Career Makeover

Organization, focus are keys to job search

Petko Savov at home with this his 2-year-old daughter, Zoey Savov-Wong. After a frustrating search, he recently landed a job as a procurement administrator for an area software company. Petko Savov at home with this his 2-year-old daughter, Zoey Savov-Wong. After a frustrating search, he recently landed a job as a procurement administrator for an area software company. (Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff)
By Cindy Atoji Keene
Globe Correspondent / April 17, 2011

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Petko Savov came to the United States from Bulgaria 11 years ago with high hopes, a green card, and $1,000 in his pocket. He was college-educated and had several years of work experience in marketing, but his first few months were a blur as he struggled to reinvent himself.

“I only had a handful of contacts, and I wasn’t sure how my previous employment history would resonate with companies here,’’ said Savov, 38, who ended up staying with friends in New York, looking for any job he could find. He was grateful to be hired as a restaurant bus boy.

Skilled immigrants like Savov — those who hold at least a bachelor’s degree — often arrive with substantial resumes, but far too often their education and training are overlooked or undervalued by employers. One in five college-educated immigrants in the US labor market is unemployed or stuck in a low-skill job such as taxi driver, security guard, or dish washer, according to the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington think tank.

After working in New York restaurants, Savov moved to Boston in 2006, hoping to broaden his opportunities. He became a manager at a restaurant chain but was laid off in 2009.

With the help of employment coaches Judy Bottkol and George Zeller of Jewish Vocational Service in Boston, Savov recently found the professional opportunity he had long sought. He was hired as a procurement administrator, handling the purchasing of goods and services from vendors for a Boston-area software company.

“I am so excited about this job that I could barely hold myself from jumping in the air on account that I might jinx it,’’ said Savov, who lives in Dedham.

Bottkol and Zellers advised Savov to streamline and focus his resume, and organize his job search. Instead of relying on online postings, Savov called a friend who hand-delivered his resume to the human resources department of the company that hired him.

The employment coaches also gave these resume tips that Savov said helped him land the job:

■ Lead with a bang. The top third of the first page of a resume is “the most important real estate,’’ said Bottkol. This is where hiring managers and others find their eyes are automatically drawn. Structure a resume to include a three- or four-sentence profile that provides a highlighted summary of important experience and relevant skills.

■ Be clear about work authorization. Savov is now a US citizen, but this was not clear on his resume. “When in doubt, make sure you specify your work status,’’ said Zeller. “Employers might automatically disqualify you if they have any questions about anything regarding eligibility, work history, or qualifications.’’

■ If English is a second language, stress fluency level. Savov is fluent in English, but he only highlighted his language skills in Russian and Bulgarian.

■ Avoid the shotgun strategy. Savov applied for jobs in administration, financing, accounting, and banking, as well as restaurant management. “You need to focus on specific job areas, instead of scattering your efforts,’’ said Zeller. Edit a resume to showcase strengths and goals, rather than making it broad and universal to fit any number of positions.

Savov starts his new job soon. “When I stopped shooting in the dark, just responding to job postings, and spent more time talking to people that I knew, that’s when I started to get results,’’ he said.

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Goal: Transition out of restaurant management into an entry-level corporate or administrative position that provides a stepping stone to using college degree in finance.

Problems: Foreign credentials and work experience are undervalued in the United States, and his job posting inquiries yielded few interviews.

Recommendations from career advisers Judy Bottkol and George Zeller:

■ The top third of a resume is important “real estate.’’ Use this space for a capsule profile summarizing experience and skills.

■ Clearly list immigrant status and employment eligibility on resume and other documentation.

■ If English is a second language, stress fluency level as well as skills in other languages.

■ Focus job search on specific industries instead of scattering efforts across a broad range of positions.