What Always Worked Doesn’t Always Work in Job Searching


I remember in my twenties in college when I lived off cheesy garlic bread from the little Italian restaurant around the corner from my dorm, few hours of sleep each night and carried a full load of classes while working a part time job and a full commitment of games, practices and workouts as a member of the dance squad.

I also remember when my son was younger and played three sports taking him to every practice, game and activity; working a full time job; caring for a family member battling cancer; managing a house and four dogs.

Where oh where is all that energy now?  There are days I look around and think, ‘I used to be able to do so much more!’

There are also times that I attempt to do something and think, ‘this used to be a lot easier’ with things like house repairs or climbing flights of stairs.  Age is a wonderful thing, I used to be able to leg press three times my body weight, now I sound like a percussion section every time I stand up!

I recently embarked on some house repairs and updates.  Nothing I really had not done before, yet this time it seemed more time consuming and a bit more of a hassle.  Nothing I could really put my finger on, but I did find myself saying, ‘it always worked before when I did this or that.’

That was the light bulb.  Just because something always worked in the past does not mean it will work again today or in the future.  We need to adapt.  Some of the projects were more difficult because the strength in my hands is not what it used to be.  Some were easier because there are better and neater tools and gadgets now.

If you are job searching, are you applying the ‘always worked in the past’ techniques?  Many of my clients had never had a resume, nor needed one.  It was a matter of a handshake or conversation.  The idea of having a branding statement if only to help define what it is they are selling (their value) to better communicate it to their audience is a complete unknown.

Resumes of the past were compiled of a desire statement “I am looking for a job that enables me to use my skills and abilities to help a company and its clients grow.”

The problem is, no one cares what you want.  What the reader wants to know is what can you do for them?  And no one really believed that line anyway.  Today you need to immediately identify what value you bring to the organization demonstrating you understand their challenges or pain points and know how to deliver the solutions.

Resumes of the past also detailed job duties – what you were hired to do.  It was very easy to transcribe your job description into your resume as bullet points.  Today, people do not care what you were hired to do, they want to know what you did.

Just because you list that your job duty is to manage a certain aspect does not mean you are any good at it.  How do you manage it, who do you work with, how do you work with them, who benefits and how demonstrates your value and expertise on the subject.

Networking in the past may have been telling your family that you are looking for a job.

Today you need to be more stealth in your approach.  Understand the value you add, what you want to do and learn to communicate it in a way that each of your different audiences can not only understand it, but can identify it when they hear others talk about it.  This way they can immediately say, “I know just the person you need to talk to!”

The biggest “always worked” action that I am on a persona mission to obliterate is assigning yourself a title.  Stop introducing yourself as your title.  That is not you!  That is the label that a company gave to you, it does not define you.

Instead, when someone asks you what you do – tell them what you really do: the value you add to people’s lives.  How do you solve problems for people, do you provide a service that makes their life easier or help them achieve a goal or desire? What is it that you really do?  That is what people care about, not your title.  It is also how people will remember you, refer and recommend you.

Change is scary yet there is a lot of help out there to help you take one small step at a time.  My recommendation – carve out a little private time to go through that last paragraph – what do you really do?  Dig deep, have a conversation and in the end you will be well on your way to finding a whole new way of communicating, job searching and networking that actually works for you.


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.

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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.

Some Great Advice from Dad

Long, long ago when I was preparing to go to college my dad gave me a little piece of advice:


“If you are ever unsure of what to do, just imagine me standing next to you.”


I will admit at 17 I really did not pay that much attention to my dad’s advice, okay maybe through some of my twenties too, but that is not the point.


This was sage and powerful stuff.  Thank goodness I remembered it.  It is something that I also passed down to my son.  Apparently I also passed down the gene of not listening to parents’ advice as a teenager too, but that is another story.


My dad raised me with no limitations from being a girl; however he always expected me to be a lady.  There have been many times that I would stop and take a breath and think of my father next to me and that helped determine my next actions.


When I became a parent I put my kids in that same category because I represent them as well.  I am very well aware of this – I represent all generations and extensions of my family as well as myself.


Maybe I am old-fashion that way.  It is how I was raised and how I raised my kids.  I would tell them, “When you walk out of this house you also represent me and your father so do not make me regret not locking you in the garage.”  Oh yes, I am that mom.  But a little humor helps the advice go down a bit easier.


Sometimes in the workplace I fight the urge to give this advice to people.  If you brought your parent or child to work, is this what you would want them to see?  Would you behave the same way?  Would you treat that customer differently if the were with their grandparent or child?


We are all connected and represent more than just ourselves.


This goes with mistakes, too.  Once I made a huge error when working in the financial industry.  Huge.  I realized it and gathered the troops to help me correct it and when the Managing Director came back in the office I told him I royally screwed up but this is how I was fixing it.


That night I told my son about it, he was around 7.


A few days later the manager and I were talking about it and I mentioned something my son had said.  He was surprised and said, “You told your son?”  Yes, I wanted him to know that moms make mistakes, too; and the most important part is how you correct them.


Choosing our actions in front of our children, co-workers, reports and managers is how we demonstrate who we are; what we stand for and how we handle situations.  It is easy to do when they are standing right there; but the real trick is keeping it up when they are not.




Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Career Coach-Strategist

Certified Professional Resume Writer

Career Polish, Inc.


Lying or Indifference – Which Is Worse For Your Job Search?

Oh Yahoo – shame, shame, shame.  A publicly held company searching for a CEO position and a little thing like verification of information somehow slips through the cracks?  And shame, shame, shame on him for lying about his accomplishments.


A degree – really?  That is pretty easy to verify for crying out loud.  When I was in finance I held my 7, 63, 65, 9, 10, 26, Life & Health and Property & Casualty.  Those were verifiable – I couldn’t conceive of adding a few more numbers in there just to spruce it up because they are verifiable!


If you are going to lie about one item on your resume I have to ask myself as an interviewer what else are you lying about?  Are you okay with lying to get the result you want, be damned the consequences?  Do you have morals or scruples? How can I trust you to represent the company?


I was so dumbfounded by the whole thing, not sure if there is anything worse than lying when I realized there might be a close runner up: indifference.


Indifference, defined as a lack of care or concern, is not something you want to come across in your interview.  If you really don’t care if you get a job then why would I care to interview or hire you?


Indifference can be very insulting.  If a company has gone out of their way to set up interviews at your convenience, maybe bring you to their corporate office, planned a complete and full itinerary, show you the location and main players and you show up wearing a cloak of indifference how do you think that would come across?


I know if I was involved in setting any of that up I would be insulted, and a bit angry that I wasted my time and company resources on an individual who has no skin in our game.  I would take it personally.


I was recently treated to a dose of indifference by a friend and let me tell you – that really stung.  My friend suffered a loss in their family last year.  I was there because my friend needed me and my only concern was hoping to make that time even the slightest bit better or easier.  Last week I lost my uncle.  I never heard from my friend, well, they “liked” a post I made of Facebook, but that was it.  Perhaps I misevaluated our friendship.  Live and learn


I’m not angry at my friend, I just see them in a different light now.


If you have a great resume but indifference shows up front and center in an interview then your interviewer is going to see you in a new light, too.  You are not the right candidate for the job.


If you get to the point of an interview the prospective employer or interviewer has determined that you have a certain skill set or ability to perform the job.  The interview is the point where they are evaluating if you are going to be a good fit.  This is the time to court and be courted.


If you do not want the job – don’t accept the interview.  You are wasting their time and yours.  Also keep in mind that networking is a key aspect of your job searching and career advancement.   Do you really want to take the chance of leaving a poor impression and the possibility that the story is retold to someone else?  You never know who your interviewer knows.  You could be ruining future opportunities.


Lying or indifference – it is like choosing between the lesser of two evils; but at the end of the day they are still both evils.



Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Career Coach-Strategist

Certified Professional Resume Writer

Career Polish, Inc.