Category: Engineering

Two Career Roads Diverged, and I Cannot Decide

In 2014, I wrote a blog post titled “Two Roads Diverged in Your Career Path Woods…and You?” in which I played off of Robert Frost’s famous poem to look at how often we get hung up in life (and thus career) on the ins and outs of making that next step when sometimes all we need to do is just, well, make a step, any step.

I was once again pondering all this recently when I was speaking with a college assistance planner in regard to my daughter, who is about to enter high school. I was discussing how as parents, my wife and I were findings our heads collectively spinning when it came to all the hoops that supposedly needed to be jumped through, and all the boxes that supposedly needed to be checked, when it came to improving her chances amidst college rejection rates that seem to be at an all time high. “How many AP classes can she handle over the next 4 years?” “How many times will she need to take the ACT and SAT, and should she take SAT subject tests?” “By age 18, will she have mapped out her entire life plan and seen enough of the world so she can write some highly philosophical entry essay?”


Obviously, like many parents before us, we want what’s best for our daughter. We want to believe that we are giving her the best guidance and the best opportunities. And, yes, obviously, we are willing to get educated on what’s happening out there and get advice. But, what we’ve found is that there is a point where knowledge and advice can only go so far and you have to stop and ask, “What is our end goal, really?”

In other words, you have to stop chasing and start building.

Of course, you don’t reject all the advice and ignore all the hoops. Some of it is practical, a necessity, a fact of life (SAT scores do matter, for instance, especially if attending a selective college is important to you), but you carefully begin to pick and choose the path you want to follow based on who you are, not on what others say you have to be.

If you don’t, you will go crazy competing against a scale in which you will never measure up.

Naturally, as parenting usually does, all of this got me thinking about my own life and career path. How many times have I just been chasing instead of building?

Over the years, I’ve written about the “rat race”…the allure of it…the constant worry that you aren’t checking off all the right boxes, that the image you’ve built isn’t quite what it should be. We all fall victim to it at some point. We end up on this never ending cycle of playing “keep up” or “catch up”, and it seems like we have little control.

We seem to be living in a world that is a bit out of control.

Certainly I’ve seen this with my technical management clients. They think of personal branding as a mold or structure that they have to squeeze into in order to be “accepted”. In reality, usually what makes personal branding effective is someone who knows how to crack the mold a bit, so to speak.

It’s a frustrating place for those who’ve spent a lifetime chasing the hoops and boxes, maybe even feeling a great sense of accomplishment in having done so. The structure is comforting. It gives you a formula, a direction.

The problem, of course, is that if you’re not careful, it can also make you somewhat indistinguishable from all the other candidates out there.

One role I see this happen with the most is in Project Management. There are so many project managers these days with PMP certifications, it can be tough to separate out from the crowd. Another is Engineers with PE certifications. I’ve often seen it in pharmaceutical and medical device sales as well. Pretty soon the market gets flooded with candidates who are well qualified, but on paper, they don’t stand out from one another.

Often, what has happened, and we’ve all been there, is that so much time was spent trying to be the very picture of PMP or PE that once we’ve achieved it, we’ve also lost any sense of individuality.

So at some point, a decision has to be made: How do I play this game while still building my own story? What hoops do I jump through, and what ones do I skip to forge my own path?

Without doubt, it is a delicate balance. But it is choice that can make all the difference.

About Stephen—-

Stephen Van Vreede is not your average IT/technical résumé writer. Some people just write résumés; he cares about the whole job search. Serving as a Job Search Recruiting Agent, he provides career strategy and concierge job search solutions for senior (15+ years) (ITtechExec) and up-and-coming (NoddlePlace) (5-15 years) tech and innovation leaders. Stephen and his team focus on building simplified, targeted, and certain career move campaigns, be it an external search or an internal promotion. He is co-author of UNcommon with career development leader Brian Tracy. Contact Stephen directly at or send him an invite at see whether Stephen and his team are a good fit for you, text “STUCK” to 866-294-1324 to start a dialogue OR click on the calendar below to schedule a free 30-minute résumé assessment:

Resume and Job Search Strategy for an Aerospace Engineer Program Executive

Resume and Job Search Strategy for an Aerospace Engineer Program Executive

Every candidate faces some unique challenges, which is why it is so important to work with an executive resume writer and job search coach who have a deep understanding of the industry and the market. Let’s take a look at one client we worked with recently who had a unique challenge of her own. Suzanne is a senior executive in the aerospace industry, with quite a successful track record leading large-scale programs with the U.S. and foreign governments, the DoD, and major commercial accounts.

Suzanne’s Challenge

Suzanne’s problem was that she’d worked for several of the large players in the space, all within the past five years with each ending after a short period for various reasons. In addition, she wasn’t able to relocate to any of the major aerospace hubs, at least for another few years. Being bound by non-compete clauses and having a limited selection of opportunities within her geographic market made the pickings very sparse. Suzanne knew that she needed a new strategy.

Positioning Strategy

When we started working on the project to develop her positioning statements and marketing materials (Resume, LinkedIn Profile, Executive Bio, and PSR), my goal was to identify the attributes that would make her truly stand out in the market.

Her old resume was very focused on one of the big aerospace companies, whom she had worked with for nearly two decades. She had a ton of great material for that role; however, that job was five years in the past with four different jobs and four different companies in between.

This sent a signal to the market that her best work was well behind her. Of course, this wasn’t true at all, but reflected how she was feeling on the inside about the value she brought to the four short-term roles she’d held since then. So the initial challenge for me was to understand what she accomplished in each of these roles and affirm the value that she created. This took away any negative feelings associated with the succession of company changes in recent years.

Current Is King

Once Suzanne valued her achievements, we were able to build out the details for the four recent roles to give them some weight and significance. After all, we operate in a world that takes a “what have you done for me lately” perspective.

With the content we added, I focused Suzanne’s narrative on her experience leading and transforming programs, delivering within expedited time lines, and developing a strong customer relationship pipeline to fuel sales growth.

Job Search Strategy

The biggest area of opportunity for Suzanne was with her approach to the job search. Traditional channels just weren’t working because the recruiters she knew all recruited for past employers. When she responded to postings on job boards, she either wasn’t considered or they told her that she was overqualified for the roles, usually from recruiters or HR reps.

We not only created a strategy, but we helped Suzanne execute on a strategy that would connect her with senior executives in the industry. By interfacing with actual decision makers, she was able to talk through the constraints she was facing and make genuine headway in her search. The result was multiple offers that within the level and salary range she was hoping for while meeting the geographic requirement and offering schedule flexibility to suit her family needs.

About Stephen—-

Stephen Van Vreede is not your average IT/technical résumé writer. Some people just write résumés; he cares about the whole job search. Servings as a Job Search Recruiting Agent, he provides career strategy and concierge job search solutions for senior (15+ years) (ITtechExec) and up-and-coming (NoddlePlace) (5-15 years) tech and innovation leaders. Stephen and his team focus on building simplified, targeted, and certain career move campaigns, be it an external search or an internal promotion. He is co-author of UNcommon with career development leader Brian Tracy. Contact Stephen directly at or send him an invite at see whether Stephen and his team are a good fit for you, text “STUCK” to 866-294-1324 to start a dialogue OR click on the calendar below to schedule a free 30-minute résumé assessment:

When You and Your Technical Recruiter Aren’t a Good Match

When You and Your Technical Recruiter Aren’t a Good Match

Choosing – or finding – the right technical recruiter for you can be vitally important in your IT job search

IT recruitingWhether you love technical recruiters or avoid them like the plague, the fact is they do play a part in the IT hiring process. In fact, in today’s tech job market, they play an even bigger role than they ever have.
That doesn’t mean you have to use them, of course, but why not give yourself as many options as you can?
Where most candidates go wrong with technical recruiters is 1) they don’t properly matched or aligned with them, 2) they expect too much from them, and 3) they fail to nurture an ongoing relationship with the ones who are a good fit to create a potential pipeline of opportunity down the road.
I’ve witnessed many candidates waste a lot of time talking to the wrong technical recruiter for them, and then they can’t figure out what went wrong. 

Sue Sacco, our Concierge Job Search Agent, says that it all starts with a little research. When she is working our client members, she:

  • Prepares a list of properly matched technical recruiters with their contact info to save our members the time and energy of trying to find them on their own. With geographical restrictions no longer at play and the number of technical recruiters skyrocketing, it’s harder than it used to be to find ones that place for the types of positions you want to go for. That is precious IT job search time you have to spend. So Sue takes care of that so our members can focus on other aspects of their search, like networking with colleagues and decision makers (because you should never rely on just one type of job search method in today’s IT/tech marketplace)!
  • Then once Sue creates her list, she either guides the member in how to introduce themselves to these technical recruiters or she takes it a step further and makes the introductions on our members’ behalf, again saving a lot of legwork and freeing up time to pursue other options as well!

Furthermore, once our members do engage with a tech recruiter, Sue can then walk them through their discussions to make sure they stay on track and not waste time here either.

 This is what a concierge job search agent service does. It’s not that you can’t. It’s that you don’t have to.
Either way, though, whether you attempt to find and engage technical recruiters and headhunters on your own or you work with someone like Sue, first and foremost is ask yourself, “Is this technical recruiter a good match?”
If the recruiter can’t say that he or she has placed candidates with your background and your salary range, then don’t waste anymore of your precious job search time.
(Want just a general directory of tech recruiters? Download our directory of 1350+ technical recruiters or our directory of 800+ project/program manager recruiters.)
Protecting the Tech Career You’ve Built

Protecting the Tech Career You’ve Built

We get a lot of questions about what we mean when we say “protecting” or refer to “career protection.” The following presentation tells the story of how this idea of protection took root and how it has evolved into everything we do at ITtechExec and NoddlePlace. It is our sincere belief that in today’s market, whether you’ve been around a bit like our ITtechExec members have, or are just starting to climb the ladder, like our NoddlePlace members, that you do more than just toss out resumes and scour job boards. It’s time to protect what you’ve built so far:

How Many Certifications Do You Really Need?

How Many Certifications Do You Really Need?

certificationsJob-changers and entry-level job-seekers alike all seem to have the same question: Should I spruce up my resume with extra certifications? And if so, how many do I need to get the job of my dreams?

The answer? It depends.

Of course, showing off your skills and education is a good thing — but so is real-world work experience. It’s easy to get caught in a cycle of certification-collecting rather than working towards the skills that will actually move your professional life where you want it to go. And because you don’t have infinite time, you need to prioritize the ways you develop professionally.

(You also want to be careful that you haven’t fallen into the Career Credential Addiction that seems to be pervasive these days.)

So, before you start raking in certification after certification, follow these three steps: take a reality check, do your research, and strategize.

Reality Check

What certifications do you actually need for your job? Don’t get waylaid by job ads that ask for lots of certs — oftentimes, they are in the “nice to have” category and not the “need to have.” Always consult your hiring manager before jumping right into a new cert just to apply to a few jobs. Be aware that lower-level certs are usually worth less to employers than high-level ones, so don’t accumulate the basics just to have a few letters after your name.

Remember: Unless you are in a profession that legally mandates certification before you can practice your craft, there’s often some wiggle room in getting hired for jobs that ask for them.


Here’s a tip that will save you time, money, and headaches: Research the people who have the job that you want on LinkedIn. What certifications do they have? Don’t stop at just one or two — look for multiple people across the country who have the job title you seek, and keep a record of what certifications they have to their name. But don’t stop your research there. Scan as many job ads and company websites as you can to see where the common ground is. Chances are, if you see the same certs popping up over and over again, they are worth your time.


Once you have the lay of the land, it’s time to come up with a plan. Will your current employer pay for certifications? Find out. Do you need to join a professional organization before you can get the cert you need? Ask. Boil down your plan to just the essentials, and ask yourself if it’s worth it. Never forget that relevant work experience is almost always considered more valuable than certifications, so factor that into your plan. Can you take on a new project at work, or volunteer your skills to an organization in need? Be creative in your approach.

Remember, it’s the quality of certifications — not the quantity — that matters in your job search. There’s no magic number. Certifications are shorthand for knowledge, but they aren’t the only way to prove your skills to potential employers.

Get comfortable communicating about what you do, and use your certifications as evidence to back-up your claims — not the other way around.

The Real Skinny on Prepping for the 2015 Job Market

The Real Skinny on Prepping for the 2015 Job Market

2015 job marketGreat news: Bloomberg reports that after November’s remarkable hiring surge, the job market is expected to grow in 2015. If you’ve been stuck in a non-ideal or part-time job and are looking to make a strategic career move, now is the best time to do it. The way we hire and work is changing now more than ever, and there are many exciting opportunities for IT and other technical professionals. But what do you do if you haven’t been on the job hunt in a while and don’t know the new rules of interviewing and hiring?

Don’t worry, we’ve got your back!

  1. Expect a different hiring process

More and more companies are realizing that how they hire reflects well (or poorly) upon their brand. Today’s recruiters and hiring managers are aiming to make the process more human and relatable. Use this friendlier recruitment process to showcase your soft skills, but always keep it professional.

  1. Build a portfolio

Whether or not you have something physical to show for the work you’ve done, hiring managers will want to see examples of your work before you get the interview. Write case studies for projects you’ve worked on to broadcast your skills and back up your claims of success.

  1. Go beyond LinkedIn

If you haven’t spruced up your LinkedIn lately, now’s the time — but don’t stop there! Develop a social media presence that shows off your skills and interest in your profession.

  1. Ask the right questions

A report from LinkedIn says that many qualified job candidates don’t get hired because the interviewers don’t know the best questions to ask them. Learn the “forced-choice question” method — asking what the main objectives for the job are, and then using examples to show how you can achieve them — to help improve your odds.

  1. Anticipate a 3-5 year tenure

Perhaps the biggest change of all, many companies now realize that job seekers will only stay at the company for a handful of years. Know this when going into the interview, and stress what a difference you can make in a short time frame. Be sure to think of this job as the stepping stone to what’s next, not the position you’ll be in for the next several decades.

Results of Corporate Entrepreneur Poll

Results of Corporate Entrepreneur Poll

Last week I put out a call for responses to a poll asking our audience what the phrase “corporate entrepreneur” meant to them. This topic of corporate entrepreneurship will encompass my contribution to my upcoming book Uncommon with Brian Tracy (Spring 2015), and I wanted to get a sense of what professionals out there thought when they heard the phrase.

The largest response at 23% was that a corporate entrepreneur was “a strategist”. A three-way tie for second at 15% each included:

  • Someone who’s business savvy but probably more suited for self-employment.
  • Someone who sees what’s coming in the corporate realm and prepares for it.
  • A professional who knows how to apply certain elements of self-employment within the corporate structure.

If you’d like to participate in the poll, please feel free to do so. I’ve included it below and will keep it open a couple more weeks.

At that time, I will post the results and give an excerpt from the book discussing this issue. As a technical career strategist following the world of work closely, I am convinced that corporate entrepreneurship is going to be a “must” (yes, a must) for anyone looking to maintain their careers, particularly as we move through the next decade.

The shifting of corporate culture, the convoluted hiring practices, the mixed-generational workforce, and most importantly, the global market outlook are all bringing together a perfect storm that will forever change what it means to be in corporate. What we’ve seen so far is just the beginning.

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