as we know, gender is a big one as well. Diversity comes in a lot of shapes. We have an employee resource group at my company that is geared specifically towards moms. That’s a different kind of diversity, working parents, I should say. Companies want people who have a diversity of thought, and a diversity of perspective. Having been out of the workforce for a little while, having raised children, continuing to raise children, there are studies that show that working parents are some of the most effective and efficient workers that we have. We all know we get more done.
TH: Hallelujah to that.
Jen: There’s more to do. Exactly. I would be remiss if I didn’t say that it will work to your advantage if you landed an interview with someone like me, who totally gets it. I love hiring working parents because I get how efficient they can be. Quite frankly, organizations want some mature talent, people who aren’t coming to work to drive their entire life, working parents or people who go home to their life as opposed to coming to work for their life. The younger workforce is finding a lot of their social existence and a lot of their life at the workplace. That brings its own challenges too.
TH: Wow, that’s interesting, but true. Yeah.
Jen: Don’t underestimate the strength of hiring a grown up.
Jessica: What do you think are some of the biggest mistakes that people could be making if they’ve been out of the workforce, they’re getting divorced, or they just got divorced? They have to get back in, they need to make a living, and support now themselves and potentially their families. What should they not be doing?
Jen: I think one thing they should not be doing is, certainly if you worked in the past, I know plenty of women who had some pretty high powered jobs, corporate attorneys, or marketing executives who left the workforce when they decided to have kids, which is a perfectly fabulous decision that I sort of wished I could have made, but going back and thinking that you’re going to land right in the same spot as you left, not expecting that you’re going to come back in completely laterally, being willing to take a little bit of a step back. There’s a reason why we have that thing, getting your foot in the door. Especially in a labor market like this, being willing to take a more mid-level role, and not thinking to yourself that just because you’re older means that they’re not going to want you. Again, back to my comment about having confidence, if they’re going to be able to get you at a little bit of a bargain, there’s something compelling about that.
Jessica: That’s so interesting though. I think that probably myself, and most people I know, if you’ve had high powered careers at a certain point, if I was going to go back into TV, I would expect to step back in as a senior producer running a show.
Jen: And you may not. By the way, if I could name the single thing that gets in the way of most people having success in their career, and this manifests in every capacity, it happens to manifest here too, its ego. Don’t let your ego get in the way of getting your job. Because if you’re great, and you have talents, and you’re confident in them, it won’t be long before they recognize that. It may take some time. I can’t think of a single person who left the workforce when they had their family, and didn’t think that when and if they went back that it would be like, ‘Oh, I’m back.’
Jessica: That’s right. ‘I’m back!’
Jen: Now’s the time to recognize that decision.
TH: I guess I’ve been through a few different careers. Now that we’re having this conversation, I’m very aware of it. That career where I was producing events across the country was totally luck and confidence. It was maybe two years after I separated. I worked for a startup just because I liked the name of it, and I was internet savvy. All my skills from being a marketing consultant and working in marketing research and working for a consulting firm, translated differently to this little startup here. Then the startup was going to go away, so she was pitching her list to this big media company, big for Northern New Jersey. He took over most of northern New Jersey. As it turns out, we went to high school together and my name is TH. There aren’t many THs out there, so we connected. Even though I applied for the traditional marketing job/sales I didn’t really want, he came to me and said, ‘How about starting an events division?’ I was like, ‘Well, I’m a mom of three. I can definitely juggle shit around. I produce great parties. I can do it. And I’m creative in marketing.’ It’s what you were saying, taking your core skills and applying them in a different way. I never thought I was going to produce events. I was doing 28 a year in all different categories, but I loved it. I think something that we really need to address is if you’re starting out again, or first starting out, it’s always better to find something that interests you and that you like. I think you’ll be so much more successful, because I created something that didn’t even exist, and I don’t have skills for event production going into that. He took a chance on me and I was cheap as hell. But I was recently divorced, the consulting firm I worked for completely fell apart, and it was a global company, and so I had nothing to lose. He had nothing to lose because I was cheap, but then it was hard to fight to get, ‘Okay, I’ve been here, look at all this extra revenue I brought in. I deserve more.’ That’s a whole other podcast I think about I deserve more.
Jessica: Actually, that is a really good podcast to have about where you are, because now you might be in a position where you really need to be making more, and you’re undervaluing yourself in the office, and how do you go in and approach these are my contributions–
Jen: Advocating for yourself.
TH: But it got me in the door. Then I could negotiate based on my proven performance because you were also saying at the beginning to show your results. I didn’t really have results. I worked for a bunch of consulting firms–
Jen: No, you did. You just didn’t know how to articulate that.
TH: Right. I didn’t know how to put a number or percentage behind it, but I went in, and I sold myself. I sold my ideas, and he liked it. I think definitely leading with confidence is probably the number one critical thing you said here. Going through a divorce is really a humbling experience when your confidence could be at an all time low. Really finding something that you love to do for no money could probably help you get money and get into somewhere. Look at me and Jessica now. I’m in between stuff and Jessica’s got like a sidekick, which has really worked out well for her. This is like a brainchild from 12 years ago.
Jen: Right. It was really about the timing–
TH: Our skill set works to make this happen.
Jen: There’s a term for this, right, the mompreneur. There’s no denying the skills that we develop as mothers, as wives, as partners, and as homemakers. It’s all there. The businesses that have been born out of this that are now huge, multimillion dollar businesses. The one that comes to mind is the Home Edit. These are just two women who love to organize.
TH: Great. Thanks Reese Witherspoon.
Jessica: Exactly. This whole conversation has been so great. Honestly, I feel I have so many more questions. This conversation, we have to have you back and continue this because there’s so much more to discuss.
But in the meantime, do you have a couple of references for people who really want to go someplace, look online, get the information that you’re talking about, and be able to really start looking? Where would you suggest?
Jen: Ground zero is LinkedIn. You have to have a really strong LinkedIn profile. Then the second piece of advice, TH you just spoke about it a second ago, is relationships. Sometimes those come from your distant past and that you don’t even know. LinkedIn has a feature where you can, based on who you’re a first degree connection with, you can then sort of mine their connections and see who–If you see a job that’s posted at a company that you’re interested in, and you don’t have any real connections into that business, go on to LinkedIn. Again, this is about building your network on LinkedIn. The more connections you have, the more likely you are to be a second or third degree connection to the person who’s the decision maker at the company you want. Go ahead and go deep into LinkedIn. Listen, I would be remiss if I said that I was great at it, but sharing content on LinkedIn, it’s like any other social media site. The more active you are there, the more traction you’ll get. I think an interesting idea is if you’re a person who’s returning to the workforce, or starting new in the workforce, finding articles about people who are valuable from that background, and posting them to your LinkedIn profile. None of this is a surefire way that you’re going to get the job if you do all these things that I’m telling you, but LinkedIn is really where everything starts these days. Having a great profile, there are rules about your LinkedIn profile, like what actually garners attention versus what people just tend to swipe right, I think is the thing. I haven’t been on any of the dating sites, so I don’t know if it’s swipe right or swipe left, but anyway, they offer resources. There are plenty of consultants out there who have pivoted their businesses from solely resume consulting to resume and LinkedIn profile, because truthfully, these days, I get the LinkedIn profile long before I get an actual resume. A resume is just a detailed description. When I talked about that 20 seconds that the recruiter spends, LinkedIn gives you that 20 seconds.
TH: LinkedIn also has great classes and tutorials. If you need to freshen up your skills, anything you don’t know, don’t even Google it. Just look it up on LinkedIn, because there is a class for it. I’ve taken a ton of them during this time in particular. I think LinkedIn is a really great resource.
Jen: We offer a service at my organization, for different reasons but just to prove how valuable LinkedIn is, called Pimp My Profile, where the recruiting team sits with our employees and helps them update their profile. That’s to generate content about our organization which then drives people to our careers site. It’s all there.
TH: Did you create that title?
Jen: My head of recruiting did.
TH: I love it.
Jessica: That’s really good though.
Jen: I know. They’re so good.
Jessica: All right. Well, thank you again so much. For anybody listening, check out LinkedIn. We’re going to have Jen back to answer a lot more questions about this whole returning to the workforce. Jen thank you so much for being here today.
Jen: Thank you for having me.
TH: Thanks Jen.
Jen: Good luck, everybody.
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