Networking – It Takes Work!

I was talking to a new friend today about networking. It is very encouraging to me how many people are so aware of how important networking is, especially to those in transition. My new friend has been doing a fantastic job of meeting new people, tracking information and following up with several people who can be of assistance to him and to whom he can assist. I was encouraged and impressed.

After our conversation I realized he was out-doing me. Not a happy thought for me, as I am a bit competitive in everything I do. I can’t help it; it just comes out in me. But I digress; today this is not all about me. I know a lot of people have one great, and grave, challenge when it comes to networking – implementing all the steps. And the one step that can really hurt a person or business is not following through and then keep following through.

Here is a typical scenario: you go to a networking event all pumped to meet three people. You are dressed for the occasion, have your great opening statements or questions to help break the ice, you’re in the right frame of mind, have your business cards or information handy – you are good to go. You enter and immediately meet a great contact. You make a connection, share information and move on and meet another great connection. This continues through the event and before you know it you have made five great connections!

Holy cow, you think, this was a great event. I meet five new people, we have established a connection and I can either help them or they might be able to help me: this is awesome! You might be so good as to that day or the next send a follow up email to tell them how much you enjoyed meeting them. They might send one back telling you the same and maybe a few emails exchange. And then it all fades to black. The connection stops. You do not follow up again, you never call, you never write, we never hear from you anymore unless you want money … oh wait, wrong speech… But you get my point.

You made a connection but that is not a relationship. Relationships take time and effort. Effort people, effort! You must stay connected, you must continue to reach out, and you must continue to be of assistance to others. You must put in effort to cultivate a relationship with someone. One magical night does not a marriage make. In order to do business with you (and that includes refer you to someone who is hiring) people must know you, trust you, understand what value you bring to others and remember you for crying out loud. I doubt many will refer a person they met one time and never heard from again.

If you are someone who keeps all those business cards, take a gander through them and think about when was the last time you reached out to any of them, even just to say hello? Do not fib here, we’re all friends, we can be honest. I am looking at mine and I must say I am embarrassed because it has been some time for me. Oh, the shame.

So, as soon as I post this I am going to go through and send out a friendly “hey stranger” and wish them a happy day. I must practice what I preach so that is my mission today. I am willing to bet dollars to donuts that I will receive a friendly hello right back from a few people and be able to reconnect with some amazing people. As a matter of fact, I will keep track of my results in order that I can come back and tell you to hopefully inspire you to do the same. Of course, I might have to mention that see, you should always listen to your mother… oh darn it, wrong speech again….

Tips to Help Stay on Track When Looking for a Job

Delay, avoid, procrastinate, ignore….then you need something NOW. I see this time and time again with those in transition. I have had numerous clients that apply this approach with their resume. They delay or hesitate on reviewing the resume I have prepared, or avoid giving me pertinent information and it just lingers. Until I get the call late in the day or evening that, holy cow, I need to send my resume to a company TOMORROW, can you do it tonight? Where were you last week when I was asking for the information?? One of my favorite phrases is, “Your lack of planning does not constitute an emergency on my part”. Seriously, did you forget you were in transition and an opportunity can happen any time any where?? (And yes, I always get it done)

So for those of you that are going through this little traumatic experience at the time you are reading this, shame on you! You should know better. For those of you that have been there, let’s see what we can do to make sure this does not happen again. Here are some things you can do to make sure you are prepared for that opportunity at any time.

1. You should make sure your resume is updated and appropriate at all times. You should have more than one resume and it will be modified for the job and skills for the position for which you are applying. For example, you may be a manager but there are different types of managers. Some management styles fit better with certain organizations rather than others and you will need to decipher what skills and qualifications each company feels are important for their organization. For example Company A may be seeking a very hands-on manager who is skilled at team building, open communication and being able to perform the work as well as lead it. Company B may be seeking a very analytical, time and information sensitive leader who is skilled at direction, delegation and oversight. Completely different perspectives and having a one-size-fits-all resume will not benefit you in the least.

2. You should make sure you understand your resume and can sell it – i.e. sell you. Your resume is your sales brochure. Have you ever encountered a sales person who constantly has to refer to a manual or sales brochure to tell you the highlights of the product? Not very convincing, huh? If I am in the market for a new digital camera, I do not want someone to read me the manual, I want someone who can explain it in my terms, show me the best features – in other words sell me on it. Then I can glance through the brochure to get further information and reinforce my “need” to buy that camera. You, in this little example, are the digital camera and the sales person.

3. You should have your sales materials with you at all times. Sales materials: that means resumes, business cards or skills cards. No, I do not suggest that you hand out your resume at networking events (unless it specifically requests that you bring them), but you should have your resume with you to read through again before you go into a networking event just as a refresher and boost. When you are at casual networking (i.e. ball games, concerts, gatherings, picnics – wherever) you should have your skill summary cards or business cards with you to be able to hand out to someone if they would like to contact you.

4. You should have a tracking sheet. Job searching stinks. You can get to the point that you feel as though you sent out one hundred resumes last week and did not get one single response. I have literally heard this line numerous times. Keeping a spreadsheet of your activity not only helps you gain a bit of perspective, it also helps you keep track of who you have spoken to, what companies you have applied to, when, what positions, what follow up actions you need to take and any important information relevant to your search. Knowing that you sent a resume to Company A last week, perhaps it is time to follow up – you would know this if you were keeping track of your activities.

5. You should be training your friends and family as Sales Associates. One thing I ask people when I teach classes is, “Do you friends and family know you are looking for a job?” Of course everyone looks at me like I am an idiot and say, “Yes, of course”. So my next question is, “If I were hiring and met them casually, would they know what key word I might say that would let them know immediately to give me your name and number?” Normally, those in my class now have a bashful look on their face for thinking I was an idiot only moments before… The point is, if you tell me you are an IT person looking for a job that means nothing to me. And quite frankly it would be a weak introduction to someone looking for a programmer to tell them that I know someone in IT, but no idea what they do. You need to be specific and make sure people understand that. If I were going back into the financial industry telling you I was a manager tells you nothing! But if I were looking to go back into Compliance, now you have a better clue. If I told you that I would love to work for a mid-sized financial company rather than one of the big boys in banking, investments or insurance there is another clue. And if I told you that I was looking to work in the area between and including Indianapolis to Anderson, there is another really good clue. You now have several key words: Compliance, mid-size, investments, insurance, banking, Indianapolis, Anderson – see where I am going here? Never assume everyone knows what you mean, make it clear.

6. You should make sure your references are prepared. Here is another question I ask during class, “Do you have your references ready, you have asked their permission” Again, normally a yes. Then I ask, “Have you asked them what they would say?” The answer to that one is almost always no. In fact, in between 60-80 classes I have only heard two people say yes. The purpose is two-fold. One, you want to make sure what they say and how they say it will be perceived correctly. I am a sarcastic person, it is who I am and I know it. I have to temper it and keep it under close supervision. If one of my references said I was a great leader, motivator and trainer with great sarcastic wit, the prospective employer may not like that whole sarcasm thing. The second reason is those references may see something in you that you may not see yourself. What if one of your references told you that no matter how stressful a situation got you were always cool, calm and collected and they always looked to you at those times. That sounds like great things to emphasize in a resume or cover letter don’t you think?

7. You should only offer what you can produce. Undersell and over deliver is an old motto. In this situation what I mean is do not get so involved in the job search and networking that you have booked yourself out of quality time for self, family, friends, and quality leads. I have seen people get so wrapped up in networking that they are professional job seekers with no real ability to make real connections and possible inroads to future opportunities. Do get out there and meet with people, do not make it a practice that you have no real results or you neglect the things that are important in life. If you are meeting with so many people at all times and if you are promising to follow up, are you able to keep up with the schedule you set? Sometimes we are our worst enemy. Here’s another old motto to help with this one: work smarter not harder – i.e. network smarter, not harder.

8. You should look at alternative ideas to building connections and seeking opportunities. Volunteer. Give yourself a chance to do something you love, help other people, animals or the environment and enjoy it. By doing something that you enjoy, you will meet other people with similar interests and you can get to know them through this common connection. From there, you can find out what they do when they are not volunteering and maybe they work for a company you are targeting or knows someone who does. You just never know.

9. You should be keeping up to date. I emphasized your resume earlier, but now I am expanding on this concept. You should make sure your skills and techniques are up to date. Not just job skills, but networking and interviewing skills as well. Make sure if you have a business social media page it is up to date. Are their groups or discussions you can join or be a part of, and if so, are you active and up to date in what they are discussing? Are you up to date in what is going on in your town, city, state and nation? Events outside our immediate life impact everyone and you certainly do not want to be caught off guard. It would be disastrous if in an interview the interviewer makes small talk and says something to you about the terrible oil spill and you reply, “Yes, the Exxon situation was very sad”.

These are just a few things that you can do to make sure you are prepared and ready when that wonderful opportunity comes your way, or even a maybe/iffy one shows up. If you are in transition your job right now is to get a job – don’t fire yourself by being unprepared!

It Could Be You…

Most of my blogs are written for those in transition. I try to give a different perspective and a little advice with a bit of humor. Today, I am still writing for that audience; however it is in a different perspective. I am writing FOR that audience, a voice for them. Let me just say this, to set the tone: for all of those that are employed who treat Transitioners with pity, avoidance or disdain – be careful who you look down upon because you might find yourself looking at their back in line for an interview.

I am passionate about helping people; I try to helping any way I can to help them come to a successful end to their period of transition. This is one reason I have become a board member for a newly formed Rainmakers Hub – the Transitions Hub. Our goal is simple – to bring resources and assistance Transitioners and bring together those that are employed to expand their networking circles. I believe Rainmakers is a great group to assist this vision because their mission: Do More Serve More. I am very excited about this new group! (Our kick off event is February 8 at 5:30 at the Junior Achievement Building on Keystone Avenue)

However, I can also take off the rosy glasses and see the other side. I have been at networking events both formal and informal where I have witnessed first had the iron curtain coming down to someone in transition. It starts simple enough by Person A asking, “So, what do you do?” and Transitioner responds in some manner, “I am looking for a job in…” then BAM! The Transitioner is no longer viewed as valuable to Person A they want to immediately remove themselves from the Transitioner’s presence. Well, to that I throw the Yellow Flag and yell “UNNECCARY ROUGHNESS!” It is like a full on, head down tackle to the kicker: it is just wrong!

I mean, come on, what is wrong with these Person As? It is not as though people in transition woke up and said, “Hey, I want to put m life in disarray today – I think I will become unemployed!” Or better yet, “Wow, I my self-esteem is way too high so I think I will become unemployed today so others will immediately look down upon me and knock it right down to size!”

Being in transition stinks, I mean really stinks. Stinks like the uniform of a football player being closed up in the locker for two weeks after hard fought game in the pouring rain. Really stinks. There are a lot of emotions going on – denial, anger, embarrassment, resentment, frustration, insecurity – just to name a few! So really, let’s get a clue about our fellow man!

Over the past couple of weeks I have seen great acts of humanity both large and small to residents of Haiti. Even just the simple acts of people reaching out to offer hope and help by keeping those affected in their thoughts. If we could offer these qualities to individuals in the midst of devastation so many miles away, can we not offer the same to those that stand right next to us?

Instead of saying, “Gee, that’s too bad” (while thinking Transitioners have nothing to offer you) how about saying, “Tell me about yourself” and then listen. You might actually know someone or a friend of a friend that would be a good person for the Transitioner to talk to, even to just get more information. Or, you may not know a darned thing that might help them out, but at least you showed common courtesy in listening. Small acts of kindness, like asking and listening can work wonders for everyone.

Still not convinced? Think about this:

* What makes you think your job is so safe? You could be walking in those shoes next week or next year. Life happens to everyone! And if it were you, how would you like to be treated? Ever heard of the saying, “I can forgive but I never forget” or “What goes around comes around”?

* Those Transitioners are going to land on their feet and get back in the game. One day they may be a player that could make things happen, even make things happen for you. Oh, they may not score a touchdown, but they might be able to make a heck of a block for you, and you never know when you will need a good block!

So, the next time you meet someone and you ask what they do and their response is somewhere in line with, “I am looking for a job…” repeat after me –

“Tell me about yourself and what you are looking for, maybe I can help.”

Time Management

clockTwo words that can either express a great talent or two words that put you in fear of facing that you are less than diligent. Time management is a tricky thing. I remember when I was entering into the financial arena and had to get my stockbrokers exam, supervisory and a few more all while staring a new position and my son’s father was diagnosed with cancer – oh yeah, and caring for my young son. I don’t remember how I got through that year, but I did. I do remember the clock was not my friend. First thing in the morning getting my son to school, then to work, lunch was studying, after work get my son and off to the hospital, home in time for dinner time with my son then put him to bed, then two to three hours of studying. I earned five Series exam designations within 12 months, I excelled at the job, Jeff survived cancer and the horrendous treatments and recovery and my lovely son was wonderful and able to participate in all his activities with glee.

Then later in life I was between jobs. I had all this time on my hands and could not get a darn thing done! How is that? I think I finally figured it out, when it is your time you do not put the same value on it that you do for others. When I punched a clock I was determined to make the most of the time I was there, then when I left for the day I left it there. When it all bleeds into one day and there is no delineation we tend to not keep track of our time. It can be a habit so easy to slip into and a battle uphill to break. I know, owning my own business it is my biggest challenge. It can be the same principle when looking for a job.

Sometimes we volunteer and join so many networking groups that we are very, very busy but at the end of the day we can not determine what we have done for us, for our pursuit of a position. We really end up hurting ourselves by putting everything else first and ourselves last. Let’s face it, if you are looking for a job your first priority must be you and that is hard for some of us to do.

My advice, look at it as a business. Look at your activities – what is the return on investment? Are many of your events duplicates? Same people just different times and locations? Are some events not productive or worse yet involved negative people? Drop them. Just because there is a group out there it does not mean you have to join every single one of them! Be selfish, be honest and make sure what you are choosing to spend your time on is worth your time. Your time is valuable! If you do not believe it how will anyone else?

Make a list of all the activities that you participate in or attend. Next to each item write down their value. If it is your church group, that adds value, maybe not in your job search, but mentally and spiritually it adds value. If it is a networking group – what is the value for YOU? Is it a group coming together complaining or actively supporting and encouraging each other? Are you getting return on your investment of time. Next, think of each one and if you enjoy participating or attending. If you dread going or are not enthusiastic about attending then don’t! Make it a point to put you on the calendar and realize that you are a priority and should be treated as such.

If It Doesn’t Fit – Don’t Wear It

Mom & Jake blog picShort, shorty, tiny, pint-size, munchkin – these are all words that I forbid my son from calling me since the age of seven. I knew he was going to be over six foot tall and well, I’m five foot. Maybe a half an inch or inch more, but really, at this size it does not matter. I also made two other rules when he got taller than me: 1. Never pick me up and 2. Never, ever pat me on the head. Trust me this is a daily struggle for a 16 year old kid! And now that I have a 13 year old step-son, well, the fun just keeps coming…

I am petite, plain and simple. And the fact that I have a short torso and very long legs, well I think it is funny looking. When I first entered into the professional world all those years ago, I would wear long jackets thinking they elongated me. Ok, I know, at this height nothing makes me taller. What I did not realize is they made me look smaller, almost like I was a little kid playing dress up.

I finally realized that I needed accentuate my figure and embrace my pettiness. I bought suits that had short jackets and had them tailored. Huge difference! Now I look like a petite business woman, not a girl playing in her mother’s closet. The point of this drawn out story…is your resume fitting you?

Styles change, skill sets change, strengths change – is your resume changing with you? Or is it still wearing the god-awful 80’s hair band style? The one rule I will share with you on resumes: there are very few hard fast rules. Some things do not change, i.e., do not include salary information on your resume, a picture of yourself, any mention of race, religion or age. On the religion front, yes, it is acceptable to list your activities within the church. See, there are always exceptions! But the point is, are you updating your resume for your current style?

Your resume is intended to do two things. The first is to be your personal sales pitch. The second is to help direct the interview. If your resume does not fit you, absolutely like a glove, then it is worthless. If you have to review it before the interview to make sure you are in line with what it says, then there is a problem. It is not you.

I can write you one heck of a resume, but if it is not you I am really doing you a disservice. Shame on me. This is where I surprise a lot of my clients. I insist that we review the drafts together. They must be an active participant. If they say they like something I ask them why. Let me be honest, I am not presenting your resume so to solely trust one person for all decisions and direction would be a mistake. But do not get me wrong, I will guide and steer you to the direction that I think best fits you – but that is another discussion and I do not want to do a sales pitch here.

The point is whether you write your resume yourself or hire a professional, please please please make sure that it represents you well. The last thing you want to do is to be in an interview and be reading directly from that resume like it is the first time you have seen it. Your resume should be a compilation of your greatest skills, accomplishments and history. You – the very best that you have to offer an employer, what do you bring to the table, what problem are you solving for them, how can you make them money, how can you save them money, how can you improve client service – see where I am going here?

If you are asking, “Alright, shorty, how do I know if it fits me well?” I’ll tell you, but really, there is no reason for name calling here. Have someone else read your resume. Once they are done, ask them what they think are your biggest accomplishments and best skills. Does this match up with what you were trying to get across? Good! If not, then what did they read that was different. Did you really emphasize that you are accurate but they got the message of good time management skills? Then there is a disconnect. Is it a matter of choosing different words or a matter or highlighting other examples of your work? Go at this like a High School English teacher who is red pen happy. I know what I am trying to get across in this blog, but it is your interpretation that counts. Same with your resume.

Now you might have the questions, “You mentioned presentation – what is a helpful hint on that?” I will give you an example of how you can think of this in a different way (and thank you for no short names here).

Think of it as a really flowery outline from which you give your speech. Remember your note cards in Speech class? You could not put your whole speech on those cards so you had to put the highlights and fill it in when you were in front of the class. Your teacher graded you on not only content but eye contact. Same principle. You should know intimately every detail listed on that resume so you can give your speech without referring to it during the interview. There is nothing wrong with jotting a couple of key words or phases on your notepad that you take into the interview, but to be best prepared you should know your subject inside and out. After all, it is all about you!

Now, if you will excuse me, the 16 year old just got home. Let the short name parade begin!

Make the Most of Your One Play

jakes catch at hseMy son plays football. The first game he played offense and defense all game. Two touchdowns, an interception for 40 plus yards and was named Offensive Player of the Game. The next game they brought in a couple of receivers to give them some time, he was not pleased, but he was going to play defense all game. Before the game I told him he might get a play or two on offense so make the most of it. He went in for one offensive play. He was a receiver, caught a 35ish yard pass. He also was a maniac on defense and was named Defensive Player of the game. I would say he made the most of it.

Your resume has one chance and maybe 10 seconds to make the most of you. Someone reviewing your resume will scan the top quarter of your resume and decide in those 10 seconds or so if they are going to continue. You need to make the leap for that catch – put yourself out their early to let them know you are here to play the game.

So often I read through resumes and they include really good information. Information about accomplishment, money saved, increased clients, improved client satisfaction employee retention or money made. But these things are hidden further along in the resume – many times on page two. You are making yourself second string.

Once you have your strong Objective or Mission Statement follow that up with your accomplishments. Put the proof behind the words. Not only can you state that you are successful in increasing client base and sales, follow that up with your statistic of doubling sales boosting bottom line over $2 million in less than a five year period. If you state that you implement time and cost savings strategies, follow that up with how you implemented a new project management tracking system that linked all contributors and averaged a time savings of over 20% per job equating to cost savings for company and clients. Pretty good numbers to throw out there, huh?

Putting good solid accomplishments front and center allows you to make the most of your sales pitch (your resume) and gets you noticed more quickly. It also confirms that you have the talent and ability to back up your Objective or Mission Statement. Just like catching that one pass when is most needed. You increase your chances of being put in the game.

Lisa K McDonald

KISS – Keep It Simple Silly

girl yawning readingOkay, so that is not the original acronym, but hey, I am trying to be family friendly and not insult anyone with the first line of my blog! I stress over and over again to make sure your resume is written clearly so those that are not in the position to hire you but are reviewing your resume can understand your amazing qualities, and spot them quickly. The reason – most people have a tendency to skim read. They begin reading and think they know what you are saying so they fill in the blanks if it is too rambling.

My son proved this point to me again this weekend. My son is not a patient person – I take full responsibility on that trait! He definitely did not get my short gene, but he did get my impatient gene. I was on the phone with his grandmother when he walked in my office and started mouthing a question to me. I pulled out a pad of paper and pen and we had a conversation this way. To make a long story short, he got snippy and walked out. After I finished my conversation I called him back into my office and asked in that oh-so-gentle-motherly way what his problem might be today. Turns out he skimmed something I wrote and completely misunderstood what I said. So, again, in that supportive, kind motherly way I sweetly showed him exactly what I wrote and asked him to read it slowly out loud word for word. Hmmm, error found.

When you are writing your resume, you do not have to be flowery and go on and on because quite frankly the reader is going to lose interest and mentally fill in the blanks. I will repeat what I frequently say: teenagers are the best audiences because their attention span is that of a Nat. If they can understand what you are trying to get across or at least read the whole sentence, you are on to something!

Make your works impactful, your thoughts clear and your abilities stand out. For the company for which you are submitting your resume highlight how you can make money, save money or improve their customer satisfaction/retention. Know your audience, what is important to them and communicate that clearly through your resume. And always, always keep written communication between you and your teenager – you never know when it will come in handy!

Resumes – Break it Down to Get Rid of Dust Bunnies

cleaning houseI hate cleaning my house. With a passion I hate cleaning my house. It just seems overwhelming to me. I start with one thing – “Today I do all the laundry”. In sorting the laundry I go into the bathroom to gather anything that did not make it into the hamper and I notice that I have not put away the girly things in the bathroom, so I straighten that. Then back I go to the hamper in the closet and notice that I haven’t put my shoes away and there is one in there without a match – so off I go to search for its match, which I find by the bed. But then notice the bed isn’t made so I have to make the bed, then I notice there is stuff on my nightstand that needs to be put away. So I start putting that away and notice there is a glass that needs to go down to the kitchen, so off I go to the kitchen. Do you see where I am going here? One thing leads to another and another and another – I meander from one room to another stopping and doing little things here and there but never really cleaning. Things on the surface look okay, but please do not look closely, there are dust bunnies hiding everywhere. But I am a grown up with teenage boys, dogs and a fiancé – so I have to suck it up and clean. No matter how hard I hope and wish those damn cleaning fairies just never show up in the middle of the night!

My best friend Jackie on the other hand – total Betty Crocker Super Mom! She is awesome and amazing and I want to be her when I grow up. She is focused, organized and an amazing housekeeper – with pre-teen kids, dogs and a husband. How does she do it? She determines what part she is going to do and sticks to it, she goes into the closet, sorts the cloths, gathers them takes them down to the laundry room and gets it done. Does she see the other stuff, yes, but she stays focused on one task at a time. She breaks her house down to little components, makes a list and is able to check things off one by one.

How does this relate to your resume? Take Jackie’s approach. We tend to get so overwhelmed by the entire process that we spend little time on each section but then it reminds us of something else in another section so we start working on that and we end up with a product that is may look good at a quick glance, but then when we begin to look at it closer we see dust bunnies. (And as a side note – why on earth are those called dust bunnies? I think Dust Tumbleweeds is more appropriate, but I digress…)

Remember when you are writing your resume, you know what you are trying to say, but to another person there is vital information missing. I recently sat down with a woman who was a purchasing goddess. She saved over $350k in less than six months just in evaluating a department and the internal system. This was one of her highlights and she stated it as she manages purchasing departments to run more smoothly and effectively. I asked her what does that mean, how does she contribute to making it more efficient? She explained that she would evaluate the people working in the department and their responsibilities making sure that their strengths matched up with the tasks at hand, she was also responsible for training individuals on the internal processes, recruit people, perform internal testing to make sure there were no duplicate procedures – she did a lot more than just “manage”. We talked about how to incorporate the key factors that she did to highlight those in her bullet point.

Instead of “Manage Purchasing Departments to run more smoothly and effectively” we stated with “Manage Purchasing Department systems, controls and personnel by effectively evaluating processes, procedures and individual responsibilities to incorporate time management, system efficiency and development of individuals resulting in a cost savings of over $350,000 in six months.” Now that is something you can work with! You can take that into two different strengths – the development of the individuals incorporating the evaluation, hiring, training and development and the management of the systems and processes.

Take a look at your resume – copy and paste one section, one job or one highlight and paste it into another document. Underneath that statement or section start making notes on what exactly that means. How did you add value, save money, save time or increase client satisfaction? Really break it down. Do not try to put it into pretty resume language, just make notes. Again, just talk plain English as though you are explaining it to someone who knows nothing about what you do. Do not worry about proper grammar or sentence structure, just write. Once you have done this then you have a lot of material that you can work with.

Ask a friend to read your original statement and ask them what that means to them. Is it coming through loud and clear what your strength is in that statement? If not, start to read your notes to them then ask them if it defines what you were attempting to say. More often than not they will tell you that it is much clearer picture.

It is a long and difficult process, but staying focused and breaking down each section bit by bit will create a much stronger resume, one that communicates more clearly what your strengths are and leaves room for an interviewer to ask you follow up questions. And there will be no dust bunnies!

Lisa K McDonald

So Tell Me, Why Did You Leave Your Last Position?

“My boss was a butthead.”

No, no, no – it may have been true, but you cannot answer this way! We have all wanted to at one time or another, but no – I strongly suggest against it.

If your position was eliminated, were laid off, or anything that was truly out of your control then this question should be fairly easy to answer. Just a word of caution, remember to put it in a way that does not show disdain or disgust for that company. A simple way of answering would be, “Unfortunately, due to the current climate in the automotive industry, XYX Company had lost many contracts and it was necessary to cut personnel across the board for their survival.” Stating across the board infers that they were not cutting deadwood. Make sure you are honest in your answer. IF they only cut you then you should not state it was across the board, it was simply cutting costs by eliminating positions.

If you quit a position, that can be a little trickier. Ask yourself why you quit. Was the boss such a bonehead that he drove you out? But why, were you not receiving opportunities and challenges to grow? If you were being challenged and given opportunities you probably could have put up with a bonehead boss, right?

If you were fired, this is difficult indeed. To be honest but tactful, especially if you are applying for work in the same line. This is where you need to be honest with yourself in order that you can develop an appropriate answer. Was it an agreed upon separation? Are your strengths in client development and your position evolved into data entry only? Were you let go because you could not keep up with the requirements? In that situation I would state, “When I began with ABA Company I was heavily involved in client development, in which I excelled. Over time the position evolved into data entry, which I am competent but was not at the level that they would have preferred. It was mutually agreed upon that it was not the best fit for me or ABA. That is why I am looking to get back into client development and relationships where I can really bring value to your company.” You are letting them know what happened but ending in a positive emphasizing what you can bring to their company.

Most important in answering this question: be honest, end in a positive of what you can bring to this company and do not speak ill of your former employer. It will take practice and you must have this prepared before the interview. Do not wing this, trust me. You should have this prepared at anytime just in case you meet a contact at the grocery store you have a good, positive answer that will hopefully lead you to an interview.

Have a question on how to answer in your specific situation? Post a comment or go to our website and email me – I will give some suggestions on how to answer tactfully and in a positive manner. It is a tough thing to answer, you do not have to try it alone!

Lisa K McDonald

Career Polish

I Want the Life of a Dog!

I want the life of a dog, I really do.  I have three dogs. On the surface you The Three Candidateswould think that all they do is sleep all day, sun their bellies in the sun and beg for food, which is what I want to do – except the beg for food thing.   At least this is what my fiancé thinks they do all day (and I won’t tell him, but ninety percent of the time, that pretty much sums it up!). He’s not a really big dog person, so quite frankly to keep the peace and show him the way of the dog, I had to convince him of their strengths and value to our little pack. Explain their different personalities, traits and well , reasons for not kicking them out of the house when they have an accident or make a sneak attack on his food.   How on earth does this relate to resumes, interviewing or job searching?   Wait for it….Know your strengths and be able to communicate them.

Your resume should give a good strong picture of who you are, what you want and what you bring to a company. When you are granted the interview, you might look similar to many other candidates. So you need to know your strengths and how to communicate them to a potential employer – what you can do for them.

For example, with my dogs. Micki is the guard dog (and main beggar/thief). She is fiercely protective and very intuitive. You would not think so by looking at her, but I have seen her go from pushover to monsterous guard dog on a dime just by a change in someone’s tone when speaking to me. Her strength is recognizing trends and patterns, good or bad, and acting swiftly and appropriately to increase opportunities or diffuse situations that could be difficult.

Misfit, well, she’s the comic relief and reminds us that everything can be exciting and brand new.  She runs in the backyard like it is the first time every time and bounces with so much energy and enthusiasm that you cannot help but smile.  Her strengths are being able to look at situations that are commonplace with a keen eye and fresh perspective. 

Charlie, well, my poor old Charlie.  He was diagnosed with brain lesions so he has some issues.  He mainly walks in circles (cannot do a straight line more than three steps) and tramples over the other dogs because he just can’t help it.  He has learned to cope by taking new paths so the next circle he does is a little wider and he can make it in the kitchen instead of doing another lap around the front room.  He’s also learned to duck his head to turn around in tight right circles because he, for some reason, can no longer turn left.  Charlie’s strengths are his longevity and commitment to the “company”, continually learning new skills to adapt and improve performance.

So you see, no matter who you are, your talents and strengths are there – you just have to let people know what they are and what they can do for them.  I hope this helps you, if nothing else, it has kept all three dogs in my house safe and now adopted by my fiancé.

Lisa K McDonald

Career Polish