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Should I listen to recruiter advising me to fib?

Dear J.T. & Dale: A recruiter called me recently and told me to change a bunch of stuff on my résumé to make me a better match for the job he wanted to pitch me for. The problem is, he wants me to lie! He says it won’t matter, but I feel really uncomfortable doing it. I want this job badly, but he says if I don’t change my résumé, he won’t pitch me for it. What can I do? – Simone

DALE: Ouch. Tell even one lousy lie and you’re a liar. Then, when your new employer finds out, you get fired. And then they tell whoever checks references why, and Lordy, it’s a career killer.

J.T.: Walk away from this recruiter. He is playing with fire, and you will be the one to get burned. You don’t want to be associated with that behavior. Second, don’t assume he holds the keys to the castle. Research people who work at the company and see if you can network your way in. Getting referred by an existing employee is a great way to get noticed. And, it lets you present yourself accurately!

DALE: Meanwhile, you can take a look at those parts of the résumé that the recruiter wanted you to alter and think about ways of recasting your career story to make it more compelling. This isn’t about lying; it’s about searching for better truths. Then, when you visit with those new contacts J.T. wants you to establish, the ones who are connected to the target employer, adopt the vocabulary they use to discuss their favorite colleagues, and pretty soon your résumé will sound right.

Dear J.T. & Dale: In the last year, I’ve been on eight interviews in my industry. In all of them, the company ended up not hiring for the position because it didn’t have enough funds. My industry is going through a lot of change right now, and many companies are losing money. I need to work, but I think I might need to give up on my industry. What’s the fastest way to pivot? – Landon

DALE: Hold on, Landon. Something’s off. Sure, you may be in an industry in decline, but executives in those industries don’t waste their time dreaming up job openings and then jerking them away. There might be one Lucy holding the football for you, but not eight.

J.T.: Yes, something’s off. But let’s start by talking about how to leave an industry, then tackle issues specific to you. When changing industries, the best place to start is with people who have successfully left the one you’re wanting to leave. Create a list of 10 professionals you admire who have switched career directions and ask them to coffee. Let them know your situation and ask them for their top two pieces of advice for making the transition. Keep track of the answers. You’ll hear patterns that will give you confidence in terms of the steps to take next. And networking with these individuals could help you find new opportunities. You share a common bond in the need to change industries, so they may want to support you and help you make the crossover too!

DALE: Just remember that the New Economy forces you to be a surfer, not a marathon runner. Economic forces are changing so swiftly that you must anticipate which wave is worth riding. Do what J.T. is suggesting, while being alert to industry trends, and your way out will appear. As you move toward that new position, you might be thwarted by the same forces that are holding you back within your current industry. Maybe “we decided not to hire anyone” was a convenient excuse to turn you down. So, in parallel with all the research of career-switchers, find someone you trust who’s in a position senior to yours and ask for interviewing advice. You may even end up doing mock interviews. After all, if you do all the work of finding target employers in thriving industries, you need to go in confident that you can nail the hiring process.

Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a professional development specialist and the founder of the consulting firm jtodonnell. Dale Dauten resolves employment and other business disputes as a mediator with AgreementHouse.com. Please visit them at jtanddale.com, where you can send questions via email, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019.

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