The Résumé Rider: Job Search Lessons from the Challenged Motorcycle Industry

The motorcycle industry is in crisis. “The call of the pipes,” like a high-frequency dog whistle, was selectively heard by the Easy Rider generation whose declining numbers are reflected in motorcycle sales numbers. 54% of those hard-ass $64k+ earners in the professional ranks of doctors, lawyers, dentists and judges have been killed in motorcycle crashes that have doubled since 1995 with the number of retirement-age motorcyclists involved in bad accidents growing at an alarming rate. And, although those big trikes have appealed to a growing segment of the aging motorcycle market, it’s nowhere near a panacea for the motorcycle industry overall. Evidence of the generational time bomb is reflected in the numbers:

in 2003, only about one-quarter of U.S. motorcycle riders were 50 or older which was halved by 2014. Although millennials don’t come of age with the same motorcycle motivation in their DNA as did the baby boomers, the industry has nonetheless targeted them, partly because they’re bigger in numbers than the GenX’ers, and partly because the age distance between riding and hip replacement rehab is greater than for the older Easy Riders.

2006 was a peak year for U.S. motorcycle sales boasting 716,268 units before the industry started to slide. The recession hit bike manufacturers hard and sales dropped to 41 percent in 2009 and another 14 percent the very next year. In 2016, motorcycle units plummeted to 371,403 new bikes, roughly half as many as a decade ago.

Just as the motorcycle industry has to refocus on who the new buying bikers will be and what machines will attract them at what price points, job seekers have to similarly refocus on who the employment buyers are, what skills are they looking for and how are they shopping for their next payroll investment. As Gallup’s Jim Clifton writes in his book, The Coming Jobs War, “There are slightly more than 300 million Americans. Of the more than 150 million Americans who want a job outside the home, 15 million are unemployed, and 15 million are significantly underemployed. That’s a total of 30 million Americans who don’t have a good job. Of those 30 million, 18 million report having no hope of finding a job. Many of them also have no hope of paying the mortgage, feeding the kids, or buying gas to fuel the car to get to a job interview, and they have no reason to think things are going to change. It’s like 30 million Americans are fighting a war-a war for jobs.” 

Just like the motorcycle industry has to identify and attract the next generation of motorcycle buyers, job seekers in the new jobs war have to identify the new buyers of their skills and attract them in new ways. The days of the one-résumé-does-all are long-gone. In fact, 91% of U.S. employers know more about candidates from a simple Google search of their name than from their résumés. So, cleaning up one’s act on the Internet is a new imperative. And, the naive notion that a résumé does the selling is wrong. A strong, keyword-driven  résumé that gets a job applicant through the Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) is only a prospective invitation to the dance: the interview-which is where the real selling takes place. Job candidates today have to be able to sell and market themselves like never before. Don’t expect the hiring manager to spend any time deciphering your résumé to see if s/he wants to interview you. In the average 6- to 11-seconds it takes for real eyes to scan your résumé, the first page has to be as compelling as the headlines on the front page of The New York Times if you want to get past the circular file. A hiring manager is more inclined to reduce the size of the résumé pile through elimination so you should be front-loading your résumé with quantifiable achievements that will help solve the problems s/he is looking to fix.

Similar to the motorcycle industry which has to secure its future by identifying its new target customer and offering an appealing product at an affordable price, job seekers today, to win jobs war, have to design their own career campaign by knowing their buyers (target industry, target company, target hiring manager), presenting a product (their transferable skills and achievements) , marketing their candidacy (performing well in the job interview) and having an appealing price point (being able to negotiate their worth).




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