How Do You Explain You?

how to you explain you

One of my favorite quotes and guiding principles comes courtesy of the great Albert Einstein:

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

This is something I learned from my dad.  Heaven help that man, he was ‘blessed’ with a very curious daughter who liked to ask a lot of questions – most of them “why?”

He had an amazing teaching capacity being able to translate the complicated into something a young mind could grasp, understand and replicate.  This is how I learned to use power tools before jr high, the delicacy of baiting a hook and driving a stick shift – in about 20 minutes.

He knew the key for me: explain the why while describing the how.

Knowing your audience, understanding their language and explaining something simply was how he helped me move mountains.

When you are staring at the mountain of career change, it is important to remember these three key elements, which bears repeating.

Know your audience

Understand their language

Explain simply

The first two are the easier of the three to accomplish.  If changing industries – do your research; if you are advancing in your current field – rely upon your expertise in the field.  You will be able to identify the decision makers, what their challenges are and make the correlation to your strengths and accomplishments demonstrating you and the value you offer as a solution.

Explaining simply is hard.

We have a tendency to use too many words.  As an Executive Resume Writer – I know of what I speak.  I do it, too. Ask any of my clients and they will tell you that when I send them their working draft I give the caveat – this is too long and too wordy.

I do it intentionally.  I want them to get the full effect, to see all the words to comprehend the concept.  The next step is the fun part – we rip it apart. We tear through all those words and simplify.  We cut to the core, cut to the chase, cut the crap.

I could do this on the first draft, but I like them to see it this way for a couple of reasons: we like words, we feel like we get a better understanding of words.  Seeing too many words also makes you realize that there are too many words.  This strengthens the process.  If we started with the cut to the core they might feel we missed something.

The other reason is that my process is a collaborative process.  My clients have skin in the game; the more they are engaged and are a part of the process, the more they engage and own their tools.  This leads to them loving them more and utilizing them more effectively.

When people ask you what you do – are you explaining it simply enough?  After thirty seconds, you lost them – it is not simple enough.  Do they ask questions, are the engaged and want to know more?  If not, it is not simple enough.

One way to help simplify how you describe you is to think about how would you explain it to a child?  Think teenager or preteen.  Old enough to grasp things but with a short attention span.  We all have short attention spans when it comes to asking others what they do, kids are just not as good as faking it as adults.

If you can explain it to this age group and they get it – you are spot on. Not only will they understand, they will be able to repeat the information, i.e. sell you.

Years ago in between football practices my son brought a buddy home to raid the fridge and hang out.  I overheard the conversation and I knew I was spot on in how I communicated to him.

His friend asked what I did and my son told him I help people get jobs.  At this point I wanted to jump in and correct him because that made me sound like I do recruiting or placement (which I do not).  But something held me back and I listened out of eyesight.

This is when the magic unfolded.

His friend asked how.  Tada – my son phrased it in a way for his audience to ask a question.

He explained that I work with them in re-writing their resumes, help with interviewing and all the stuff that helps them get a job.  Alrighty then.

The next day his friend’s dad called and hired me.  Bingo – my son explained it in a way his audience could understand and sell me to others.

Using big words, industry jargon or a whole host of fluff does not impress or improve your message – it dilutes it.

Explain it simply and people will connect.  This is how you start moving that mountain.


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 – – to find out more about how we can help you.

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Too Many Bumps On Your Career Path – It Might Be The Driver, Not The Road

Alone in a Crowd

I have an acquaintance that I run into now and then.  Over the past couple of years, all interactions have been a series of phases retelling of the evolution of a continual job search.

Phase one: Each new position starts all bright and shiny.  This is the one, much better than the last. Here he can really do what he does best, it is a great fit. Here they appreciate him.

Phase two: There seems to be a problem with communications.  His boss just doesn’t get him.  His coworkers are not appreciating his talents and contributions. It is not his fault, he is just direct and they do not appreciate it.

Phase three: His boss or coworkers are either conspiring against him or total jerks.

Phase four: It had been decided it was not a good fit and he is searching again.

There are managers who stink and ungrateful, attention-sucking coworkers – but not at Every. Single. Job.

With each trip on this merry-go-round a phrase pops into my head: “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”

Cassius is eloquently telling Brutus that it is not the environment or fate that is preventing them from stopping Caesar from becoming a monarch, it is themselves.

If there is a pattern emerging in your career path, perhaps it is time to stop looking externally and look a little closer to home.  Like home.

Often times these patterns develop unconsciously.  Perhaps we took a position just in dire need of a job and the position is something that we feel is not ‘worthy’ of our skills or abilities.  This builds resentment.  This spills over to how we treat our coworkers, leadership and clients.  This leads to the end and taking another ‘have to’ job.  The cycle continues and worsens.

Or maybe we had great success working in a certain environment which embraced the more abrasiveness in our personality.  Fast forward to another position and no one gets the warm and fuzzies and we justify our behavior with, “this is just the way I am.”  In other words you are telling people suck it up, they should accept you for who you are.

These are just two scenarios and for these – not so much cupcake. I am all about accepting people for who they are – unless they are abusive, abrasive or just plain mean to others.  Then they are buttheads and no one is obligated to like them.

As far as the first scenario, no job is beneath any person. Period. I had a job once where a dog drooled on my head – and that was a good day.

I am a direct person, I do not have a poker face.  I was once told by a manager that everyone could look at me and know that I was having a great day….and if I wasn’t. The conversation got worse from there.

I had to learn to tone it down.  To take other people in consideration.  They may have mistaken my message and I had to stop blaming them for it.  I had to do the hard look at in the mirror and realize perhaps they misunderstood due to the delivery, not the content.

I went through the gambit of total people pleaser to brash directives.  Looking back gives me whiplash.  I felt that no matter what I did I was wrong.  The hardest thing I had to do was shut up and listen, then ask.  I talked to coworkers, the ones that we normally had strained conversations.  I was honest and asked for honest, constructive feedback.  It was not easy listening to what they had to say, but I needed to hear it.

I learned to be true to myself and honor others around me.  In any position you have tremendous amount of value to offer an organization and people around you  – yet here is the key – you are not an island.

It is important how people perceive your message, it is critical how you communicate and treat others.  Just because you have an obnoxious personality does not mean others have to get used to it.  It means you need to learn to adjust so others can get to know you – not your brashness – and be able to benefit from your value and you from theirs.

Know your strengths and style then learn modifications to help use those as positives.

Here is an example of a small modification that made a huge difference.  I ask a lot of questions.  Being a direct and somewhat blunt person, this could be taken as challenging authority or disagreeing.  It was – a lot.

I learned to preface questions with buffers like, “Just so I make sure that I understand this completely…” or “I think I am clear on this, but I want to make sure…”

There are times that I start with, “I am not challenging, I agree, I just want to make sure I am on the same page…”

Taking your audience into account during your communication makes a world of difference.  Not everyone is going to get you or what you mean because they are not you.

If you can identify that the fault is not in the stars, take that next step and ask for feedback.  It may be brutal, yet remember this – people will not offer this insight if they did not see something in you worthy of wanting to help.  Constructive criticism is help.

You may gain insight to be able to make a slight adjustment that will make a world of difference.


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 – – to find out more about how we can help you.

★ In order to be kept up to date on all my articles click the “Yes Please!” button 

Careful What You Wish For…

I saw a quote the other day that I absolutely loved, “Never stop learning because life never stops teaching.”


I find that there are lessons every day, if we are paying attention.  Sometimes it is our job to learn, sometimes to teach.  My boys are rarely thrilled when they are the recipients of the lesson and I am the teacher.  The dogs, on the other hand, seem perfectly fine with it.


As I was fixing a morning snack of crunchy peanut butter on toast, I had three sets of eyes glued on me.  Three cold little noses trying to sneak a sniff of the peanut butter as it was melting on the toast.  They really wanted that peanut butter.  I do not particularly care for noses near my food.


So I took out a piece of bread and spread the peanut butter on it and tore it into three pieces.  You would think I was rewarding their behavior, but hang in there with me.  As I gave each one their piece, at the last second I popped the peanut butter side to the roof of their mouth.


They got the peanut butter they wanted along with a lot of head tilting, tongue lashing and confused looks. 


And yes, I said it out loud, “Careful what you wish for.”


My puppies are adorable, sweet and a fountain of unending unconditional love; they also aren’t thinkers. 


They want something, they go after it, consequences be damned.  They do not have the same thought processes we do, or they have really bad memories.  I can attempt to explain consequences or ask them if they have thought this through; but they rarely answer.


As a Career Coach, I hear people frustrated with where they are often stating they want something completely different.  I’m good with that and fully encouraging of doing what you love to do.  I think it is great.  I just find myself in the role of devil’s advocate.


Have you thought this through?


Changing careers can seem like an easy fix or the one thing that will solve all your problems; but are you sure?  What will it take to get into the new career?  What skills are necessary?  What is going to be expected of you?  What is the negative side of where you want to go?  How long is it going to take you to achieve the level of success you desire?


That whole grass looks greener on the other side thing.


Before you start getting jealous of your neighbor’s yard, take a step back and see what it takes to get there.  Seeding, fertilizing, watering, cutting, mulching, trimming – it takes a lot of work to get it to look that nice.  You may just be seeing the end result of a LOT of work, time and money.  Once you get it to that stage, yes, it looks easy.


If you are not willing to commit to taking care of the grass, don’t wish for the perfect lawn. 


I am normally a stanch advocate for looking for the positive; however in this case, I am advocating for looking at the negative.  This will help you be fully prepared for what you want.  You will have a better understanding of the sacrifices that are required to get to that utopia.


What you might just find out is that your lawn looks pretty darn good.  Redirect your energy just a bit and it can become the lawn you wish for without having to start all over again.



Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Brand Strategist & Career Coach

Certified Professional Resume Writer


If You Are Apologizing For the Why Then It’s the Wrong Why or the Wrong Audience

why - black and white

One of the first questions I ask prospects interested in working together for either career advancement, business building or job searching is “What is going on?”


For me to get an accurate understanding of where they have been and where they want to go I need to understand where they are now – and the reasons they want to change.


Some of the responses I have heard are:


I hate my boss.

I want more money.

I want to move.

I want more challenges.

I want benefits.

I want stability.

I want to be happy.

I am tired of the life being sucked out of me there.

I want to be appreciated.

I want to figure out what I want to do when I grow up.

I want to help more people.

I want to build my client list.

I want to expand into a new market.

I want to be able to take more time for myself.”


No right answers, no wrong answers and no judgments about one reason being more worthy or noble than any other.


Your reason for wanting a change is like your opinion: it is yours and therefore cannot be wrong to you.  My job is to help you get there, not to judge you on why you want to go.


So if you are in line with your why then who has the right to judge you?  I heard Bob Proctor say once that it was none of his business what other people thought about him.  It took me awhile to get that, but once it sunk in, I truly enveloped it.


But here is the thing – if you feel you owe me an apology or explanation as to why you want to leave then maybe it truly isn’t your why.


I have certain goals.  They may seem selfish or selfless to others, but that is not my concern.  They are well thought out, personally driven aspirations to which I have committed.  I know I am committed to one when I can tell my best friend point blank what it is without adding the noise.


The noise is the “I want this because…” statements.  I don’t have to justify to her or explain, she accepts my goal for what it is – something I want, not an idea that she needs to approve or modify.


If you find yourself having to explain your why then you need to re-evaluate one of two things:  the why itself to see if it truly rings true to you or the people that you are sharing it with.  If the people are asking you for justification then realize that is their problem – not yours.  Perhaps they cannot admit to themselves that they, too, want more money.


We are told wanting more money or responsibilities could be seen as selfish.


It isn’t.  With more responsibility you can give greater value to your team and your company.  With more money you can provide more to your family, self, friends and community.


The more you have the more you can give.  That seems pretty selfless to me.


Yes, you benefit, but so does everyone around you.


Stop beating yourself up for the why and accept it, embrace it, commit to it and then take action toward it.


Once you do these four things you can accomplish it!



Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW


Let The Tornado Thin Out The Herd

I had an amazing conversation yesterday with a woman who, after years distinguishing herself in a certain field, is taking the plunge and starting her own business; one led by her heart not by income.


It was great to hear her excitement and passion, which completely encompassed her venture – except for when it came to certain friends.  They did not accept this new phase because it did not fit in with how they saw her.


I have another friend who is just beginning the divorce process.  She is already finding out some people seem to disappear or morph into things you don’t recognize once the process begins.  They do not accept her as an individual any longer.


Having been through both situations my initial reaction is something that I don’t think I can write here – a little too graphic.  We will just leave it at that.


It is easy to sit back and say, “Screw them!” but when you are in the midst of the tornado that is your life during a major change it isn’t that easy to let go of anything.  Because your world is upside-down you want to cling to anything that seems stable, even if it isn’t healthy.


So when people criticize or question you about your new path it is natural for you to begin to question yourself.  Maybe they are right, maybe you are being crazy, maybe you are just too close to the situation you can’t see it clearly.


That is not the case.  As much as we crave stability sometimes we have to just let go and fall to see that we actually are cat-like and land on our feet.  I don’t have cats so I cannot testify to if this is an accurate statement – that cats always land on their feet.  I have dogs – they don’t.  This I know.  Especially when they are sleeping on the couch, rollover and fall off.


Change is a scary thing – not just for you but for those around you.  What you don’t see or hear is their fear and jealousy.


Oftentimes those that are discouraging us the most are the ones who want so badly to make changes in their own life but are too afraid to do so.  When they see someone else doing it there is some weird negative reaction that they have to try to dissuade you from succeeding just so they can justify their own unwillingness to change.


Don’t let them.


I almost let a naysayer stop me from pursuing my dream.  Almost.  When I first had the idea to start my business I went to a woman who I respected a great deal and was in a similar field.  I wanted her opinion because I was still very unsure of just what direction I wanted to go and I thought I could trust her for guidance, support and an honest evaluation.


When I explained my business model she didn’t even hesitate and told me that it would never work.  What I wanted to do was unnecessary and I should just let it go, walk away, never look down that path again.


At first I was floored and hurt.  My dream crushed and I felt like an idiot.  How stupid was I to even be considering something that was so destined for failure.


But then it hit me – she was threatened.  It was a good idea, it would work and I was just the person to make it work on my terms to create what I wanted.  She was dissuading me because it could potentially threaten her business.  I looked at it as a potential referral opportunity back and forth but she saw it as a threat.


I was on to something.


Three years later here I am, she had since sold her business and retired.  So much for her sage advice.


When it is time for a change, no matter how scary, no matter how crazy it may seem – go for it.  Those that doubt your or try to deter you – just smile politely and keep repeating in your head, “Oh, you poor thing, you don’t have as much courage as I do.”


Life is too short to look back in a few years and think, “wonder what would have happened if I had gone for it.”  It is much better to be able to look back and see accomplishments and be proud.


It is even okay to say, “Wow, that was a tremendous disaster – but I gave it my all and I learned a lot.  Now it is time for the next adventure”


When the tornado passes through it may leave much fewer around you but those are the ones that truly support you and have your highest good in mind.  Those are the ones that can stand next to you through any storm.   Those are the keepers.



Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Career Coach-Strategist

Certified Professional Resume Writer

Career Polish, Inc.