Set Achievable Goals by Asking This One Question

 

I am an avid reader and process junkie.  I love discovering new articles with tips and tricks to help improve any process in my business or personal life.

I have lists created saving articles into classifications from home improvement, organization, writing, networking, goals, exercise, healthy recipes, dog obedience – and my bookcases, well, they are a cornucopia of books to inspire, take action or reflect.

There is a common theme with all the different categories: at some point during the process you must make a goal.  From there you can create a plan and then the helpful books and articles help you define and execute this plan.

I have a neurotic side that dedicates itself to the latest project with full vim and vigor and yet, so many of those goals die a slow death with those impressive action plans gathering dust or sadly being discarded.

I could not figure out why and it would frustrate me to no end.  I am a somewhat intelligent person, one who is able to create plans and follow them through.  I am resourceful, creative, committed and yet – too many goals were in the goal graveyard.

Why?

And that is when it hit me, the irony of it all – that very question is the reason.

I had always missed the why.

When I would start out with a new project or goal, I had a why in mind: I want to organize my office.  Why – because it is distracting to work in chaos.

That is not really the why. It was the first why that I never went beyond.

You see, I was exercising the “pot kettle black” rule.  When working with my clients determining their desired next step, I guide them through a version of the five whys.  The first answer to why is normally a conditioned response or barely scratching the surface.

To find the real reason, you must continue to ask why until you get to the root cause driving the desire for change.  On first blush when looking for a new position a client may say they want more money.

When diving a little deeper it may be revealed that the money aspect is not coming from them, but an expectation put upon them by friends, family or the industry.  After a few whys it may be discovered that the real reason is they want to focus on a certain aspect of their job, change jobs completely or take a new direction.

We do not dedicate to ourselves in finding the real why.

The one question we need to ask – what is the real why?

Organizing my office is not about controlling chaos.  It is about appreciating what I do and creating an environment that supports me, my work and feeds my creativity.  It is about respecting myself enough to create a sanctuary that I deserve to do the work that I love.  It is about not feeling guilty for doing something for me, making a space that is not conforming to an office expectation; rather creating an all about me space.

The real why is always there, we just have to dig to get to it.  What we often find is that is a purely selfish reason.  And that is the rub.

I want to create an office just for me.  Of course, this makes sense, it is my office, my business – it should be all about me.

Not so fast.

We are told that making something all about ourselves is bad.  Bad, bad, bad.  Selfish.  Egotistical.  We need to think about others.  How might it affect them?  What would other people think?

Stop it.  Stop that thinking right now.

You have a right to be selfish.  To have goals that are all about you.  Let me cut to the chase – if you cannot provide for yourself, make yourself happy – how on earth are you going to best support others?

You can pull that off for a while.  Sacrifice what you want and make everyone else happy and that can continue for some time.  Everyone else is all hunky dory because they are happy that you are taking care of them.  Yet, how do you feel?

Resentful, unfulfilled, not aligned with who you really are or want to do?  We are programmed to think of others and that thinking of ourselves first is selfish, wrong, taboo.

Let me just throw this out there, while I am at it: if you put yourself first and someone tells you that you are being selfish – listen to their reason on why you are being selfish.  Is it because you are not longer putting them first?  Forgive me for pointing out the obvious, however, why is it okay for them to be selfish and put themselves first and expect you to do the same but when you put yourself first (not asking them to do so) you are the bad guy.

That does not seem quite right to me. Yet we want others to tell us it is okay to think of ourselves first. We crave permission to do for ourselves.

I hereby give you permission to think only of yourself and what you want for you. You are not a bad person for doing so, you deserve it so do it.  Do it now.

What is a goal that you have?  Why do you want it?  Now dig deeper, why do you want that first response?  How will it make you feel, what benefit is it for you, how can it improve any quality in your life for you?

Finding the real why in your goals is transformational in two ways.

First – it gives you a real, deep rooted reason for the goal.  Something that has emotion, passion or real desire behind it.  With those types of strong feelings driving a goal, you have a greater chance at success. Your goal will transform from a have to or must to a want to and will.

Second – once you start pursuing this goal with those strong emotions as a driver, you will most likely find that the relationships with the others that you were supposed to be thinking about first, improve.  You are happier which leads to you being in a better place when dealing with them.

Positive feeds positive.  You may be more relaxed, more driven, more open, more free to express yourself or go after something that will truly transform your life.

This will have ripple effects on different aspects of your life.  Going after a degree will give you more confidence, which means you may take on more challenges at work, which allows your boss to see you in a more positive light, which leads to more opportunities, which may lead to a new position, which may include a better salary and better benefits, which may mean more opportunities to do more for your family – it is a positive cycle.

If I continue to set goals based on outside expectations, they will fill up the graveyard.  I have no real connection to them, no stake in the game. It is easy for me to give them up. But when I have a real, deep rooted reason – no matter what it is – that is when I get it done.

Now, I could be wrong and all full of happy hooey.  However, what if I am on to something?

What would it feel like to take one goal, just a small one, and try this process out?  What harm could it do to sit down and write out five or more whys until you get to a reason you were not even expecting?  Worst case scenario, you have another action plan gather dust and goal end up in the goal grave yard.

Best case scenario – you reach that goal, feel great about yourself, experience a positive effect on other aspects of your life and are ready to take on another goal.

My experience in this exercise is this: find out your real why and you discover the key to making it happen.

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As the Founder and Principle of Career Polish, Inc., a national career coaching and practice 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 LinkedIn, resumes, networking, communication, relationship management, presence and influence.
I help people get from where they are in their jobs to where they want to be in their careers.

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

Really Connect When Networking By Getting Torn Apart

I used to attend quite a few networking events as a friend of mine before he relocated.  He was a great networker, always bringing new people to events.  He liked to play a game with them, the poor unsuspecting people.

Many that he brought were new to networking or did not feel comfortable, so he was their wing man.  He also told them that there was someone there that could help. He just did not tell them about the way I would help.

Before he had us do our introductions, he would comfort each person saying, “Just go with it, I promise it will help.” Then I would ask them what they do and the fun began.

It might go something like this:

Me: “What do you do?”
PUP (Poor Unsuspecting Person): “I work for XYZ Company…”
Me: “That is who you work for, but what do you do?”
Pup: “I’m a manager at XYZ Company…”
Me: “’Manager’ is pretty vague, it still doesn’t tell me what you do.”
Pup: “Well, I oversee the ABC Department” looking at my friend for help
Me: “So you just hang out and watch people in the ABC Department work?”
Pup: “No. I mean, I do watch over them, but I do more than that.”
Me: “Like what?”
Pup: “Well, I have to set the goals and standards for them.” shifting in place uncomfortably
Me: “So you just set goals and standards for people that you ‘manage’?”
Pup: “yeah” small sigh of relief that it is over – not quite….
Me: “No.  That can’t be all that you do.  What is the purpose of you setting the goals and standards?”
Pup: “So our customers get their orders taken care of quickly and the right way and we can take more calls.” a little flustered at this point
Me: “So the managing, goals and standards all goes into customer service, it’s about your customers?”
Pup: “Yeah” a little worn out from the drill sergeant approach
Me: “So what you do is make sure if I order something from your company that I get the best service on the phone followed by receiving my order quickly and right the first time?”
Pup: “Yes! That is what I do.” light bulb!
Me: “Then that is how you introduce yourself.”

This whole conversation can take place in about a minute or so.  It is a rapid-fire approach that limits the poor person’s ability to think and formulate an answer.  I don’t want them to think about it, I want them to answer.  Gut feeling, instinct.  They know what they do, they are just afraid to say it the wrong way.

We get caught up in thinking too much. I am an over-analyzer, so I know all about this.

Networking is an interesting game and experience.  Most people are not paying attention because they expect to hear the same things from every person, just like getting the same networking chicken at every event.

“I work at…”
“I am a fill in title here”

Neither of these things tells value.

Of course, my golden rule comes into play here.  If you are a Pediatric Oncologist – that pretty much sums it up.  You get a free pass on this one in using titles.

For the rest of us, our title and even company do not convey value.  They convey – wait for it – our title and the place we work.

Our value is the positive benefit received by what we do and how we do it.

To craft a succinct elevator pitch you have to peel back the onion, or think of it as a series of ripping off band-aids.   Enlist a friend and do a rapid-fire exercise.

Take turns practicing your elevator pitch – but – for each blanket statement or open ended word immediately interrupt that person and ask a question. Ask questions like:

Who do you work with?
How do you do that?
Why do you do that?
What does that mean?

Ask immediately and make the other person answer without pause.  Keep asking questions, it is the theory of five whys.  The more you ask the more layers you peel back and the real, impactful value is soon discovered.  Using the rapid fire approach also helps cut out a lot of the unnecessary words and fillers.

It can get frustrating but as this is a friend, keep reassuring each other that you are doing great.  This is an exercise and it is meant to help.  There are also no wrong answers, just more avenues to discover.

Take your friend along to the next network event and be each other’s wing-person.  When they are introducing themselves with their new pitch, watch the reaction of their conversation partner.  Critique the interaction including their delivery, body language, if they capitalized on opportunities to engage further and any other items you notice.

In a very short period of time you will have achieved:

  1. An elevator pitch that tells people your value (what they care about the most)
  2. A succinct delivery
  3. The ability to engage your conversation partner
  4. Quality interactions

One last tidbit – mix it up.  Do not rely on the exact same opening for each networking opportunity.  Do not memorize your speech, know the highlights and let it flow.  It will keep it fresh and you can easily modify it for your audience leading to energetic interactions with each new person.

Although networking can be critical to building a career, reputation and business – it should also be fun!  So grab a bottle of wine or a six pack, a good friend and have some fun playing ‘rapid-fire rip apart the elevator pitch’!

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As the Founder and Principle of Career Polish, Inc., a national career coaching and practice 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 LinkedIn, resumes, networking, communication, relationship management, presence and influence.
I help people get from where they are in their jobs to where they want to be in their careers.

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

You Want to Be Remembered After the Interview – Just Not as the Crazy or Desperate One

crazy follow up interview

I believe there are many universal truths:

  • Wash your car and it will rain that day.
  • The cat will leave you a freshly hacked hairball right inside the door where you feel it before you see it
  • Polish the floor in one room and that is the room the dog picks to display puppy prints after finding a mud puddle on a desert dry day
  • Be prepared for a meeting and it will be cancelled
  • Forget something for a meeting and it will be the only thing discussed
  • Wearing white and eating spaghetti is a dangerous combination
  • Kids can sniff out if you have actual cash in your wallet
  • Look amazing and you won’t see a single person you know if you go out
  • Roll out of bed looking like death warmed over and you will see everyone you know
  • Drop $50 in a slot machine win nothing, the guy behind you puts in a quarter and hits big
  • Job searching stinks

Except for that last one, most people can laugh off or at least shrug off.  But job searching, that is a completely different story.

The agony of putting yourself out there day in and day out only to be rejected by nameless, faceless people  – if you even hear back at all.  Not knowing why. Feeling insignificant, invisible or unworthy.  It is not fun.

It may come to a point where you decide desperate times call for desperate measures. Before you cross that line, please wait.

There is a fine line between unique and crazy. You want people to notice you and remember you; however, you want them to do these things for the right reasons.

If you are planning a shtick, there are some questions that you need to ask yourself:

  • Who is my audience?
  • How will they interpret this?
  • What is my intent?
  • What is the worst way they could interpret this?

Knowing your audience is very important.  For example, a friend of mine owns her own business and had a job opening.  One candidate had a freshly cut, beautiful live Christmas tree delivered along with chocolate and his resume.  An office of mostly women were good with the chocolate; however, my friend is Jewish and there was no space whatsoever for a huge, live Christmas tree in the office.

The type of job and company should give clues to the type of environment.  For example, there was a woman who was applying for a higher level position in a law firm.  One might naturally assume that the environment was conservative, especially after interviewing with them.

So sending a box of pastries as a follow up is not a bad idea, but the poem describing why you want to work there going so far as to rhyme with the name of the company was way over the top – and eliminated her as a candidate.

Shticks are not always good, they may have the right intention, but the perception is not at all what is intended.  Clever play on words only lasts for so long – about a millisecond.

Receiving a box containing a shoe with a resume crammed in it topped with a note saying, “I’m the perfect fit” goes from clever to eww in less than a second.  Who wants to extract a resume from a shoe?  Let’s hope it was a brand new shoe.

Following up does not necessarily mean that it will speed up communication; however, it will keep you more in mind of the interviewer.

Assuming that you have asked about next steps at the end of your interview, some simple, professional steps to take in following up include:

  • A thank you note.  This is a must.  Reiterate the positives from the interview, as well as your interest in the position
  • Connecting on LinkedIn
  • An email the following week, this can be a simple note checking in to see if there is anything else they need from you in consideration for the position (rather than “when will you make a decision?”)
  • Sending an industry related article

Keep it light, short and business related and remember, filling this position is not their only job and perhaps not their number one priority.  It can take time.  Be patient, be professional and please, be shticky with your friends, not potential employers.

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As the Founder and Principle of Career Polish, Inc., a national career coaching and practice 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 LinkedIn, resumes, networking, communication, relationship management, presence and influence.
I help people get from where they are in their jobs to where they want to be in their careers.

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

If You Want Your Resume Read Do Not List Job Duties

burning resume

One of the most common frustrations in job transition is sending out resumes and getting no response.

Nada.  Zip. Zilch. Not even one little nibble on jobs you submitted to that are an exact match of what you are doing now.

You begin to think that your resume is leaving your computer and immediately sucked into some black hole.  Are they even getting it?  Do they even read it?  Is anyone out there?

They are out there, they are getting it yet they are probably not reading it if you are one default action: describing your jobs by listing job duties.

But wait – shouldn’t you tell them your qualifications by showing what you do or did? Yes.

And listing job duties is describing what you did, right? No.

Listing job duties is telling the reader what you were hired to do.

No one cares what you were hired to do, they care what you did.

If a job posting is requiring a resume, you would not send it an application; yet that is pretty much what you are doing when you list job duties.  It tells the reader what you were hired to do.  It does not mean that you actually did it or did it well.

The reader cares about value.  It is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world – they want to know what you can do for them.  Listing job duties is not a compelling reason to talk to you.

Job duties are a place to start – but to get their attention you have to tell them the value you bring in doing these things.  That is what will get attention.

Describing your value demonstrates your skills and expertise – this is critical in communicating your value effectively because the reader is not going to believe you are amazing at something just because you said so.  You have to prove it.  They read a lot of resumes and everyone says they are amazing.  They will pay attention to the ones that prove it.

Transition your bullet points from stating to demonstration.

Which would get your attention, 1 or 2?

  1. Create reports for various departments as needed.
  2. Compile critical data by partnering with leadership in Sales and Marketing to produce accurate forecasting reports, define metrics for success and identify areas for cost reductions and risk mitigation.

Number 1 is telling the reader what you were hired to do, number 2 tells the reader the value you provide.

There is value to everything that you do, otherwise a company would not pay you to do it.  It is your job to identify the value and communicate it so the reader sees how it can be of value to them.

Start with your job duties, then dive a little deeper by asking yourself clarifying questions:

  • Who did you work with?
  • How did you work with them?
  • What did you do?
  • How did that bring value and to whom?

Start describing what you do and how you do it to demonstrate your value.  Begin as a conversation and then you can clean it up into more concise, resume language.

A conversation break down of number two would be:

Who did I work with: Sales & Marketing, managers or directors

How did I work with them: I got together with them to get their numbers, goals and expectations

What did I do: I put all the numbers together and created reports

How did that bring value and to whom: for those departments, it helps them forecast more accurately, we can find places to cut costs, determine what things would not be good to follow and we created checkpoints to make sure we are meeting our goals and going to hit them.

Your resume is your story about your value.  Demonstrating your value gives them a reason to read it – and contact you for further conversations.

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As the Founder and Principle of Career Polish, Inc., a national career coaching and practice 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 LinkedIn, resumes, networking, communication, relationship management, presence and influence.
I help people get from where they are in their jobs to where they want to be in their careers.

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

9 Strategic, Subtle Steps for Job Searching While Still Employed

Job searching while employed

It has been a great run. The company that you are with had done well, you were able to add value, you had a great team and came to work with purpose and eagerness to keep it rolling.

But something happened along the way.

Leadership changed, markets declined, good people left, culture morphed into a place that feels stuck or stagnate. Something happened to dampen that enthusiasm.

It started as a feeling, a nagging somewhere deep inside that something just is not right. It has since been growing to an inclination to find the irritations or things that are wrong rather than being able to see the brighter side of situations.

It is now an uncomfortable feeling that has you having internal conversations. Asking if it is worth it to stay, will things change back, will they get better, can you stick it out?

Left untouched, this feeling will turn into a resentment, anger and frustration that will cause a rift in business value, product, quality and relationships. It will become a dread on the way into work and a huge sense of relief when you leave that never quite feels right again.

You are ready to break up with your job.

Some opportunities, no matter how long, are meant as a growth experience, not a forever home. Fear of the unknown, starting again or even attempting to see what is out there manipulates us into looking at this starter or mid-way home as our forever home.

It does not fit and you know it. Now is the time to take control of the situation before the situation dictates to you what you must do next. There are benefits to leaving while you still somewhat like where you are:

1. Security in knowing you have time; you do, after all, have a job.
2. Ease in talking to prospective employers in talking about your current position in a positive way.
3. Less pressure in having to find a job right now.
4. A greater sense of worth and control in being the driving factor of change.

How do you find that new position? It has been some time since you looked and it is not like you have a lot of extra time in your schedule. Two words: strategy and subtlety.

Strategy

The value of approaching a change strategically will give you power and control over what happens next. Being clear on your goals, value and opportunities will clarify if a change now is in your best interest. You may find after doing a little research and exploration that you might have over amplified the current situation and desire to rededicate yourself to where you are now. Revisit your strategy often to modify as necessary based on your results.

1. Clarify why you want to leave. Is there anything there that could change that would make you want to stay? Do you have an impact on the situation – i.e., is there anything you can do to take ownership to change the situation?

2. Get your head out of your current job and think about what you want to do next. Not in terms of a job title, rather the actual actions that you want to be doing on a daily basis. What do you enjoy the most and where are your strengths – where do these intersect?

3. Identify your value. There is a distinct difference between what you were hired to do and what you do. Where do you add value to leadership, teams, partners, clients and the organization as a whole?

4. Be able to demonstrate your value. How do you do what you do, whom do you work with, how do you work with them and how does it add value to what audience. It is not enough to say you are a leader with 10+ years’ experience in infrastructure management – you must be able to prove your worth. This is done through demonstration by integrating the answers to these questions into a your resume, networking and interviewing.

5. Determine what about the next move will make a difference. Will it be a lateral move in a new industry? Will it be a career change? Will it be advancement to the next level? What are you missing now and what about that next step will fill that need?

6. How are you connected to that next level? Do you have contacts that work for that organization or field that could make introductions? Identify targets and work backwards to find a path.

7. Clarify goals, know your outcomes, expectations and the actions you are willing to do to meet your goals. Would you like to make a change in six months? Are you just fishing? Would increasing your network and finding out more information about opportunities be enough to satisfy the itch? What do you want and what will you settle for?

8. Get your resume ready – if a contact asks for your resume, just to look at or possibly pass on, you want to be able to take advantage of that immediately.

Subtlety

Your security could be jeopardized by overt changes in patterns or behaviors. If you never left for lunch and now you leave every other day for networking lunches, it could raise a red flag. Remember, subtlety will allow you to test the waters while not cutting off your lifeboat.

1. Start reconnecting with contacts that might have fallen off a bit. A short little note to check in and see how things are going with them or their organization, it has been a while since you talked. An email directly or through LinkedIn is a great way to restart conversations.

2. Review your brand. Look at your LinkedIn profile – what does it say about you? This can be tricky when employed but looking for other opportunities. Make subtle changes to your LinkedIn that, while still supporting your current organization, you begin to highlight your value and contributions.

*Make sure that the “notify connections” is turned to “No” 

3. After identifying organizations or contacts, build your network. Connect on LinkedIn with people that work for a targeted company. Review your contacts and notice if you have a strong network to help you reach that new level. If you find that you are very narrow in your connections, branch out to others who are doing what you want to do or could be a potential point of reference.

4. Begin adding value to your connections. Share articles that have value for the industry, clients or position. Share business information that would be helpful for your contacts. Start reestablishing yourself as a value provider. Scroll through your LinkedIn news feed and like or share relevant articles. Most articles on online sites offer a share button, use it for LinkedIn as it is the most prominent business site.

5. Gently feel out your contacts for leads. After reestablishing communications, ask questions or drop ideas in subtle ways. For example, during a conversation you might mention that you had read something about a certain position and that sounded really interesting to you, have they ever heard of an opportunity around your location that might fit that? Mention that you still like where you are, but that just seemed very interesting and might make you think twice about where you are.

6. Be able to sell yourself gently in conversations. When you meet someone who works for a targeted company, ask them what it is like, that you have always heard such good things about the organization.

If you ask about culture, respond with something along the lines of, “wow, that sounds terrific, I would love to continue to do XYZ, maybe at a higher level, but in that type of environment would be great.”

If you ask about their position, respond with something along the lines of “That sounds ideal, I like where I am but if I had an opportunity to redefine my job, it would be very much in line with what you are doing.”

At the end of each, if it feels comfortable, you can slip in with a smile, “hey, if there is ever an opening let me know”

7. For contacts that you trust, send them your resume. There is a subtle art to this and sending the resume does not come first. First, contact them and inform them you are looking to update it to reflect where you are now, you can even add you want to be poised if an opportunity arises in your organization. Tell them as they are someone you trust and value, would they mind reviewing your resume and giving you feedback. Once you get permission, then send it – in confidence.

Here is the thing – you are not asking their feedback so much as getting your resume in front of them. Remember strategy #8? Your resume should already be completed and written in a way that demonstrates your value for where you want to go. This will help your contacts see you in the way you want them to, not what they assume from how they have known you. You are re-establishing yourself with your connections.

8. Start attending networking opportunities. You are attending as a representative of your organization in your current role; however, it gives you the chance to listen for opportunities and increase your network. Ask more about the people you meet rather than talking about yourself. Build relationships as a value-based contributor.

9. Volunteering is a great way to network. Find something that aligns with a passion of yours that way it is not focused solely on making connections, but also doing something that give you value.
Strategically placing small seeds will give you chance to explore opportunities in a non-pressure way while giving your current role or responsibilities the attention and respect that they deserve.

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As the Founder and Principle of Career Polish, Inc., a national career coaching and practice firm, I am an Executive Brand Strategist, Resume Writer and Career Coach. I work with individual clients, companies and their leadership and teams to identify, strengthen and effectively communicate their brand, engagement, commitment and most importantly – their value – by learning and leveraging LinkedIn, networking, communication, relationship management, presence and influence.
I help people get from where they are in their jobs to where they want to be in their careers.

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

Military & Law Enforcement – Why People Do Not Get You Or Your Resume

military law enforcement

The strength of an organization lies in building a sense of shared vision, communication and purpose.  This is a fundamental principle for organizations of any size, industry or purpose.  Some organizations are better at doing this than others; and some set the bar.

The military and law enforcement are two areas that set the bar.  They have their own language and culture.  I know this on a professional and personal level.  My boyfriend has nearly 30 years in the military.  There are times during a conversation that I look at him and say, “Hey, Chief, can you translate that for me?”

I am getting better; the thought process in subtracting 12 when given a time is shortening and I no longer think of pots and pans when “cover” is mentioned.

My communication and coaching style is direct and relatable so I will explain the way I do to my clients: you scare the heck out of people.

Not for what you did or how you did it – it is how you talk. You have to admit, it is a weird language. Their fear is admitting they have no idea what you are talking about.

It is great to be face to face with someone and gently tell them that you have no idea what they are saying when they lapse into “military/law enforcement” speak; however, you do not have that luxury with your resume.

I have worked with all levels of military and law enforcement and it is the common denominator in being stalled in moving forward with a transition: miscommunication.

You are not saying anything wrong, you are just speaking in a foreign language.

When I interview my clients to create their branding, we talk about their background.  However, I ask them to explain it to me as though I know nothing about the military or law enforcement.  What is a battalion? How many people does that include? What is administrative control? I ask them to break it down as though it was a company and what would be the equivalent in that context.

That is the key to communication – explaining your value in a way that your audience understands. 

If I cannot relate to you then I cannot comprehend your value or importance in solving my challenges or problems.

It is your job to tell your story in their language.  Learn the language of the organization or industry you are targeting. Find the similarities.

For example, maneuver may translate to initiative or project or the similarity may be project management.  How does a project manager oversee a project?  What is their responsibilities, accountabilities and authorities?  How does that parallel with what you did?

Training and leadership are two important elements that almost every client possesses from their military / law enforcement experience.  What is the importance of the training – think of your audience – how did you perform or receive training, how did it improve your abilities and contributions?

Throughout your career you may have been promoted into positions that do not translate into the business world.  I do not see a lot of ‘lieutenant’ or ‘major’ in corporate job titles.  Tell us the equivalent of those positions and – just as important – why you were promoted.

Start from the most basic level – explain what you did as you were explaining it to a six year old.  Extreme?  Perhaps, but it gives you a baseline to force yourself to use language that is very simple and clear.  From there you can begin to develop your story and value based on common themes, concepts, language and value.

I have found military and law enforcement are comfortable with steps, given that, here are some steps to help transition your resume from overlooked to attention getting:

  • Identify – Determine the civilian position for which your military or law enforcement background translates
  • Research – Rind job postings and sample resumes of this / these position(s)
  • Compartmentalize – Break down the position into categories of skills, experience, training, education etc.
  • Compare – Find the similarities between the breakdown and your background
  • Translate – Identify key words and phrases and understand what they are communicating, substitute these within your narrative
  • Rewrite – Restructure your narrative into value driven, impactful statements that speak to your audience’s needs, requirements and expectations.
  • Ask – If you are not sure how something would translate, ask for help. Reach out to someone in your network that is in that position and have a conversation.  Networks are there to help you.

Members of our military and law enforcement have a tremendous amount of value, so much more than most people realize.  Stop hiding it from us.  Tell us in a way that we can understand and doors will begin to open for you to transition successfully.

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As the Founder and Principle of Career Polish, Inc., a national career coaching and practice 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 LinkedIn, resumes, networking, communication, relationship management, presence and influence.
I help people get from where they are in their jobs to where they want to be in their careers.

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

Resumes: One Page or Two – and Why They Fail Based on Length Alone

resume snapshot

Although job searching stinks, you know what is worse – writing your own resume.

It starts innocently enough by going online to get updated on the latest do’s and don’t’s; but then it becomes an avalanche of contradictory information.

For everything every piece of advice that you read, you find at least one source telling you what you just read is wrong and you should do something completely different.

It can be so overwhelming that after reading all the expert opinions and suggestions you are ready to suck it up and get the worst job possible – or stay in a horrible situation – in order to avoid having to write your resume.

Of all the questions I get asked as a Professional Resume Writer, there is one that outweighs them all: one page or two?

There seems to be staunch camps out there whether your resume should be one page or two pages. Each is very firm in their opinions and quite adamant about supporting their cause.

After years of writing, researching and talking to the people that it matters to the most – hiring managers and human resource professionals, I have an answer for those who struggle with this question, with a wrinkle:

It doesn’t matter.

Let me take that back, it does matter, but only to the person reading your resume – so you have a 50/50 shot of being right.

Here’s the wrinkle: there are three things that are more important than length of resume to those that matter:

1. What are you applying for?

2. How do you qualify?

3. Can I find the information easily?

 

If you hit those three questions, the length of the resume will not matter. If it is two pages and you have a one page preference reader, they will continue to read because you are providing the information most important to them.

If you have a two page preference reader, they will be satisfied with one page as long as you meet these criteria.

On the other hand if you need a two page and force it onto one because that is “what everyone had told you” you are short-changing yourself and eliminating a fair amount of value from your resume.

Just as if you have enough for a solid one page and try to draw it out into a two page you run the risk of putting too much fluff and distraction into your resume thereby diluting your quality and value.

Let’s take a look at writing your resume from the perspective of these three questions, rather than length, for a more impactful resume.

It is simple enough to answer ‘what are you looking for’ if it is a lateral move for which you have experience and the title is clearly given. You can incorporate the title as either a header or in your opening statement. You can then use key words as ‘Areas of Proficiencies’ and continue to use them in your demonstrative bullet points throughout your resume.

This sounds easy enough; however, what if it is not so cut and dried?

For example, what if you do not always have the luxury of knowing the title?

Some opportunities are not nicely laid out to tell you the exact title. You may be submitting a resume to someone because they asked if you have one they could “take a look at”.

Then what?

This is when a value-based, demonstrative resume is critical.

Having a selling document that emphasizes not only your skills, but how you use them and the value they provide to your audience allows the reader to see demonstrated value.

Simply listing your job duties does not tell the reader what you did, it tells them what you were hired to do; which does not mean you did it or did it well.

Prove it to them. What did you do, how did you do it, whom did you work with, how did you work with them and how did it provide value and to whom? You may not answer all these questions in every bullet point; however, getting the gist of this allows you to demonstrate your value.

They are not going to believe you just because you said so, you have to prove it. Give these guys a break, huh? They read 300+ resumes for one position opening and to be fair, there is a lot of fluffing going on in resumes. They have to cut through the fluff in a very short period of time. Demonstrating cuts through fluff, it proves your value and you are elevated in the stack.

If the desired job title is the next step in your career progression and you do not have a history supporting using this title on your resume, not only do you want to leverage value-based, demonstrative writing; but you also want to write towards the title.

You may read through the desired qualifications and realize you have not done some of these tasks before, do not freak out. Take a moment to peel back the onion a bit. What skills does it take to perform those tasks? Have you done them? Then write demonstrative statements emphasizing those skills.

When I was recruiting I did not always look for people with an exact career match. The fact of the matter is I did not want to retrain them. One of the worst things I heard was, “That’s not how we did it at XYZ”.  I looked for the skills required to perform the tasks, I could teach widgets, systems and processes.

As a very basic example to grasp the concept, let’s say the peeling back the layers of what is required for the next step and you deduce that it requires leadership, organization and good communication skills. You have held supportive roles in the past, not full leadership roles, so how do you write toward the position?

Demonstrate your skills, abilities and value from the perspective of leadership, organization and good communication skills. Describing how you do what you do using these words and concepts.

“Demonstrated leadership in taking ownership of X part of Y project” – leadership.
“Communicated clearly with all stakeholders ensuring engagement and alignment with project expectations.” – communication
“Meticulously organized timelines for group maintaining continual communication to meet demanding deadlines.” – organization and communication

This allows the reader to see this as a natural progression for you and a good fit for the organization.

It also answers how you are qualified for the position.

It also is easy to read and understand.

This is the last important factor: is it easy to find. This applies not only to visual but verbiage.

The layout is important, there will be a human being reading this. Fonts that are too small hurt the eyes and looks like you are trying too hard to squeeze everything on one page. Distracting colors, graphs and changes in fonts can be, well, distracting and take away from your value.

For the visual, make it easy for a real person to read. Leverage white space, bold, italics, spacing, borders and the like to add interest, not to overwhelm. If you need examples of visual styles, go to Google, type in “Resume Sample” and click on “Images”.

Do not read all those resumes for goodness sakes! Just glance over them until you eye is drawn to one style. Each of those can be reproduced in Word. Find what you like and emulate it for your resume.

As far as verbiage, use words and phrases that aligns you to the position and/or industry. If you are experienced in a field, then it would be a natural assumption that you understand the acronyms and how to use them. Spell them out first for ATS systems and others doing a pre-screening. Using key words and phrases correctly demonstrates knowledge, you are talking the talk. Demonstration is walking the walk.

Your bullet points get more attention and understanding when then are true bullet points, not paragraphs. If you have more than two sentences in a bullet point, you have more than one value within that statement and should be broken up.

Your resume is your canvas to paint your picture the way you want them to understand it. Use words as your paint to create the image you want. Some paintings are better with less colors, some could use a bit of color here and there.

When you write your resume, focus on the content first. If you have enough to demonstrate value for two pages, then use two pages – as long as you answer their most important questions.

If you have what they are looking for, they will get over the one page or two issue and focus more on when they can have you come in to talk about the position.

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

I help people get from where they are in their jobs to where they want to be in their careers.

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

To Get Over Fear In Your Career Let It Kick You In The Butt A Little

fight fear

The greatest single constriction that keeps us from reaching our goals, any goal, is fear. No matter what type of goal: personal, financial, career or spiritual, once you boil down all the reasons or excuses the limitation is fear.

I call it a constriction because it is like a choke hold on us, the longer it linger the more it squeezes the hope, joy or optimism from us when thinking of our goal. It suffocates the living breath of this goal.

One of the best ways I have heard to describe fear is: False Evidence Assumed Real.

Fear begins as a notion of unworthiness or inability. Your mind then manufactures or grabs on to things around you to support this idea and it then becomes “evidence”. You then accept this “evidence” as proof, becoming insurmountable and it becomes a reality that you are unable or unworthy.

All this from a notion.

We cannot always eliminate fear; however, I propose that we use it instead of letting it paralyze us. Here is how we can steer that notion for our intent and purpose.

Look fear in the eye and ask yourself, “What is the worst possible thing that could happen to me?”

Death. That is the worst possible outcome of anything.

So is this thing going to kill you? Be honest – is a career move or going after a promotion going to kill you?

No. Now get silly with it. Imagine going on an interview and completely bombing – then the floor is going to swallow you whole.

Or you will get faint from nerves, fall out of your chair, hit your head and there is your interviewer having to call an ambulance.

Can you imagine? That would seem mortifying, but that is a story that I would laugh at. Learn to laugh at the worst case scenarios. Make them bigger and give yourself the giggles.

Honestly, what most people think the worst case scenario would be is looking like a fool. So what? Is it the first time and really, is it going to be the last? Did you die the last time you looked like a fool? Then why would you this time?

The worst case scenario is the least likely –  face it, embrace it, laugh at it and let it go.

If you were not afraid, you would not want it. Another great saying is: there is no growth in your comfort zone. Would it not be wonderful if every time we were ready to stretch ourselves our pinky finger twitched uncontrollably? Think of it – a sure-fire, less physically exhausting way of letting us know that it is time.

Fear is our internal voice finding a way to get our attention. If you had an twitchy pinky finger, you might just ignore it or learn to live with it. Fear really gets your attention by engaging your mind and body.

Some part of you deep down is telling you that you are ready for more. Listen.

Now that you have a better perspective of fear, here is a secret to conquering it: let it kick you in the butt a little bit. Let it become the dismissive voice in your head that challenges you, not defeats you.

Get competitive!

One of the best ways to get me to do something is to tell me I cannot do it. I am a competitive person – just ask my family, son and boyfriend. I am competitive. Tell me I can’t do something then get out of my way because I am going to do it.

Some of my greatest successes came from this competitive spirit, despite fear.

At one point when I was in the financial industry I was in a new position and expected to get my Series 7 and others. It was at this time that my son’s father was diagnosed with cancer and was going through experimental chemotherapy treatments given a less than 10% survival expectation and our son was very young. I had a lot going on at the time and fear of passing these exams was not helping.

One day my boss told me to just try to pass the 7 and we will see what I could do on the others.  I think he meant it in a supportive way, given all that was going on with my family.

That was all it took.  My competitiveness side kicked in.  Oh, pity me and “see” what I can do without expecting anything?

A few months later I passed the 7, a few months later I then passed the 63, 65, 9 and 10. Tell me “try and we will see what you can do.” Ha!

When I had the idea to start my business, I was told it was a horrible idea, I would never succeed, I was ridiculous for even trying. Those statements at first fueled my fear. For a short time; then competitiveness kicked in.

Fear says, “You can’t do it”  Answer, “Shut up and watch me!”

That’s right – I told fear to shut up. The harder it kicked in the harder I fought back. Get pushed down seven times, get up eight.

Fear can deflate you, defeat you and leave you paralyzed unable to reach goals and dreams – or – it can motivate and fuel you. The choice is yours to make.

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As the Founder and Principle of Career Polish, Inc., a national career coaching and practice firm, I am an Executive Brand Strategist, Resume Writer and Career Coach. I work with individual clients, companies and their leadership and teams to identify, strengthen and effectively communicate their brand, engagement, commitment and most importantly – their value – by learning and leveraging LinkedIn, networking, communication, relationship management, presence and influence.
I help people get from where they are in their jobs to where they want to be in their careers.

Click here – CareerPolish.com – to find out more about Career Polish and what we can do to help you.

Build Better Business Relationships With 2 Simple Steps

coffee meeting

How many times have you met someone through networking or business connections and want to build a business relationship with them? What is an almost knee jerk action to do so – invite them for a coffee meeting (or lunch/drinks/dinner/etc).

Before you do, let me give you the two steps to dramatically improve your budding relationship:

1. Stop wasting their time
2. Know your why

I used to get asked for coffee meetings a lot. Used to – now I rarely have them.

For one thing, I don’t drink coffee, but more importantly – they were a huge waste of time. The person either had no idea what they wanted to talk about or they wanted to sell me the entire time.

My secret in killing the coffee meetings – I started asking people why they wanted to meet. It is amazing to me the number of people who cannot answer that question. Mostly I get a stammering close to, ‘so we can learn more about each others business.’

Not to be unkind, or rude, yet this is a media age: look up my LinkedIn, my website, my articles; email me to start a conversation. Requesting me to commit to the most time consuming event – of scheduling an outside meeting – to find out what I do is nutty.

Even if they have an idea of what I do and wanted to schedule a coffee meeting ‘to find out more’ or ‘get clarification’, I would ask them – right there on the phone or in the email –what is it they would like to know?

It can really take the wind out of a coffee meeter’s sails when you fill them in either right there on the phone or by email thereby eliminating their whole reason for getting together.

I cut to the chase to eliminate time wasters.

I am very happy for the coffee meeters – those that seem to have an endless supply of time on their hands to joyfully go around town and drink lots of java, then have lots of lunches followed by lots of cocktails or dinners.

I do not have that kind of time.

I am not special or better than anyone else in my network or business circles – all of our time is valuable. I have a thing – I will not waste your time and you are not going to waste mine. It is very simple.

Coffee meetings, or lunches, dinners – anything outside the office – may not be the most conducive to your audience. Perhaps a half hour phone call is better for them. Be considerate and ask what is best for them and their schedule. It is not all about you. You may be dying to get out of the office; but some of us are not.

Knowing your why is critical. Before you even attempt to engage someone in any type of meeting – you must know your why. What is your agenda, what are you looking to get out of it and equally as important – what are you bringing to the table for them?

Relationships are give and take; if you have nothing to give what is their reason for going? Be clear when you request time with the other person, give them the purpose.

Sometimes you may not have an exact why. For example perhaps you have met someone in networking that you think there might be good synergy between your businesses. This is your why, yet you should explain why you think there is potential synergy. How could you help each other. No one is going to jump at the chance to meet with you because you have a golden book of business for them with nothing in return.

Perhaps your why is information. If you are breaking into a business and you know of this person and are looking for advise – be honest and tell them. Do not try the ‘get to know each other’ bit when you are looking for an hour of schooling. That is disrespectful and trickery.

Do not feel as though you are being rude by asking them to qualify the meeting. I once was given the name of a woman that a mutual friend said I should call, using their name, because we should connect. I was an idiot. I did not ask why. But she did! When I called her up I told her our mutual friend had given me her name and said we should connect.

Her response was, “That’s nice – why?”

I was stumped. I told her that I honestly had no idea and apologized for intruding and wasting her time. She was very kind and told me no problem and that if I found that we had a mutual business interest perhaps we could reconnect then.

I ran into her a year later, luckily she did not remember me, and we had a great conversation. We did have many shared interests and we began to speak frequently. I did tell her about the first meeting we ever had and how it had really helped me. Sometimes looking like an idiot can be a great learning experience.

On behalf of your business and networking community – I gently request that before you type up that email or make that call to know your why and offer options that do not waste their time. We thank you in advance and look forward to hearing from you.

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As the Founder and Principle of Career Polish, Inc., a national career coaching and practice firm, I am an Executive Brand Strategist, Resume Writer and Career Coach. I work with individual clients, companies and their leadership and teams to identify, strengthen and effectively communicate their brand, engagement, commitment and most importantly – their value – by learning and leveraging LinkedIn, networking, communication, relationship management, presence and influence.
I help people get from where they are in their jobs to where they want to be in their careers.

Click here – CareerPolish.com – to find out more about Career Polish and what we can do to help you.

You Lost Your Job – Congratulations!

You Lost Your Job – Congratulations!

Be forewarned – this article contains feel good, ooey gooey type messages and perspectives. If you prefer to wallow in anger, frustration, misery or blame – do us both a favor and stop reading now!

In one week I spoke to two different people in two different situations.  The first was a woman who proudly announced that after 17 years at her job she was quitting.  I immediately told her “Congratulations!”

The other, the next day, was a young man who told me after six years, his position is being downsized.  I responded with, “Congratulations!”

These were not sarcastic comments; they were heart-felt, sincere congratulations.

I have been doing career coaching for some time now and the one thing I have learned is this: every opportunity is a – wait for it – blessing in disguise.  The first ooey gooey!

I know you are probably not bought in yet, so let me offer the most powerful example or “insight” that I can:

We stink at planning our own life.

There may be factors that you are really good at: what college to attend, getting the right internship, getting the right car, having the right house in the right location – yes, sometimes we can plan things out wonderfully and they even go according to plan.

But life does not work exactly according to plan and we stink at planning our lives. If we were so good at it, we would not lose jobs, lovers, friends or opportunities.  One of my favorite sayings is “Man plans, God laughs.”

Life laughs. and laughs….and laughs…and laughs.

If we got everything we asked for – everything we plan, we would be miserable.

Remember that person you were madly in love with in your 20’s and you wanted to spend the rest of your life with them?  You really dodged a bullet there looking back 20 years later and realizing they were a self-absorbed pig with no heart.  Or that company that you were dying to work for that turned out to be a soul-sucking institution of self-loathing?

That pretty much negated the ooey-gooey, but the fact is what we want in the immediate is not always what is best for us in the long term.

Sometimes what we think we want is not really what we want, it is just what we have always thought.

Here is a good example and to add a little more ooey-gooey back in. If you were to ask my beau a year and a half ago about his ideal girlfriend he would have told you at least 5’8”, brunette, health nut, someone really into running with a pretty conservative existence, a bit shy or quiet – not someone to really rock the boat or be out there.

I am 5’, blond, eat what I want, when I want it, only run if someone is chasing me and am anything but shy, quiet or contained.  There is absolutely nothing about me that met with his ideal; what he is to military guy I am to modern hippie, and yet we are blissfully happy – sometimes sickening so.  We have formed a partnership based on respect and communication.

What we think we want is based on what we know.  What we know is based on our past; it is solid.  What we are is in the present and it is semi-solid.  What awaits us is in the future and it is fluid.  How can we use our past to determine what is best for our future when it changes based on the present?

Just call me Buddha.

But seriously, what were your life goals at 22?  Have they changed?  Have you changed? I wanted to be a lawyer with five kids.  Well, that certainly changed.

I am a firm believer in this thing called life is not a test, a series of unfortunate events that lead to glimpses of happiness.  It is an experience.  It is a game that offers wins every day if we open our eyes.  It is fun and interactive, like all good games should be. When we get stale in our routine, we lessen our impact and our personal joy.

That is when it is life’s turn to play.  I would say it throws you a curve ball, but if you have good reflexes you are either going to learn to hit a curve or get out of the way.  No, life plays dodge ball.  You get one of those red rubber balls right upside the head!

Booom!  Wake up

You’re out of that game, time to start another.  But this time, you have to approach it differently so you don’t get beaned in the noggin.

Then it is your turn to play, you get to throw the balls back.  You get to identify your targets and pick them off!

This is your opportunity!

I ask every single client, what do you want to do next – don’t tell me a job or title, what do you want to be doing.  Many times they cannot answer that.

I get a lot of, “well, I’ve always done this…”  Nope.  What. Do. You. Want. To. Do.

We got stuck in adult.  Adults are supposed to have all the answers, all the time, in every situation without hesitation.  It is exhausting to adult.

Oh my, we were so entrenched that we have forgotten how to think about ourselves and what we want.  It is like someone flipping on a bright light after coming out of a cave.

There is a lot of blinking, stammering and shielding ourselves from the light.  It is finally revealed in an almost apologetic voice, “I don’t know.”

Good for you!

Seriously – good for you!  That means you are open to possibilities.  I want my clients to create a “no” list.  Here are the things I do not want in my next position.  Whatever it is that you really do not like doing.  I had one client that had been a manager for many years realize that he really did not like managing people.  Good to know.  When we first talked, all he talked about was he should go into managing teams because that is all he had ever done.

Now, get your “no” list and start exploring.  When you find something that gives your belly a little twinge, take out that no list and see if there is anything in there that matches up.  If not, then go for it!

That little twinge, is excitement.  It is joy.  It is time you find it again and that is the reason for the red ball upside your head.

It is yours to find and own.  The next job may not be all that and the bag of chips, but you know what, you went for it.  You tried; you expanded your playing field.

Losing your job is giving you the opportunity to expand, explore, create and for goodness sakes, live!  Look at that person in the mirror and get to know them again, what they like, what they don’t, what they have to offer and what brings them joy.

Stop forcing yourself into the misguided perception that you should have all the answers right now.  Why do we have it stuck in our heads that it is an absolute must that we should have all the answers, every minute of every day for every aspect from what’s for dinner to what is our next career move.  That’s right – we are doing adult.

Doing adult 24-7 is icky.

You may have to adult and take something that keeps that roof over your head and the bellies full, but do not give up on the twinge!

Here is the other thing about life – in the core of your life – it really is all about you.  If you are not happy, how can you provide happiness to someone else?  Yes, you have others depending on you and you need to make wise choices for what is best for your partner, children, family, employees – but what about you?

If you are a miserable person, how do you give them joy, inspiration, hope and confidence?

You have to take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else. Part of taking care of yourself is asking yourself, “What do I want to do – if I could do or be anything, what would that look like or feel like?”

It may take a step or two to get there and in the process it may change; but do not think just because you have always done something that is what is meant to be, period, end of story.  Your story is not over or predetermined.

Life isn’t a test – you are not required to show up with all the answers.  It is a game that you learn to play and it is made up along the way.

I remember as a kid my friends would get together on the playground and there was seemingly nothing to play with – we made up games.  We would create combinations of baseball, red rover, freeze tag and whatever else we could imagine.  Just when we started to get the hang of that made up game, one of us would introduce a new rule.

Welcome to life friends, the playground got a lot bigger and the made up rules became a lot more fun – and rewarding, if you stop trying to adult every second of every day and listen to the kid inside of you wanting to find joy – and bean life back with one of those red rubber balls.

✰✰✰✰✰✰✰✰✰✰

As the Founder and Principle of Career Polish, Inc., a national career coaching and practice firm, I am an Executive Brand Strategist, Resume Writer and Career Coach. I work with individual clients, companies and their leadership and teams to identify, strengthen and effectively communicate their brand, engagement, commitment and most importantly – their value – by learning and leveraging LinkedIn, networking, communication, relationship management, presence and influence.
I help people get from where they are in their jobs to where they want to be in their careers.

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

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