Competition – A Secret Tool in Hitting Your Goals

business at the starting lineThere are three things that people notice about me immediately when meeting me in person: I am short, blond and petite. One of the first personal traits they notice about me or pick up on is that I am competitive.

I was raised by an amazing father who encouraged me in everything I did and never introduced the idea that my gender was a factor. This is the man that told me as a young girl that I could do anything a boy could do, except pee on a tree. Tell a five year old that and it sticks.

My neighborhood was filled with boys, my friends throughout adulthood have mostly been men and I raised boys. I am competitive. I do not apologize for this. Often competitiveness is seen as an undesirable quality in a woman. Like we are not supposed to want or desire certain success, stature, degrees, opportunities or ideals.

I have always found competitiveness to be a welcome trait until it isn’t. Do you know when it crosses that line from a good thing to a bad thing? When I win.

I do not take this trait to an extreme. I don’t’ go around challenging people to arm wrestling contests or make everything a no holds bar competition. Partly it is a natural tendency I keep in check and the rest of the time I use it as a fuel.

When I first entered the financial industry my boss told me that I needed to get my Series 7 in my first year and “then we’ll see if you can get your 9 and 10.” That was a gauntlet to me. The competitiveness in me took over. A competition was created within myself.

I earned my 7, 63, 65, 9 and 10 in my first year. Tell me we’ll see.

There are times that we get stuck. Whether it be looking for a new job, moving up in our current company, building our book of business or building a company we just get stuck. It is frustrating and can be debilitating. When I have found myself in the stuck places, I just want to look around and say, “I need a kick”.

So I give it to myself. I think of something, a goal, that I want to accomplish then I give myself a time period. I make it a competition within my own mind. It helps, yet there are times that it loses steam. Now I have something even better.

I have a competitive boyfriend.

We are in two completely unique and different industries and positions. We have started a friendly competition throughout the week. We set our goals and then it is game on. There are a lot of updates and “eat my dust” texts through the week. On the weekend, there is a lot of celebration of individual accomplishments. And a small victory dance.

Competition raises your bar. It helps you boost your performance, stay sharp and stay on your A Game. You suddenly find time to do the things you need to do but maybe do not want to because you are now accountable. If you don’t win, it is on you. What do you want, what have you done today to get it?

There are no excuses at the end of the week, either we make our goal or we don’t. Neither one of us is the type to say, “I would have hit it if this would have happened.” There are too many what if’s we cannot control; all we can control is our actions and reactions.

When you are going after a prospect or potential job lead put it in your mind that you are not their only candidate. You have competition. They will be comparing you to someone else to choose the best candidate or service provider. You want that to be you. You want to give it your A Game and leave nothing on the table.

When it is just you in the running you might unconsciously slowdown in the final stretch thinking it is a lock. When there is someone close behind you, that’s when you give it that final push to make sure you cross the line first.

I am not suggesting that when you go on an interview and see other candidates or leave a prospects office and see the next service provider ready to pitch their gig you tell them to eat your dust. Ok, you can say it, just don’t use your out-loud voice.

What I am suggesting instead is to create that competition in your mind with every touch you have with a client, prospect, network connection or job prospect. Know that after you hang up the phone they are going to talk to someone else. Enlist a friend to create a competition. Not necessarily competing against each other but who will hit their goal.

Competition is a great tool to make sure you walk out of every interview, client meeting and hang up every call knowing you were true to yourself, true to your value and true to your craft – and that is how you win before ever getting that acceptance call.

So You are a People Person, Great. I am a Dog Person.



I mean, c’mon, what does that really mean?


You love working with all people? Doubt it. 

You communicate well with all people? Doubt it.


When I say I am a dog person, it conveys that I love all dogs.  Not exactly true.  I’m not a fan of little yippy dogs.  I like big dogs, Great Pyrenees is my favorite breed.  Anything under 60 pounds is, in my eyes, a small dog. Two of my three dogs outweigh me. 


The third is a Puggle, who reigns supreme over the other two; and she does not yip.


Saying you are a people person is an empty statement, a space filler and meaningless.  It truly does not describe you but rather conveys that you are a generalist.


Stop making generalizations about yourself.  There is nothing that will tune an audience of 1 or 100 out quicker than making generalizations.


Why?  Because they apply to no one.  Therefore, if it is not important, why listen?


When you are job searching, advancing in your career, engaging new clients or networking the one thing you do not want to happen is people tuning you out.  Game over.


You are not a generality, you are not insignificant; you provide or add value. 


The key is you have to discover how.


There may be many ways in which you do this so start with asking yourself the following questions and writing down your answers:


What do I do?

How do I do it?

Whom do I work with?

What is the benefit they receive from working with me? 


Now, if you were to use all the information you just gathered from the above questions you would have quite the lengthy elevator pitch and end up sounding like a yippy dog after the first minute or two. 


You don’t want to be a yippy dog; so let’s not stop there.


Now is the time to cut it down for impact.  Let me give you a bit of insight about the people you are talking to: we have a short attention span.  Please do not force us to try to politely concentrate for three minutes when we got lost after the first 15 seconds. 


It is painful.


We need to the point, attention-getting statements that peak our interest.  Give me something to hold on to a hook, a morsel.  If you blurt out everything about yourself what motivation do I have to continue the conversation?




I already know everything about you.


And odds are I have misinterpreted something.


Boil it down to the most important value that you bring and how it relates to me.


That is how you get my attention and that is how you get me to ask you a question and engage in conversation.


Yippy dogs keep yipping; big dogs bark less frequency and with more power.  Big dogs get attention, yippy dogs get ignored.


Be your own big dog.  They are awesome.


Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Career Coach & Brand Strategist

Certified Professional Resume Writer

Word Swap: Leader vs. Manager on a Resume

QuestionsI have a pet peeve phrase that I am on a one person crusade to eliminate, especially during the interviewing process: people person.  Ick.  That is my professional, grown-up synopsis of that phrase: ick.  When someone would tell me they were a “people person” I always wanted to respond, “I’m a dog person.”  It is just such a meaningless, ambiguous phrase.


The word manage or manager has the same effect on me.  It is generic.    It is another ick word for me.


I have seen a trend in replacing “manager” with “leader” in a general way on resumes.


That would be great if it were earnest.


However, replacing the word does not negate the meaning.


In my opinion as a professional resume writer and coach, manager and leader have a much different meaning.  In a nutshell a manager oversees while a leader creates and drives.


When you use the term manager or manage in your resume you are leaving your audience short-handed.  Because it is such a generic term they need the parameters of what you do in order to determine what type of manager you were – and if you were any good at it.


Think about it, in your own experience I am sure you have had different types of managers.  There are those that tell you what to do, retreat to their office, never communicate and bring more of a dictatorship style environment.


Then there are managers that coach, mentor, communicate, roll up their sleeves and dive in to make sure you and the team is on pace, progressing and surpassing expectations.  They listen, they help you become a better individual contributor while bringing cohesion and engagement to the team.


If you were a manager, which one were you?  In not giving the parameters you are allowing your audience to decide based on their personal experiences.  Not a wise move.


Replacing manager with leader is not enough to demonstrate which type of manager you were or are now.


I’ll say it again: you have to give parameters.  How did you lead, what were your actions, how did you contribute, what did you do to help individual performers, the team overall and the company as a whole and what were the results?


Unless you prove it, simply giving yourself a better sounding title is not enough.


In business communication you have to prove it.  Consumers are wise, we don’t believe everything we read, we are skeptical, we want proof and then we want you to prove it again.  Consumers in this situation are your clients or prospective employers.


Now don’t get me wrong, there are certain environments where you need managers who are setting the targets and hands off – type one above.  It is fully dependent on the environment and industry.  If this is what is needed by your prospective employer and this is you then by all means sell it.  Be the manager they need.


Know your audience, their needs and your value.  When the two match then it is your job to prove it.  Not just by using one word over another, but by demonstrating your value by describing all the parameters and results.


Don’t get lazy and do a word swap – take the time to identify what you bring to the table and articulate that to your audience in order to assure they have a full understanding of who you are, what you do and most importantly what you can do for them.



Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW


Not Reaching a Goal – Maybe You Need a Change to the People in Your Personal Environment

Me and Frank out Dancing
Me and Frank out Dancing

You have all the right tools, knowledge and ambition yet you still can’t reach that goal.  Whether it be landing the right job or client – it just seems out of reach.  So what are you missing?

It may not be a question of what you are missing, rather what you need to subtract.

If you feel you have all the right pieces put in place take a look at your personal environment; more specifically the people in your environment.

Do you have a bunch of Debbie Downers or Doubting Thomas-es?  Do the people around you invite you in with their energy, make you laugh, support you, inspire you and just generally make you feel good?

Have you ever heard the phrase you become the people you associate with the most?  There is a bit to that, you know.

If you are surrounded by “poor me” and “it will never work” attitudes you are naturally going to get the happy, positive, encouragement and quite frankly life sucked right out of you.

One person is probably not going to represent all the above mentioned positive qualities.  It is the lovely combination of unique individuals in your life that bring in the sum whole of a can’t-fail environment.

If you have ever read any of my blogs or know me personally then you know about my main support system:

Jackie: my bestest friend, confidant, twin, co-conspirator and kicker-in-the-butt.

Jake: my son, the center of my world, the one that can make me the most proud and most angry in a matter of seconds, the young unrecognized philosopher and the one that keeps me centered.

Jeff: a best friend who has known me for a quarter of a century, the one that sees the world in black and white, point A to point B and keeps me on my toes by always allowing for another viewpoint.

My parents: my dad who passed 18 years ago but impacted me, along with my grandmother, more than any other person in my life, my mom who supports me by allowing me to make my own way and Jim, my step-dad who brings balance to the very strong-willed women.

But there are many others that I can’t possibly go into, friends and family that give something of themselves to me through their friendship for which I am eternally grateful.

One of those friends is Frank.

Frank and I grew up in the same neighborhood with him being a year (or so) older than I but his brother and I were in the same grade.  Talk to anyone in my town and just say “Frank” and they knew exactly who you were talking about – not Frank who or which Frank – there is only one Frank.

He is, in a word – infectious.  His laughter, smile, wit, intelligence and amazingly positive attitude about life and appreciation for each and every day.  Frank is the guy that men instantly bond to and women fall in love with – yes, Frank is that guy.  Because he radiates life.

Here is the thing about Frank, it is not just that he makes you feel good when you are around him; he is inspiring.

Frank doesn’t have goals.  Frank has missions.  Come hell or high water if he sets his mind to something he is going to do it, and by God, do it well.

When I talk to people who bemoan that they can’t do something because they don’t have the skills, abilities, physical traits, blah, blah, blah – or –because they have always been stuck in a certain typecast, position, industry, blah, blah, blah – I think of Frank.

Frank is the epitome of no boundaries.

Here are a few things about Frank:

He is a world-class Olympic Athlete.

He hit on Natalie Cole.

He was pretty much told by Stevie Wonder once not to sing his song on an elevator (great story).

He is a former DJ and Bouncer.

He is a poet.

He is an inspirational speaker.

He is a highly sought after ballroom dancer.

He is an ADA Employment Consultant at a major university.

He’s a chick magnet – just ask any of his male friends.

And he is just getting started…

He has never seen himself in a box or only as one type of person, job, task, performance.  He makes a determination to try something new and off he goes with boundless energy.  Shortly thereafter we begin to get a stream on Facebook about how is accomplishing this task.


He inspires me because he refused to be classified, stop reinventing himself, giving of himself to others and appreciate every opportunity whether it presented itself to him or he had to knock the door down to go get it.

When I think I can’t – I think of Frank.  I don’t know that can’t exists in his vocabulary.  Having someone like this in my life keeps my personal environment nothing short of positive.  So no matter what is going on in my personal or professional life, he is always there as a supporter, inspiration and source of complete positive energy.

It is because of my support system that my personal environment is fun, full of energy, inspiration, accountability, excitement, joy and love.  With this type of environment any hurdle isn’t a monumental task, it is merely a challenge that my friends encourage me to conquer.

Oh, and one more thing about Frank: he was born with a condition that resulted in him being a wheelchair user for life.

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW