Newsflash: I Can’t Read Your Mind!

“But that’s not what I meant!”

“But that is what you said.”

“I know, but it is not what I meant, you should know that!”

Ever had this conversation? With your child, spouse, boss, co-worker, employee – whomever, I will bet dollars to donuts that you have had this conversation with someone at some point in your life.  For me it is infuriating.

Here is what goes through my head after this type of conversation:

– If you said it then I’m naturally going to assume you meant it.

– If you meant something else then you should have said that.

– And why should I have known differently?

– And when did I get certified as a mind reader??

If only I had the power to read minds…. no, wait – that could be bad, especially with a 19 year old.  It is bad enough that I know the things that he has told me, I don’t think I want to go into the deep dark places of his mind.  Let’s just back away slowly from that thought….

Let’s face it – communication is not always our strongest suit.  Three big issues with our communication:

  1. Often there is a disconnect between what we want to say and what actually comes out of our mouths.
  2. We expect the other person to “fill in” the missing pieces of the story.
  3. We assume the other person will naturally “get” what we are trying to say without us having to elaborate.

That would be an incorrect assumption – do us all a favor – elaborate.

I find this a lot in resumes.  When I review someone’s resume for the first time I can almost guarantee that there will be a statement that I will have to ask them what they meant because it is either so ambiguous, too vague or frankly it just makes no sense.

I’m not trying to be unkind – I’m being a bit blunt because I find it most effective when trying to communicate a point.  Bear with me.

For example, if I read a statement like: “Managed 10 team members on various projects.”

My first thought, and that of a potential employer, “so what?”

What could be a powerful statement actually turns into a throwaway statement because there is too much missing information.

Who did you manage, how, what type of projects, what did you do, how did you manage, how were you effective, what was the purpose of the projects and what was the results of your leadership?  These are just a few things that, had they been included in the original statement, could have made this a powerful statement.  Instead you gave me nothing.

When writing your resume first assume that the reader knows nothing.  You must explain the situation, your role, your actions and your results.  Think of it this way – if you don’t tell me how am I going to know?  That whole mind reading thing?  I don’t think so!

The typical response I get is, “I know what I want to say, I just don’t know how to say it.”  Ok, I get that.  The easiest way to solve that: hire me.  Sorry, shameless plug there.

You do know how to say it if you can explain it.  So start with just explaining it.  Write it all out in detail even if it turns into a paragraph or two – just get it out.  From there you can start to rework and edit.  But you have to start with the whole story before you can create a condensed version.

When you start making your revisions there is another point to keep in mind: make sure you are including information that is important to your audience.  If I am looking for a manager I really don’t care how you organized the supply closet 10 years ago when you were an assistant.  Not relevant to the here and now.

You know what your audience wants to know – especially if you have a job description or job posting.  For goodness sakes, they spell it out for you.  Stop freaking out about writing it and just read what they have provided.

Go through the information and write out specific examples of how you meet each criteria.  Yes, it is a lot of work, but that’s the rub of job searching: it is work, it is hard and it takes a lot of effort.  As I tell a good friend of mine, “suck it up cupcake, it’s life.”

If you are going to throw in your resume that you are a motivational leader than I darn well better see some statements of how you lead teams to accomplish great things, how you got the team on the same page for the same cause and were successful.  Otherwise you are just throwing words at me – and they become throwaway statements.

Put enough throwaway statements in your resume and it becomes a throwaway resume.  Sorry cupcake, again, it is the way it is.

The last thing you want to do is leave room for the reader of your resume to have questions.  The more clear and concise you can be the better.  Figure out what it is you are trying to say and write it down.  Then you can go back and make it pretty.   Stop assuming anyone can read your mind and will understand what it is you are trying to say and just say it.

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Career Coach-Strategist

Certified Professional Resume Writer

Career Polish, Inc.


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