By Pamela Alton
If you’re a self-storage manager, it doesn't matter how long you have been in the industry or how many companies you’ve worked for … a time may come when you’re ready to take on a new challenge and make a change. At that point, whatever the reason for the decision, you’ll need to be prepared. What exactly does that mean? This article contains practical advice for facility managers who want to land that “perfect” new position, addressing the employment file and resume, background checks, the job search, interviewing, and more.
Your Employment File
First, create a file of your work history. Begin by gathering current and verifiable references from past employers—this means your supervisors or facility owners, not co-workers or tenants. Make sure the references are up-to-date with correct contact information such as phone numbers, addresses, etc.
To ensure you have good testimonials, always give proper notice before exiting a position and make sure you leave on good terms. One of the most important questions I ask when checking manager references is whether the employee would be eligible for re-hire—in other words, would the person work with the employee again? If the answer is no, I move on down the line. Know what your references are going to say about you. If you did an outstanding job (and you always should), you’ll have no problem with your recommendations.
Also, don’t be a "job skipper," someone who works a few months here and less than a year there. It costs a self-storage operation thousands of dollars to find and train a manager. You owe it to the company to stay a while and be a good employee. A job jumper may be perceived as a risky candidate and may have trouble getting good references.
On the other hand, some of the companies or facilities you work for may change hands in the future, so ask for a letter of recommendation when you first leave a position or when you learn of a potential sale. If a reference has passed away, try to get a letter of commendation from the person’s relatives.
Also put copies of any noteworthy recognition in your folder. This might be a certificate from a mystery-shopping company or a copy of a facility-summary report that shows how you did an outstanding job by increasing occupancy or reduced delinquency. If you’ve taken any adult-education classes, include evidence of course completion in the file. These might be college courses in management, marketing or sales, or industry-specific courses you took at a conference or online.
Most self-storage companies today require a background check before they’ll hire a manager. This might include a credit report or drug test. I recommend purchasing an independent check of your own background, for a couple of reasons. First, it will allow you to see what the employer would see and be prepared for any surprises. Second, it will show potential employers you’re prepared for and serious about the new position.
I’m not suggesting that you blindly send out a copy of your background check with your resume. You can simply mention it in your cover letter: “I have obtained my current background check and will provide that upon a personal interview.” The same goes for any other documents you’ve assembled in your employment file.
The cost to get a background check is minimal—usually around $30—and well worth the investment in your future. There are many places that offer this type of service. You can get a report through websites like peoplesmart.com and verifyme.com. Once you’ve obtained the report, check to make sure all the information is correct. You don’t want to be blindsided with inaccuracies, like criminal charges or tickets that don’t belong to you.
The next step in the process is to compile a professional resume. Remember, you only have 15 to 30 seconds to make an impression with this document. How the heck do you do that? By being brief.
I see a lot of resumes every day. Some are way too wordy, including paragraph after paragraph of job description. We all know what a storage manager’s job duties are. I want to see short phrases that highlight a candidate’s accomplishments, for example, “increased occupancy by X percentage,” “increased overall income by X amount,” or “reduced delinquency by X amount.” Use bullet points and be concise. Also use action words like “increased,” “reduced,” “trained,” “advanced,” etc.
Note the companies you worked for and the dates. Again, be brief. Also list your graduations from high school and any colleges or universities, as well as any degrees or certifications you’ve obtained.
Make sure your name, address, phone number and e-mail address are large and easy to read at the top of the document. Don't use hard-to-read fonts or include your photograph. A resume is not meant to “sell yourself,” it's intended to provide a snapshot of your job history and general information on why you’re qualified for the position.
Once your resume is complete, use your computer’s spellcheck and grammar feature. I can't believe how many resumes I see with misspellings and improper syntax. Read and re-read your resume, and have someone else read it as well. A second set of eyes never hurts.
The Job Search
Now that your file is complete, it's time to find that perfect job. Where do you start? There are many websites where you can post your resume. Some are free, some charge a fee. Industry trade publications such as “Inside Self-Storage” often list job postings. You can also look for listings in the “Job Fair” section of selfstoragetalk.com or use sites like monster.com, workingcouples.com or even craigslist. ISS publishes a “Top-Operators List” every year that contains contact information for 100 of the industry’s most successful companies. You can send your resume to their HR departments.
Network within our industry. Ask other facility managers about job opportunities with their companies. You can also ask your vendors, such as your software provider or retail-products supplier, if they know of anyone hiring.
Don't forget to let your current employer know you’re interested in moving up within the organization. Perhaps you want to relocate, move up from being a relief manager, or become an area or district manager. Your boss may never know this if you don't tell him.
Once you’ve put the word out that you are looking for a new position and obtained an interview, be ready for it. This means dressing professionally. I’ve had people show up at their interview in shorts, hoodies, soiled or torn clothing, etc. Really? And you want to be the first person customers see when they first interact with a storage facility?
You don't have to show up in a suit and tie, but being freshly showered and groomed and wearing clean, neat clothing goes a long way toward making a positive first impression. If you don't have a lot of money, you can go to a discount store for a new pair of pants, shirt or dress. Don't forget your shoes—they say a lot about a person. Keep in mind places like consignment or thrift shops. You can find top brands for just a few dollars and look like a million bucks.
Remember that an interview is a two-way street. The employer is vetting you and vice versa, so be prepared to ask your own questions. You want to know if this is the type of organization you’ll be proud to work for. Some things to ask about include:
- How long the company has been in business
- The company philosophy
- How many facilities or employees the company has
- Which particular duties the job entails
- The chain of command
- The pay scale and any bonus or incentive programs
If you like what you see and hear during the interview, let the employer know you’re interested by asking for the job. Once the interview is over, follow up. In today's electronic world, a hand written “thank you” note can go a long way in showing you understand what good customer service is. If you don't get hired right away, keep following up every so often to let the company know you’re still interested.
Now that you are fully prepared, get out there and land that job of your dreams!
Pamela Alton is the owner of Mini-Management Services, a nationwide self-storage manager placement service. She also conducts audits and inspections, manager training, and feasibility studies. For more information, call 321.890.2245; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; visit www.mini-management.com.