5 Power Words For Today’s World

manners maketh mann

Communication in the current state of the world has evolved – or degraded – to short, concise communication.  Think texting, tweeting and any other short form of communicating.  It is a ‘tell me quick and tell me now’ kind of philosophy.

Even in resumes, you want to get your message across quickly, clearly and succinctly; less words more white space.  You have seconds and inches to get attention and make an impact.

I live in this world. I get the purpose and power of short communication.

With that being said, there are five words that are being more frequently dropped from communication outside the resume: face to face, emails, Skyping, phone calls, networking, introductions, casual conversations – the list goes on.  They need to come back. Pronto.

These five words are power.  These words are ones that most people know yet are neglecting to use, normally on the premise of time.

Without further ado, here are the five words:

Please  ~  Thank You  ~  I Apologize

I am a huge fan of manners.  Like Harry the Kingsman says: “Manners Maketh Man”.  I remember reading Miss Manners in the newspaper as a kid.  When I tell my dogs to do something, instead of ‘good boy’ sometimes I say ‘thank you’. Yes, I was a bit of an odd child and possibly an even odder adult.

My parents and grandmother instilled the importance of manners in me while growing up.  I instilled it in my son. Sometimes I think my lessons took in a little too deep when, as a child, he would hold the door open for someone and if they did not say ‘thank you’ he would blurt out rather loudly, ‘You’re welcome’ after they were well clear of the door.

Poor boyfriend.  He is a Chief in the Navy and it is sometimes difficult for him to adjust when he gets home.  What is a request on base sounds like a command at home without the power words.  Although, he does realize he has not made the transition to ‘home mind’ when, after a command, I simply look at him and say, “Please?”

In everyday communication, without manners, without these power words, what we say or write can come across as commands.

This week I have received a few commands, which prompted me down the rabbit hole of manners and ultimately here writing this.

  • “Send me this”
  • “Call me this afternoon”
  • “Go to our website”
  • “I got it.”
  • “I’ll reschedule”
  • Do this. Do That.
  • You are not important.
  • My time is more valuable

These last three can be construed as the real message without power words. How much more respectful, professional and inviting would it be to simply put a ‘please’, ‘thank you’ or ‘I apologize’ in there?  A lot!

By the way, I am using “I apologize” instead of “I am sorry” for a specific reason.  I am sorry is too often overused and ignored by most people.  It can be seen as a canned response or knee jerk reaction.  When my son was growing up, and to this day, when he says, “I’m sorry” I follow up with “For what?”  I make him explain why his is sorry to make sure it is not a canned response. I would not suggest doing this with your network.

I know we have such limited time in the day.  There are times that I am being absent minded or rushed and I forget to say please or thank you.  I hate when I do this.  When I realize it, I go back.  Yes, I do. I re-respond apologizing for sounding blunt or rude and then thank them or ask nicely properly.

There are also times that you need to respond quickly to someone you know well.  In the rare occurrence that the boyfriend sends me a link or message during the day, I do respond with “Got it” because I know he is very busy and not engaged in ‘home thinking’.  This, for him, is good manners – recognizing that I received his communication, the thank you will be said later in home-mode. So yes, you can get a pass now and then.

Other than that, no.  There is no excuse for not using manners and showing appreciation or recognition to those that you are interacting with at some level.

I realize there might be some that doubt how powerful these words really are, so let’s try this: test it.  For a few days or a week, be very mindful in your communication and start adding ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ to your communication.  After the designated timeframe, evaluate the communication that ensued.  I would bet dollars to donuts that the responses were more open, communicative and your messages were received in a more positive manner.

Please try it, if for no other reason than to start a return of manners. Thank you.



A little about me: I do what I love: help leaders break out of a suffocating corporate existence and into a position and place that renews their brilliance.

As the Founder and Principle of Career Polish, Inc., a national career personal branding 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 personal branding as applied to LinkedIn, resumes, networking, communication, relationship management, presence and influence.

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

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Craft Your Communication Wisely – Rarely Do We Know 100% of Our Audience


Several years ago as a leader, I got my hand smacked about an email in which I added a touch of effervescent witticism.  It was appreciated by my staff, but not my director.

In the very large organization it was not uncommon for updates to fail leaving my staff completely frustrated. During staff meetings and one-on-ones we began adding humor while implementing contingency plans to make the best during these situations.

An update was not successful and another was schedule, I sent out an email to my staff to keep them apprised of time-frames and the situation. The problem is I added a sentence with something similar to “I know you are surprised” after the not working part.

My biggest mistake (and there was more than one) was not realizing my audience was not only those on the email list.

It was a poor reflection of me as a leader supporting another team and the organization as a whole. My communication was not consistent or positive for all who could have seen this communication.

I was young at the time and had a good director. I took appropriate action and accountability. it was a good lesson.

Some companies and representatives do not get the benefit of good coaching or bad mistakes that are good lessons.

I heard a reminder of this and of not being aware of your audience and the misalignment of communication.

There are parts of the south that have experienced quite a winter storm after the holidays. During the weeks of December 26th and January 2nd most services in one small town were pushed back at least a day due to holidays.

The winter storm closed schools, government offices and businesses everywhere and created an even greater delay to some services effectively cancelling them for a week.  Ice covered streets made travel extremely dangerous.

One of these services was trash service, which is provided by a contractor to the town. Many residents passed their trashcans at the end of their driveway day after day for nearly six days after the originally expected delayed pick up date. Then they received communication.

A voicemail was recorded by a representative of the municipality and sent to all customers.

This was the good part – there was communication.

Here is the not so good part – the communication itself.

  • It detailed, in length, the timing of the holiday, how that week and the prior trash had been delayed due to the holidays and in even more detail the storm that hit the town.
  • The representative’s statement threw the service provider under the bus. It was stated that: “we are at the mercy of the service provider, so to speak”. The provider’s name was used only when speaking despairingly about them.
  • It was pretty easy to surmise that the communication came after numerous calls, questions or complaints about the trash not being picked up, that frustration came through.
  • Nearly a minute into the voicemail the most important elements came to fruition: the new collection dates, ability to handle two weeks worth and credit for the missed week.
  • Not only was it was nearly a minute and half long (I am wondering how many listened to the entire message) the tone and delivery was very, very casual.

I believe the communication was to inform and ease. Yet the delivery and dialog delivered a different message: stop calling us, it is not our fault.

If the intent was to address 98% of the complaints, there was a better way. I say 98% because there will always be about 2% who will still complain no matter what you do.

A positive impact could have been had by simply stating: “Due to the holidays and recent winter storm, our service provider delayed trash service for the safety of their employees and those in our community. You will receive a credit for last week and they will resume pick up on X and Y dates with the ability to pick up any additional trash caused by the missed week. Thank you for your patience and understanding, we and the service provider apologize for any inconvenience.”

In twenty seconds this addresses the majority of concerns while demonstrating professionalism , courtesy and appreciation.

When crafting a message we do not always know our entire audience.

If it is an informative message there may be others that the communication touches than the original distribution.

If it is a blanket message (websites, LinkedIn profiles, biographies etc.) the audience is limitless.

If it is a reactionary message, there may be more than one concern. The other thing about reactionary messaging is that it is very easy to slip into blame mode or be a bit testy. Neither is appropriate and either or both will not be viewed well by your audience.

For a more positive, impactful communication, keep these points in mind:

  • There will be the 2%’ers who will not be satisfied or will complain, not a lot you can do about that.
  • Even though there may be one glaring issues or topic, there may be underlying concerns. Your communication should be holistic to cover beyond the most obvious, but not the realm of minute possibilities. In other words, look at it again before you send it out, could there be another concern, are you addressing to many and diluting your message?
  • Speak to the entire possible audience. This means you may have to be less personalized in order to effectively communicate the entire message. Remember throwing in a quip – one group of the audience was okay with it, another was not.
  • If it is a message representing an organization, the voice of the organization should prevail, not an individual.
  • Do not throw anyone under the bus. It does not make you look better by making them look worse.
  • Be brief when you can to maintain the attention of your audience and not dilute your points.

Communication in every form is a representation of the organization, teams and individuals.

For the greatest positive impact, your communication must align in both message and delivery for every person it touches. Reevaluating before distribution can mean the difference between engagement and disengagement of your audience; even those you do not know are listening.



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.

★ In order to be kept up to date on all my articles Click the “Yes Please!” button on the right side. 


How I Eliminated Unprofessional LinkedIn Posts from My News Feed


Yesterday I wrote an article providing insight as to possible negative consequences of posting and ‘unprofessional’ posts on LinkedIn and distinguishing among those posts. The article also described the possible negative consequences of responding in an unkind or angry manner to these types of posts.

It was a balanced article for both those that post and those that respond. It did not throw stones, merely an opportunity to learn the reasons behind why it could be a bad idea to post and respond unprofessionally.

After seeing this morning’s fed with upset and angry posts about keeping LinkedIn professional in the form of blanket statements and graphics, I realized I was selfish.

Here I was, posting a long article about the whys and offering suggestions on positive actions for change when right here in my own little head I had the solution -but I did not share it!

My apologies for being so greedy with this little tidbit.

It is easy and fast and could help a lot of people; literally anyone on LinkedIn can do it!

It is how I took control of my news feed!

Ready? Let’s do this!

Click on the down arrow on the upper right hand of the offender’s post, then:

a. “Hide this particular update” – or –

b. “Unfollow Contact Name”

The post is gone! The beauty is it takes less time to perform two clicks than rally against.

Just speaking for me, rants do not work. Angry general blanket statements to an entire network do not work.

I have never changed my behavior because someone put out a directive or angry broadcast about how a particular type of behavior was a bad, bad thing.

I change my behavior because I am either educated to make a different choice or I make the decision on my own to do so.  It is my responsibility.

Just for the heck of it, check out the article mentioned above. Share it with offenders, it might help educate them as to the damage they could potentially cause their professional image. Share it with responders, it might provide some insight as to how one could be perceived in responding in a less than calm way.

Here is the link: But WHY Shouldn’t You Post or Respond to Personal Items on LinkedIn?

One last food for thought – the CEO of LinkedIn recently posted what could be called a political post. It was of a political figure accompanied with his personal comment. I did not see one single person rally against him telling him to “keep it professional”.

This solution works for me. I like stories about victories whether personal or professional, scroll through cute animal pictures, skim over the math problems and hide posts I do not want to see.  I hid quite a few today!  All in a few short clicks.

Be a positive agent of change. Take charge of your own news feed with two simple clicks. Focus on the contacts that provide value to you, your clients and your business and how you can provide value to them.


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

LinkedIn Profile Pictures – This is NOT Facebook!

Takeing picture

I am just going to say what other people are thinking when looking at profile pictures that should not be LinkedIn profile pictures: (warning, sarcasm ahead)

My kid is cuter than yours
My dogs are more adorable than your fur-baby
Oh look, you can still fit in your formal
Your significant other is in your picture, did they tell you what to wear, too?
Image cropping, it is a beautiful thing
Am I supposed to know who you are in that crowd of people?
Still haven’t figured out how to load a picture, huh?
I didn’t think anyone kept their 80’s glamourshots
Dude, seriously, smile – it’s not that bad
Does your mother know you posted that picture?

We are a visual society, we make first impressions quickly and they are normally based on a visual assessment.  Right or wrong, it is what it is.

An appropriate picture on LinkedIn establishes you as a real person and conveys your brand image and messaging.  It is the reader’s first impression of you – make it a good one.

You may hate getting your picture taken, sorry, this is a necessary evil for you.

LinkedIn research has shown that a page with a profile picture is seven times as likely to be viewed as a page without one and it helps push your profile to 100% completeness.

Here are the considerations you want to make when selecting a LinkedIn profile picture:

  • Have a photo of you and you alone – without attempting to crop someone out of the picture
  • It actually looks like you, the recent you not 10 years ago you
  • It appropriately reflects your industry, position or company environment (dress for the job you want)
  • It appropriately conveys your energy and presence
  • Good posture, a smile and open eyes – be inviting
  • You, your presence and your smile should be the first things noticed, not your wardrobe
  • The background is just that – background, nothing to overpowering or distracting

I find it best to have someone else take your picture, someone who can put you at easy and make you laugh during several takes.  You will come across as more genuine, real and open.  Take several shots to allow you to determine which truly represents you in an instant.



Photo by Viktor Hanacek

The are Always Watching You

eyeOne day this week, I happened to look out my window as the mail carrier was delivering mail.  To my surprise, I watched as she nonchalantly took an empty potato chip snack-size bag and drop it in the street.

It took me a minute to register what had happened.  It seemed so odd to me that I started to question if I actually saw what I saw, until I saw the trash start to float down the street.

Yes, I saw it correctly.

I am still a little stunned over this, but it reminded me of a good point: you are always being watched.

Well, that sounds a little creepy, doesn’t  it?  Let’s narrow that field a little bit. As a professional, you are always being watched.

When you are in uniform, you are being watched even when off duty.  When you are at a job fair, employers are watching you as you speak to other people in line or other companies.  When you are going in for an interview, people can and do see you in the parking lot.

It might be easy to put on a good show for an hour or so in a client meeting or interview, but be mindful of all the time leading up to it and after it – they count just as much.

John Wooden said it best when he said, “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.”

Think of it this way, from the moment you walk out your door to the time you return home, you are on stage.  You never know who is in the audience, so make sure you put on a stellar performance.


Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Brand Strategist & Career Coach

Certified Professional Resume Writer



“I Thought You Would Be Taller”

Jake and me 2014

I hear that a lot.


It is normally one of the first things, right after “Nice to meet you in person” that someone says to me after only having phone conversations.


I am five foot tall, I am used to it.  My son is six foot one and his dad is six foot four.  I’m the short one in the family.  I am also very petite.  Short and petite – double whammy.


But I don’t sound like it.


The picture in this post is my son and I – and I am wearing three inch heels!  When he was growing up I had three rules for him and all his friends (who I unofficially adopted as my second sons and to them I am ‘Momma McDonald’).  They were: do not call mom short, shorty, midget or anything thereof; do not pick mom up; and do not pat mom on top of the head.


All the boys knew my rules and pretty much stuck to them.  Of course now as young men in their twenties they pretty much ignore the picking me up rule, they seem to have to do this when they give me a hug.  I’m okay with the breaking of that rule in that instance.


But I digress.  Back to point.


People form an image of you based on what is presented – in all mediums.  I have a strong voice.  When giving a seminar last week the IT liaison was showing me the microphone.  To which I replied I didn’t need it.  I can amplify just fine on my own.


When speaking I take care to speak in a measured tone (not too fast), clearly and in an octave slightly lower than my normal speaking voice.  It is easier to understand and it delivers authority.


I am very mindful of how I speak, communicate in writing and my personal presence.  All these things represent me and it is my responsibility to make sure they are in alignment with me as a person and a professional.


People naturally form images of you based on what they see and read.  At the seminar when I walked into the meeting room one of my contacts looked at me and said, “I thought you would be taller.”  Not surprising.  But then he said my profile picture on LinkedIn made me look taller.


That was a new one.  I just laughed and told him at five foot nothing makes me look taller.


But the point is this – an image is formed, even when they have seen you visually – that may not be consistent with who you are.  That is why it is important to manage your message in a manner that is consistent with you among all mediums.


That is why I tell my resume, LinkedIn and business communication clients that it is imperative that their voice is included in their work.  It must sound like you to represent you and bring consistency.


If I sounded meek in my writing I would really blow the minds of my clients and audiences when I walk into a room and open my mouth.  Two totally different personas, which would leave them wondering which one am I.


Don’t surprise your prospects – allow them to see you for who you are by making sure all your written communication is in alignment and consistent with your personal persona.


If they reach out to you based on your written word it means they liked something in your message.  You want to make sure that you are representing that in person to continue the communication and ultimately transform that prospect into a client.



Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Career Coach-Brand Strategist

Certified Professional Resume Writer

Career Polish, Inc.



3 Things To Do To Move Forward In Your Career

confidenceAre you ready to take that next step in your career?  Whatever that may mean for you – a management or senior level position, a bigger producer, increase your own business as an owner – are you ready but do not know how?


Let me share the most powerful idea for you to implement in three easy steps to get you there:  be that position.


Well, that just sounds too easy doesn’t it?


And you may be asking, “Ok, Ms. Smarty, how do I be a position that I am not?”


I’m so glad you asked, because this is where the three steps come into play:


 Think like the position.

Speak like the position.

Act like the position.


The first thing you have to realize is if you cannot see yourself in this role then no one else will.  Period.  This is how you see yourself in the position and ultimately position yourself to take it over.



Let’s take for example you want to be a bigger producer or a manager.  From this moment on stop thinking in terms of your current role and start tackling everything you do with this question:


“How would a big producer/a manager think about this?”


If you have a lead you need to contact, how would a producer prepare for it, make the call and handle the discussion?  If there is a project at work that you are a part of – how would a manager approach the project, handle their part, communicate with other members and carry out their responsibilities?


Start thinking in terms of that position.


Plan your day as though you were in that position.  Set goals, make action plans and strategize from the perspective of that position.  It will take practice so you must commit to it every day with every task.



Start paying attention to how people in your desired position speak; not only to others but to themselves.  Study them and emulate them.


You probably are not going to hear a leader in their industry say, “Gee whiz, I wish I could do that, but I don’t know that I can.”


No sir, they are confident.  Take on their confidence.  If you do not have anyone around you that you can study and emulate then do some research.  LinkedIn is a great resource to find people who are in the position you want to be – go find them, talk to them and study them.


Start talking to yourself as this position.  Do you think big producers doubt their value or ability?  Stop doubting yours.


Start saying things to yourself like, “As a manager, this is how I am going to handle it.”  Or “As a top producer I am going to land that account.” You do not have to say it out loud, just to yourself to affirm your commitment of being that position.


Actually – do not say it out loud at first.  Because this is going to feel new to you and maybe a bit awkward and if someone else hears you they may instantly give you a look or make a comment.  You do not need the negativity or distraction.  Who cares what anyone else thinks – this is your goal – so do not give them an opportunity to squash it.



Years ago I worked downtown Indianapolis and the City Market was a thriving community, especially during lunch.  I was still in college and had an administrative job so I was pretty much a meek little bystander.


But, boy, I would love to go to the City Market to eat my lunch and watch.  I would watch all the business people coming and going.  I would watch how they carried themselves and interacted with others.  After some time I would learn who different people were and among them who was successful.


They all had some common characteristics.  They dressed the part – not saying $3,000 suits.  The were polished and professional looking like they could walk into a board room at any moment.


They carried themselves with confidence and self-assurance.  They seemed to flow.  I never saw them self-conscious about how they walked, what they were wearing or their personal space.


They were kind and open.  They smiled at the cashier, said hello to people passing by and even if not engaging did not put on the sense of walls.  They were comfortable with themselves and those around them.


Take pride in your appearance, you may not be able to afford a thousand dollar suit; however, you can wear nice, professional cloths and make sure they are pressed, appropriate and in top shape.


I once told an intern who wanted to start looking for a permanent position that it was time she wore big girl shoes.  She was adorable, young and age-stylish.  Meaning she wore what most young people wore at the time – one of those things being big, clunky platform shoes.


I told her to look around at the women who were in positions she wanted to be and notice how they dressed – starting with their shoes.  Then next day she went to a local store and bought three pairs of “grown up” shoes and came into my office for a review.


I had her walk around in them, seeing which ones felt more comfortable and to notice how she felt walking in them.  She decided on a conservative yet stylish pair of black pumps.  The next day she wore them to work – not changing anything else about her wardrobe – and received many compliments about how nice she looked.  She then began modifying her look to the professional side rather than the age-trendy side and people took notice.  When her appearance changed, she gained confidence and started acting the part.


When handling a conflict or situation at your current job take a moment to think about your desired position would handle it.  Would they stress out about something minor, would they be more collaborative, would they be more goal oriented or would they be more action oriented?  Start acting the part.


Once you think like the role you want, speak like that position and act like it then you  – and others – will see you as that role.  From there it will be the most easy and natural transition to owning that position.



Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW



It Is A Favor – Not An Obligation

I heard a very disturbing conversation yesterday and of course I have to share.

A woman was telling her friend about the renovation to her home and was complaining about how long it took and the lack of response from the person performing the service.

I would have been okay with the constant, nagging, whinny complaining had it been due to poor execution which did not meet certain, specified expectations which were set out when she contracted the service provider.

But this was not the case.  The person who did the work was a friend who did it as a favor.

Let me pause for a moment to give us all a vocabulary lesson:


fa·vor noun – something done or granted out of goodwill, rather than from justice or for remuneration; a kind act:

ob·li·ga·tion noun – something by which a person is bound or obliged to do


Let’s recap: a favor is something done out of goodwill, out of the goodness of one’s heart; an obligation is something that is responsibility, duty or contractual requirement.  In other words you are paying for one.

This woman was complaining that the friend didn’t respond when she would call to ask questions or check on when it was going to be done.  She was upset that it took so long, that her friend said she wouldn’t mind doing it but just couldn’t believe how badly she was treated and went on and on and on.

My tongue is a little sore today from biting it so hard and not interjecting.  I so badly wanted to say, “I’m sorry you didn’t respect her enough to pay for her services but yet you expected to be first on the list?”  Really? Seriously??

Sometimes for my friends I will offer to help them out, I don’t have a problem doing this, I offer it willingly.  Yet there are times that they tend to forget that I actually run a business, I get paid for what I do and I have clients that must come first.

I had one friend that I said I would help and after I sent the revised resume I received not a thank you, but rather snide comments.  Things to the effect of it could have been done in a day and that they could have bullshitted it themselves.  That will be the last favor I offer that “friend”.

As a business owner and service provider please let me offer a few things to keep in mind before you ask a friend to assist you out of the goodness of their own heart:

  • They are a professional, they get paid for their services – respect that.
  • Thank them.  Even if you do not like the end result respect that they took time out of their day and away from paying clients to help you – again, out of the goodness of their heart.
  • Remember no matter how good of friends you are it does not put you on the top of the list.  Spouses and significant others are exempt from this rule – but that is only because it will affect the personal relationship in a whole host of ways that we just wont get into here.
  • Don’t degrade their work.  I encourage my clients to challenge me and openly tell me what they do not like during the preparation stages.  I certainly do not need snide comments from someone that isn’t viewing or treating me as a professional.
  • Do not try to leverage your personal friendship for your personal gain.  It is disrespectful. Not only might you end up with a lower quality project – you might end up with one less friend.
  • Respect the fact that their schedule is client driven – paying client driven.  Sometimes that means you get bumped from the top of the list.  Deal with it.
  • Don’t complain if you are asked to help in some way.  If you are redesigning your kitchen then for goodness sakes give them ideas, see if you can pick up any material, ask them what you can do to help them.

I once heard of a guy that went up to his doctor neighbor as he was walking up his driveway after coming home from work and asked him to review his x-rays.  Seriously??

Sometimes people will not come right out and ask, they do it in a more round about way so the professional friend almost feels compelled to help.  Don’t use your friendship to manipulate your friend.  Again, disrespectful.

If you are asking because you need something and do not have the availability to pay the full price of services, there is a way that you can help your friend in return.  Give recommendations.  Bringing them a few more clients is a wonderful way to repay their services and kindness.

In listening to the woman complain about her designer friend it did not make me NOT want to use the designer.  Actually, I felt sorry for the designer.  What a nice person giving their time and expertise to such a lousy friend.  I almost wanted to ask for their name just to I could help even out karma and see if there was any one I could refer her to as a potential client that would actually pay for and respect her services.

I didn’t only because I was afraid the bitchy side of me would come out.

Just remember, your friends should be your friends because of the value that they bring to your life and this should have nothing to do with getting free professional services.


Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Career Coach-Strategist

Certified Professional Resume Writer

Career Polish, Inc.


What One Word Would You Choose?

My friend conducted an interview yesterday and asked the candidate: “How would you describe yourself in one word?”  Apparently this was the question that sent the candidate over the spaz edge.  The candidate stammered, hemmed and hawed and even repeated, “That’s a really hard question, I’ve never been asked that before.”

Yeah, well you are being asked now.

Making sure that she was staying within her time frame my friend discretely kept close watch of the time, which is how she knew that it took the candidate six minutes to answer the question.  In interviewing a six minute pause in responding is a slow and painful death.  After all that time for deliberation guess what word the candidate chose to describer herself:


Seriously?  Seriously.  Seriously!  Does anyone else see the irony in this response?  This shocked me to the point of speechlessness – and trust me, that is hard to do.  Okay, well, it was a temporary speechlessness, but I was without words nonetheless.

But that wasn’t the kicker, at least to me.  Let me back up for a moment to set the entire stage here: her resume was wrought with errors, no punctuation, no opening statement just a sloppy page of bullet points.  She was visibly shaken throughout the entire interview to the point of making my friend question if she should call for medical help.

When asked how she would handle a certain situation the candidate said she would ask for direction from her boss.  When my friend asked what she would do if the boss were not available she openly challenged her saying she could not imagine between office phones, computers and  Blackberrys that anyone would be unavailable.  Seriously?  Apparently she does not have teenagers – those little suckers can disappear on a dime.  Anyway….

So after this horrific episode my friend asked her boss where he found this candidate and – wait for it – he said she was recommended by a highly reputable recruiting firm.

Seriously? Seriously.  Seriously!!  Fire that firm for crying out loud.  They let a candidate present themselves in paper and in person in such a poor manner that I cannot understand how they could be considered reputable.  I’m sorry, but to speak frankly – there is no way in hell I would every allow my clients to subject themselves to such terror without being prepared.

I get that the interview might be daunting but there is no reason for a total crap resume full of typos.  None.  And as someone representing this woman shame, shame, shame on them for allowing that piece of paper to ever see the light of day.

Okay, off that point.  Now back to the main point of this blog – describing yourself in one word.

Yes, you could get asked this question so it is worth exploring.  Some interviewers ask this question and use it as a tool to get insight; others ask it because they have heard it is something that is asked but have no clue how to utilize the information.

I was on a date once and a guy asked me that question; as I was not there for an interview for any long term position I answered “uninterested”.  Hey – don’t judge – you weren’t there and don’t know how tragic the date was so give me a break!

People will ask me what they should say.  I’m not coming up with your word – it is to describe you, you should know you.  I cannot look at you and say “use this word”.   Because here’s the kicker – what word you chose will depend on the situation.  Yep, the long and short of what word to use is – it depends.  Sorry.

Before you start cursing me for having read all the above just to get to a “it depends” hang on, I’m not washing my hands of this issue.  I’m simply going to help you make the determination as to what word you should use.  Hang in there.

One word does not fit all situations.  There are many words that could be used to describe me and some are a constant while others have varied throughout my life: mother, sister, daughter, wife, fiancée, friend, lover, leader, professional, driven, outspoken, contemplative, supportive, articulate, silly, adventurous, cautious, dork, fearless, content, flexible, introverted, introspective, foolish, brazen – you get the idea.

No one can literally be summed up in one word; well, okay, there are a few out there that “ass” seems to cover it, but that’s another story.

So how do you choose the right word – by knowing your environment.  Had the candidate prepared she would have know the job, the requirements, the expectations and even gotten a clue on the company culture.  Knowing all these factors she could have analyzed what was important for the employer in the next candidate.  Comparing these to her strengths then she could have chosen a more appropriate word – then been able to back it up.

After a six minute pause there was no explaining “self-aware”.  Seriously.  However, if she had stated that she was “decisive” then a natural follow up question would be for her to explain.  Then she could have used the opportunity to give examples of how in her past she had been in situations that required immediate decision-making; how she analyzed the situation and came to her decision and the positive result of her actions.

If you are interviewing for a supportive role than you want to convey that you are a team player completely accommodating to the team goals and objectives while making things happen.   If they are needing someone who can get and keep the team together and moving forward behind the scenes then perhaps a good word would be “organized”.

If you are interviewing for a company who is looking for someone who is aggressive and a real go getter then maybe “driven” would be appropriate.  Again, have the proof to back it up.  Not just the examples of when you were driven or supportive but also the positive results of your actions.  Nothing is worse than hearing a great story but the ending sucks.  Like Prince Charming completing a harrowing quest ending with a dramatic fight with the fire-breathing dragon to finally get to his princess hidden deep inside the dragon’s cave finding her in suspended life so he kisses her out of her slumber then looks deep into her eyes and says “Let’s just be friends”.  Seriously.

Do your homework on the company, the position and the culture – know what is important to this prospective employer and use that information to help you determine how to answer those seemingly odd or difficult questions so you, too, do not become fodder for some random blog.

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Career Coach-Strategist

Certified Professional Resume Writer

Career Polish, Inc.


“How Do I Know if I Need Help?” – You Do.

I have had several people ask me this relating to resumes, networking or interviewing and my answer is always, “Yes, you do.” If you think you might then odds are you do. Normally it is a nagging feeling or doubt that makes you wonder this in the first place. Many would call it a gut feeling and if it is nagging you than there is probably a reason.

I have that feeling about a lot of things. The IT side of my business or marketing are two examples of areas where I might think to myself, “I’m doing a pretty good job, but I wonder if I need help…” The answer is yes. Of course I do, I am not an IT or Marketing expert. Why would I think that I could do it better than people who this is their life’s calling?

Yes, I said calling. You see, I prefer to work with people who are passionate. Their primary reason for being in the business they are in is because they love it, they are good at it and it is truly what they want to do. There are many who are wonderful at marketing, but I sense right away that their passion stems not from a love of what they do, but a love of growing their bank account. I prefer not to work with them. No offense, it is a personal decision. I want someone who is going to take my concerns and needs personally.

I am not faulting anyone for trying to make a good living. I am doing the same thing so it is not the pot calling the kettle black. Actually, I had an interesting lesson last month. I believe that we all learn lessons throughout out life and the important ones are tested now and again to make sure we got it and stick to it. I had my test last month.

I had the opportunity to really have a great pay month, the problem was, I was working 16 hours a day, skipped too many work-outs and meditations and did not eat or sleep well. I was all consumed with deadlines. I could do very, very well for myself if I had chosen to continue that path, but my personal health and happiness, and sanity, were worth far more than any paycheck. So I chose balance. I reminded myself what I was willing to do, sacrifice and enjoy to life the life that I want.

Part of living the life that I want is to stop stressing over the things that I know I need help with and just go get the help. I’ll be talking to IT and Marketing gurus until I find the right one for me. I have asked myself the question, “I wonder if I need help” and knew immediately the answer was yes. Sure, I could put in the research and effort to maybe find out the things they know, but my time is better served doing what I do best and using my expertise to help others, not figure out my IT issues.

Value yourself, value your time and treat yourself to hiring an expert when it calls for it. It may cost a bit up front, but your sanity, health, and peace of mind are worth more than any fee they might charge.

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW
Career Polish, Inc.