Stop Over-Thinking You

One of the truest quotes is from French philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal. Written in 1600’s: “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.”

This is often attributed to Mark Twain. He did write something similar in 1871: “If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter”

History lesson aside, this is a very important concept in communication. Especially your personal brand communication, i.e. your LinkedIn and resume.

I am a wordy person in my first drafts. I warn every single client when getting their rough cut that it is long and wordy. I like words. I like embellishing. I like feeling out different words and phrases to get the feel and sense of them.

People are natural storytellers, even if they don’t realize it.  They have accomplishments they are rightly proud of.  They like to explain, relive, recreate, and discuss. It’s a feel good and can be a wealth of information.

Yet, all my words and people’s stories don’t always meet the needs of the audience: the reader of your profile or resume.

The truth is, what you write isn’t about you, it is about them. You are speaking to their need and how you are a solution. All those words and stories don’t mean anything if they don’t prove that you are their solution or savior.

That’s why the real fun and love comes in the slashing and dashing. Oh, the joy of taking a draft and cutting, slicing, dicing ruthlessly! It’s a game: how can I say all that the reader needs to hear in as few words as possible?

You see, we also need to keep in mind attention spans. No one likes reading long, boring blocks of text. It has to mean something to them or they will gloss over it.

This takes me back to my title: stop overthinking you. One of the most powerful and simplest questions I can ask you is: “what do you want your reader to know?”

We want simple. Simple is powerful, even simple words can be powerful.  A good example is an amazing executive client of mine. He snatches companies from the jaws of death and jettisons them into industry trendsetters. He would never let me put that in his resume or LinkedIn, it sounds awesome, but too bragging for him (although I will run it by him….).

Not my point. He has a hiccup with the word ‘expertise’. The Skills section. Now he’s strong in each one listed, but uncomfortable with that word as a title. He gave a lot of thought to this and was coming up with several phrases as alternatives. 

My advice was this: let’s keep it simple. We can use ‘Proficiencies, Qualifications, Key Strengths”.  ATS recognized any of these as headers.  Each is innocuous to the reader which allows them to focus on the words following the title. 

Mr. Sullivan gave me a great piece of advice that rings true still today. He was my boss from 20+ years ago and an 86-year-old attorney. His advice: “KISS: keep it simple stupid”.

Tell them what you want them to know about what they need to hear.

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As an award winning, published, Resume Writer, Career & Business Coach, I help amazing people get career happy and companies stay true to brand.

Click here – CareerPolish.com – to find out more.

All opinions and views are my own (unless attributed). They are also normally spot and have a touch of humor because I’m obsessive about career topics and my dog thinks I’m hilarious, not just his meal ticket.

Simplify Your Story, Don’t Dummy It Down

There are three times when there is too much talking going on in your resume or LinkedIn profile:

–         You feel the need to tell the reader absolutely everything you’ve ever done

–         You don’t know what’s important to the reader

–         You have no idea how to tell your own story

One of these is enough to spoil the stew, but add in that special spice of tenure and it can become a train wreck stew.

This is a nice way of saying experience. I’m in that category. I’m over 50 with a lot of experience. I’m what some might consider old – they would be wrong, but hey, I’m cool with it. Although there are potential employers that may not be now or in 10+ years from now.

The problem – or fault – is a feeling of being over-qualified or discriminated by age.

“The fault dear Brutus is not in our stars but in ourselves…”  Cassius is basically telling Brutus, hey man, we’re in control here – take control of your destiny.

I’m not saying age discrimination does not happen. What I am saying is let’s take a more positive, optimistic, we’ve got some measure of control here approach.

Instead of assuming someone is discounting you, what if you were discounting yourself? Maybe you are not being discriminated against because of your age. Maybe you are being passed over because you aren’t telling them what they need to hear?

There’s a thought.

It seems to be almost a knee-jerk reaction to assume you’re overlooked due to a long career history. Then to think the answer is to “dummy down” your resume or profile.

“Oh, well if I sound like less than I am, surely someone will want to hire me.”

Stop it. Never, ever, ever devalue yourself. Not for a job, not for a person, not for anything. Period.

Okay, off my soapbox.

Instead, let’s simplify your story, and tell it the right way, where you’re speaking their language and getting their attention.

Let’s work through this in three steps, because we want simplifying to be simple!

1. Them

Who is them? The reader: who your resume and LinkedIn is all about. Them. The reader, not you. They don’t care what you want, they care about how are you going to make their life easier. If you are dying to tell them 15 things but they only care about 2 of them, how much time do you think they are going to spend listening to you?

Right.

2. Target

Second, what to say. For this, you have to know your target. What job or position are you targeting? Once you have zeroed in on this, let’s simplify it and get a framework with three questions:

  1. What is the bottom-line purpose of the job?
  2. What activities (main) do I need to do to achieve #1?
  3. How do I prove I’ve achieved #1, how is my performance measured?

The answers to these questions are the outline for your resume and LinkedIn. Focus 80% of your content on what supports these questions. The other 20% is your differential that you bring to the table. Those things that make you more awesome than any other candidate.

3. Story

Your story. This is important because now you get to paint the picture. I tell everyone who will listen: the point of your resume is to tell your story the way you want the reader to understand it, not how it looks on paper. (The purpose is to start a conversation – that’s another article…)

Maybe you want to take a step back. Maybe you have run big teams or your own business and now want to go back to corporate. These can trigger the ‘dummy down’ response.

Don’t do it….

Tell the story the way you would to a real person. If you were a business owner, you know what a pain some aspects were. Taxes, filings, blah, blah, blah. So if you were in an interview, wouldn’t you stress that you want to get back to doing that part of the job that you love?

Okay, say that.

This brings up a good side point. We get in stuck in our head somehow that there is a specific decorum to resumes. Stuffy (nope). Distanced (no). Can’t be a real person (wrong). Can’t say certain things (yes you can).

I’ve used “herculean effort” and “Sherpa” in resumes. So yes, you get to have some fun.

We don’t need to focus on everything you did. Not everything adds value to what you are targeting. We need to maximize that finite amount of valuable space available to you.

Think of CIA: keep what is Critical and Important, ditch what the Assumed (not important). Focus what you did – based on the answers to those three questions. Anything outside that will fall into assumed, not important, or differentials.

Owning a business gave you ‘where the buck stops’ perspective allowing you to better support your leadership team. That’s a differential.

Lastly, let me just say one thing: you’re not the only person who has wanted or done this. It does not look like a demotion, step down, or a negative. Many people step back, go back, change it up. It’s all good. How many managers out there remember before they were managers and sometimes wistfully think, oh, for it to be like that again…

Regardless of the length of your tenure, there are plenty of opportunities out there for you. Simplify your story around your audience. Before you know it, you’ll start getting some phone calls!

 

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As an award winning, published, triple certified Professional Resume Writer & Career Coach I do what I love – help amazing professionals get career happy.

Click here – CareerPolish.com – to find out more.

Personal Branding – What?? The What, Why, How & the Most Important Question of All!

why - personal branding

Do you hear the phrase ‘personal brand’ quite a bit?  You should, it is a critical component and driver for having the career you want.  But, do you know what it means and how to use it? Before we get to that one important question – let’s review the the what, why and how of personal branding.

What

But what exactly is personal branding? It is the packaging of you.  Think of it this way, we are all in sales whether we work for someone else, are looking for a job or own our own business.  We are all in the business of selling the best version of ourselves to reach that next desired level in our career.  The best version of you is your product.  Your product is a unique combination of you and your value.  The packaging of your product is your personal brand.  Your personal brand is how you want others to see you, get you and remember you.

 

Why

The way all great companies market awesome products – through a marketing strategy and campaign.  That is where your LinkedIn profile, resume and any other virtual or real touch that you have with the outside world come into play.  You want to showcase your brand on paper, digital and in person – networking, speaking, interviewing, client meetings, etc.

 

Great brands bring great results.  For commercial based product marketing think Nike or Coca-Cola.  For personal brand marketing think Mark Cuban and Richard Branson, they have perfected their marketing strategy to create a brand that is bigger than their company.  I had a client tell me that her biggest dream would be to work for Richard Branson.  She did not name a company, she named him.

 

More Why

Your personal brand can elevate your three big C’s: confidence, connections and career.

 

When your personal brand is the authentic alignment of you and your value and you market it, people will want to connect with you.  Opportunities will present themselves because people will be drawn to you for who you are and what you do.  Your network is going to expand.  Your likelihood of finding that job increases.

 

SHRM surveyed employment and/or recruitment HR professionals to find out how they use social media for talent acquisition.  According to this September 2017 article, 84 percent of hiring managers use social media to hire — 96 percent use LinkedIn, and 53 percent use Twitter.

 

How

We’ve covered the blueprint of your personal brand, the combination of you and your value.  I call this the “V Formula” – your value (+) in your voice equals (=) visibility.  Think about who you work with, how you work with them, what do you do and how does someone receive benefit to start identifying value.

 

That One Question

Here we are, the one question you need to start with; the funny thing is this one question is the one that most people often forget to ask themselves or even think about when they think about their personal brand.

 

Why do you do what you do?

 

No really, why do you do what you do?  It is not enough to say “I love it”.  I love food and to cook but it doesn’t mean I am any good at it.  Dig into the why and no phony, what you think someone wants to hear why.

 

No blanket “I get to help people” why’s either.  We want reasons here, real concrete, sink your teeth into them, make you feel good reasons.  Start with the “I love it” and “I help people” but then go further, like this:

 

I love what I do and there are a few reasons why:

 

  • I help people who feel stuck break free and get what they want
  • I help people regain their confidence
  • I help people rediscover themselves
  • I help people see and accept their awesome
  • I help people cut through their internal BS
  • I meet amazing people who do extraordinary things
  • I work with people who have a fire in their belly, a passion for what they do, a desire to expand
  • Every day I get to talk with someone who loves what they do
  • I learn something new every day from the internal workings of an international racing team, the early stages in developing new cancer drugs, the complexity of merging two powerhouse organizations, the intricacies of medical devises, the compassion of patient care or the dedication of keeping the warehouse together during the lean years. Every day!
  • I get to use both sides of my brain: the analytical after an interview by analyzing my notes, researching positions, industries, companies, keywords, trends and preparing reports and tools for my clients. I get to use the creative when I am writing and designing the layout.  Then I go back into analytical to analyze everything all over again.

and on and on….

 

When you are ready to take ownership of your personal brand and let it work for you, read this article from the bottom up.  When you know your why all the other pieces will fall more easily in place.  So, start with the why, input the value, use your voice, market your product and measure against what is possible.

 

Set yourself free and see where it takes you – it will be an amazing journey!  Of course, if you need any help launching – you can find me on LinkedIn….

 

 

 

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A little about me: I do what I love: help leaders break out of a suffocating corporate existence and into a position and place that renews their brilliance.

As the Founder and Principle of Career Polish, Inc., a national career personal branding firm, I am an Executive Brand Strategist, Resume Writer and Career Coach. I work with individual clients, companies, leadership and teams to identify, strengthen and effectively communicate their brand, engagement, commitment and most importantly – their value – by learning and leveraging personal branding as applied to LinkedIn, resumes, networking, communication, relationship management, presence and influence.

Click here – CareerPolish.com – to find out more about how we can help you.

To get all my latest articles, click the “Yes Please!” button on the right

Branding Fail: Putting A Bandana On My Dog Did Not Make Him A Pirate

pirate bandit

If you ever saw my dog Bandit while on a walk, you would think he was quite an intimidating fellow.  His Great Pyrenees/Lab sister towers over him, but he struts like he is ten feet tall and bullet proof.  If he sees another animal, he puffs up and gives the impression that, by golly, it is a good thing he is leashed or he might just go after them like a Tasmanian devil.

Then of course, there is reality.

He is a cupcake.

He barks at hot air balloons; a fly buzzing around him makes him duck his tail and hide; toads fascinate and frighten him; delivery drivers are the greatest threat to mankind until they offer a belly rub, then he is a sprawled out pile of jell-o.  The dog has literally jumped at his own gas and shadow.  A cupcake.

But I can’t take him in nature twice a day and let the other animals know he is a cupcake. Those squirrels can be quite vicious in their teasing and we don’t want the skinks and toads gaining up on him.

So what do I do? I get him a bada$$ bandana – a black pirate bandana with skulls and everything to complete the look.  But that bandana does not make him tough, we have to sell it.

While on our walks and he begins his ‘routine’ I back him up. I tell him he’s a good guard dog, to stay put and even make it look like I am struggling holding him back. I say, “I know you want to go tear that apart but I won’t let you.”  To all the other woodland creatures, I am the only thing holding him back and saving their certain doom.

What on earth does this Dr. Doolittle-ish tale have to do with personal branding? Personal branding is all about positioning yourself the way you want people to see or get you.

The bandana on Bandit – that is your title.  You title is nearly meaningless.  Wearing a pirate bandana did not make him a pirate. You are not your title. Your title does not define you. What is important is what you do, how you do it and how it provides value to others. Titles rarely convey that.

His title is guard dog, not cupcake.  His title does not convey his ‘image’. Our charades during walks, well that is what people see.  It is how he presents himself. I also let him go chase after things once in a while. As he darts off at full speed, I know that if what he is chasing turns around, he will run for the hills and that he is good for a “I’m gonna getcha” run of less than a minute.  So about 30 seconds into it, I make a big show of calling him back. I help my dog save face.

Bandit truly believes he is the biggest, baddest guard dog around. He puts it out there. You can’t fake it like my dog. My dog also thinks he is a pirate.

What are you putting out there? Now, granted he relies on me to help sell the story…but are you selling your own story?

This part belongs to you. It is the how you do things. If you tell people you are passionate about a certain industry or topic yet cannot muster above monotone when speaking about it – you have brand clash. If you portray that you are an amazing listener yet when networking ask no questions – you have brand clash. Your actions define you. How do you back up your brand?

Do you use words that resonate with you and the brand you want to portray? Do you convey value or duties? Do you engaged, network, with others to build your brand?

You can’t be a pirate by wearing a skull and crossbones bandana. If you are going to be a pirate, be a pirate. Be your own pirate, whether that be Pirates of the Caribbean or Black Sails. Be a pirate in owning your own brand – get it shipshape then weigh anchor and hoist the mizzen!

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A little about me: I do what I love: help people break out of a suffocating corporate existence and into a position and place that renews and celebrates their brilliance.

As the Founder and Principle of Career Polish, Inc., a national career personal branding firm, I am an Executive Brand Strategist, Resume Writer and Career Coach. I work with individual clients, companies, leadership and teams to identify, strengthen and effectively communicate their brand, engagement, commitment and most importantly – their value – by learning and leveraging personal branding as applied to LinkedIn, resumes, networking, communication, relationship management, presence and influence.

Click here – CareerPolish.com – to find out more about how we can help you.

To get all my latest articles, click the “Yes Please!” button on the right

 

 

 

Do You Want To Be Right Or Do You Want The Help?

not listening

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My father’s patience with me was a constant.  I believe he was so patient because he helped create the reason patience was needed.  The first piece of advice or words of wisdom that I remember my dad giving me was, “you can do anything a boy can do, except pee on a tree.”

That was my dad.

He instilled a sense of independence, curiosity, pride and exploration in me.  Before I took shop in high school, I was using his power tools in the basement or under the deck to build things. I loved to explore and try things and he let me, while keeping an eye on me.

There were times I wanted to do something and I was convinced I was right or knew the right way to do it. I refused his help and said I could do it myself.  He patiently watched me fail and then gently asked if I wanted to know the right way.

The pride he taught me was to have pride in what I did and not let it stand in the way of asking for help.  I learned to ask why or why not instead of challenging the right way when I thought I was right.

Asking for help is not an easy thing to do, yet it is worthless if you are not going to listen to the answer and counterproductive if you are going to argue that you are right.

In all the years I have been coaching and writing resumes, I can count on one hand the number of clients who preferred to be right rather than listen to the professional advice they had paid for.

That is the beauty of owning your own company; you can choose not to work with certain clients.  There are clients I have referred to others because it became obvious, very quickly, that they wanted to be right.  They would pay well to argue with me just to be right in their own mind.  I think that is a waste of time and money.

It becomes a detriment in the workplace.

I have a very good friend who is a director in the financial industry.  She is extraordinarily brilliant in the ways of compliance. Her opinion is highly valued and sought after.  But there are times…

There was a project that she was called on due to her expertise and asked to consult.  The gentleman that requested her help fought her at every turn.  She could back up every recommendation with rules, regulations, examples and case studies yet he refused to listen.  He had to be right.

It became obvious, very quickly, on his team that he was not willing to listen to any input that could propel the project.  His primary objective was instead to be right, no matter the cost to the company, project or his team.  His respect level from his peers, team members and leadership plummeted.

I have another good friend that owns a marketing company.  She is amazingly talented in the ways of marketing.  Her clients reap measurable and immeasurable benefits from the work she does for them.  But there are times….

She will get a client who comes to her and tells her they need a complete revamp of their company.  She and her team go to work diving in to get all the information to create exactly what the client needs based on what they want.  Then in presenting the information, the client will tell her that they don’t think they should do it that way, they think this other way is the best way.

In each case I just want to ask two questions:

If you know so much, why did you ask for help in the first place? 

What is the cost of being right?

In paying someone for assistance, you are wasting your time and money; in the workplace, you are destroying your reputation.

The two women mentioned below are very close friends and we have one thing in common – we are a bit forthright.  In other words, we do ask the above two questions to those that asked for help.  You might think that we get a nasty rebuttal; but instead we normally get surprise.

Those that are insistent on being right normally do not realize their behavior.  They may be nervous about the situation or so engrossed in doing a good job that they fail to realize they have become their own worst enemy.

When pointed out in a gentle but firm way the priorities realign and the process continues smoothly.  But there are times….

Sometimes people are just buttheads.  Let’s face it, they just are and you cannot change that.  However, it is best to know what you are dealing with – someone who is so badly wants things done right that they go a little self-centered nuts or a true self-centered jerk.

Unfortunately, this seems to be a management style.  Ask your team for help then ignore them to prove you are the leader.  If this behavior continues the team no longer gives it their A game and the manager is left as an island alone, wondering what happened.

If your team is not engaging as much as you would like, perhaps you have been behaving in a not so team-like way.   It takes a bit of clean up after being called out for wanting to be right rather than getting help, yet it can be done.

The best way to avoid this is twofold:

Listen

Ask why or why not rather than standing firm that you are right. 

You will get the expertise or assistance that you need and perhaps learn a thing or two.  You will also show your team that their input matters and you put the project before the individual.

That is called a win-win.

 

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I hope you enjoyed this article and it provided value for you. If so, please click on the follow button so I may continue to share valuable content with you or the share buttons to share with your network.

I help people identify and set a path to achieve their career goals by using the V Formula:

Your Value + Your Voice = Visibility

Visibility is the leverage to move in, move up or move on in your career; expand your book of business or territory, grow your company and strengthen your team.

–Lisa

Lisa K. McDonald, Owner and Principal of Career Polish, Inc. is a favorite speaker and seminar facilitator at companies, professional organizations and colleges speaking to leadership, sales, teams, transitioning/downsized employees and networking groups about career mobility, personal branding, networking, creating executive presence and achieving career movement success. To find out more, visit Career Polish, Inc.

How to Immediately Discredit Yourself to a New LinkedIn Connection

yell salesI love LinkedIn. I love the business community, vibrancy, interaction, connections and opportunities it offers. I teach numerous workshops on leveraging this magnificent tool for business and career growth and write profiles for individuals and businesses to improve their branding. I love LinkedIn.

I respect that there are different strategies in leveraging LinkedIn; there is really no one size fits all way to utilize the capacity offered by LinkedIn. That being said, there is one small piece of advice or request that I have for those looking to build their network: slow down.

Time is one of our most valuable resources. I teach a 15 minute plan to optimize LinkedIn fully understanding that many people do not have or want to spend a lot of time on LinkedIn yet still want results. I get it, we are busy people.

The problem with using “busy” as an excuse is we get lazy and try a let’s throw a bunch of stuff at the wall and see what sticks approach: mass or generic push responses.

When I get a mass or generic push response, I immediately devalue that connection in my head.

Let me define “generic push response.” It is the response a person sends after you connect with them that is an immediate sales pitch. It is like saying, “Hey, thanks for accepting my invitation, now hire me!”

No.

Some people do not accept invitations unless they know the person or have a second degree connection with them. Others will accept outside that circle only if there is a note within the connection introducing themselves and giving a reason as to why they want to connect.

I do not have a filter on who I connect with; well, except inappropriate comments. I do not connect with people who send me icky messages. Other than that, I am happy to connect with fellow LinkedIn-ers. It is all about business.

Some people connect with me because they are ready to move forward with their career or business and want to work with me. Some might someday maybe want to change so they connect with me, just in case. Some want to connect to someone I know. Others are building their connections. Others have liked my articles.

Recently I received an email: “Hi, Lisa! Thanks for accepting my connection request!” (a very happy person) and then it was follow by the generic push.

But this generic push made me laugh. I went back to my settings and noticed this person had viewed my profile.

Their generic push – to teach me how to use LinkedIn.

They viewed my profile, yet I do not think they read it. Either that or this was their subtle way of telling me that they think I really stink at the whole LinkedIn thing.

If nothing else, this person has made an impression. I immediately had a few questions go through my head:

~ Do you think the generic, pre-fab response is the best for me? Do I fit in the model of your other prospects?
~ How about a slight attempt to get to know me a little before you try to sell me?
~ Is that your greatest value that you want to immediately introduce me to – hiring you? The only value as a connection is for me to pay you?

When you are building your network and want to engage in conversations to deepen the connections, make it a conversation.

  • Send a thank you for the request or acceptance.
  • Read their profile and ask them a question about themselves, their industry or company. Something that demonstrates that you read their profile. I had a great message the other day, the gentleman clearly read my profile and asked me a clarifying question about what I do.
  • Find the spark. This will happen during a conversation; you will discover the topic or item that will make it click to introduce your services. Wait for it, watch for it and build to it.

An accepted connection request is the beginning, not the immediate sales point. Like any other networking, connection comes with time, effort and work. Put in the right amount of each with respect to your connections and you will reap much greater, deeper and richer rewards.

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I hope you enjoyed this article and it provided value for you. If so, please click on the follow button so I may continue to share valuable content with you or the share buttons to share with your network.

I help people identify and set a path to achieve their career goals by using the V Formula:

Your Value + Your Voice = Visibility

Visibility is the leverage to move in, move up or move on in your career; expand your book of business or territory, grow your company and strengthen your team.

–Lisa

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