5 Rules of Organization to Apply to Your Resume for Career Progression or Transition

I am an organizational junkie.  I love reading, watching and listening to anything about organization; from the garage, kitchen, closets, office – any organizational tip I can find I read it or watch it with excitement.

I guess I am hoping one day all those shows, videos, books, articles and tidbits will magically sink in and make me organized.

I have a bit of dual personality when it comes to organization.  My work is very organized, my environment, well, that is a different story.  Let’s just say it is a work in progress.

Looking at my office this morning I realize it is time for an organization intervention.  I started thinking about the general rules of organization.  Although it is definitely needed, it will not happen today; I have resumes to write and that is my priority.

As I began writing, my mind was still lingering on the organization aspect and that is when the connection hit me:  if you use the rules of organization to organize your resume you can organize your job search, career growth and business success.

Your resume is the foundation of your job search.  It drives everything from your LinkedIn profile, interviewing and networking.

A good business bio does the same thing for your business in defining your LinkedIn profile, networking, customer communications and growth.  From here on out I will use the word resume, but keep in mind this applies to business owners and their own communication pieces.

5 General Rules of Organizing:

1. Purge

Most every aspect of our life falls in the 80/20 rule.  Focus on the 20.


For the position you seek or the career you desire you must first understand what is important in that role.  What are the skills, value and qualifications that are important for your success and that are valued by the organization?  This is your 20% focus for 80% of your resume.

2. Decide

Right here right now.  For each item ask, “Do I love it? Do I use it?”  If you answer no then get rid of it.


For each statement, sentence, area of expertise item and bullet point ask, “Do I love it? Do I use it?”  The love it part is actually does it love me?  Does this item support you in demonstrating yourself as the best candidate?  Does it speak to what is important to the position or company?  If you answer no then get rid of it.

3. Remove

Be ruthless and bag or box any unloved or unused item and donate, sell or trash.


All those miscellaneous items clogging up your resume that do not support you in the role you want – trash them.  Do not waste the reader’s time with minutia, you want them to focus on the specific points of your value and overall skill set.

4. Use a System

Group like items, make it easy to see and find what you are looking for  – i.e. in the garage or shed keep all the gardening tools together and in partnership with what you use together.  Pots, trowels, potting mix etc. Labeling shelving and boxes make for quicker and easier identification.


Your system is to write toward the job you want rather than giving a cliff notes version of the jobs you have had.  Under each position group like items, make it easy to for the reader to find what they are looking for, possibly use subtitles and emphasize key words for easier identification.

5. Maintain Focus

The driving force is the goal of organization, not each item individually.  Focus on the overall goal and let go of the overwhelming desire to let the emotional attachment of each item drive your progress.


Focus on the overall goal of your next position and let go of the overwhelming desire to emotionally beat yourself up on past mistakes, poor position choices and seemingly unrelated career history.

Write your resume looking forward, not back.  What, in those past positions, helped you in any way for that next job?  What type of skills or lessons were learned and how can you apply them?  There is a thread there; it is your job to find it in order to present it to the reader so they understand.

Once you have taken the time to organize your resume and get rid of all that unwanted clutter then take a break.  Come back to it with a relaxed attitude.  What you will now see is a framework that fully supports you.  Now, you can start tweaking it and putting in the final touches that bring it all together.

With a clean, fresh resume you can confidently – and strategically – organize and implement your LinkedIn profile, networking, elevator speech, interviewing and career search or advancement.


Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Brand Strategist & Career Coach

Certified Professional Resume Writer




You Can’t Fix People With Duct Tape

I’m a fixer.  By nature, by profession by instinct – I am a fixer.  It has taken me a long time to realize that this part of me is not a curse but rather a blessing – but the struggle is learning how to use it effectively.  Oh, if only you could use duct tape on people – there is nothing that can’t be fixed with duct tape – or a safety pin.  Safety pins are amazing little things.

Normally I write to people wanting to make a change, but there is another side of that – the people that support you.  Often times I will talk to people who want to know how they can help their friend or loved one through a difficult time of transition or progression.  Today is all about the support.

You may think you know exactly what your person needs to do to break through and move on but the worst thing in the world you can do it to tell them to do it your way period.  Not only does it not help them develop the tools they need, the confidence within themselves but it also takes away their hope.  Nothing is worse than taking away someone’s hope – nothing.

It is so hard to see someone we care about struggling and not able to see the entire picture and it is at these times we want to step in and say, “Just do this” or “Stop doing that”.  It might be a quick and easy way to fix the immediate problem and they may get what they want but internally they know they did not do it.  They followed someone else’s actions.  At some point it is very likely that inside there will be a little voice that tells them that they still can’t fix their own problems and are hopeless on their own.

My mother by example taught me a very valuable lesson when I first had my son.  She never offered her opinions or thoughts unless I asked for them.  I’m also a very stubborn and proud kinda girl so often times being so young it was difficult for me to ask; yet she stood her ground and did not offer any advice unless asked.  I learned two valuable things: that sometimes you need to swallow your pride to get help and secondly advice was more easily accepted when given upon request rather than given freely.

When struggling later in life with a very difficult issue I was blessed to have a good friend there by my side who was able to help me at every step by asking me, “what do you need from me?”  Never making judgments as to how I was handling certain situations, how I responded to events or even why I put up certain walls around me – just simply accepting who I was and asking how they could be there for me at that very moment.  One of the biggest things that helped was being able to have someone there who would listen to me without trying to fix it for me.

When in transition or progression your person has a whole range of feelings that they are dealing with and sometimes are not even able to verbalize them for themselves.  Do not expect them to be able to share everything with you or even explain why certain things upset them one day and not the next.  Change is hard and even it if is a good change it is met with resistance – it doesn’t always make sense but there it is.

What your person needs the most is patience, a listening ear and for you to know what works best for them at the time they need it.  Sometimes they need a swift kick in the butt – knowing your person as well as you do you will know when to employ this tactic.  Sometimes they just need you to listen to them without giving the thumbs up or thumbs down.

It is as hard on the support person as it is the person in transition because you only know half the story at best – remember the trouble in expressing all the internal crap?  There is another important aspect that you need to keep in mind too – you do have a voice in this.

Sometimes our people come to us and want our help but they make it impossible for us to help them.  Think about a time when your person came to you and said they are miserable and want to do something and they need your help.  But then every time you talk about it the whole conversation is a pity party or a poor me and any time you offer any words resembling support they shoot it down.  This sucks, and it can suck the life out of you.  This is when you have the right – as your own person – to air your feelings.  It is perfectly acceptable to tell your person that you want to help but you really do not think they want it or you cannot provide the help they need.  If you feel all they want is someone to vent to you can do that but only to a certain point and you can draw the line at when enough is enough.

I had a friend years ago that I adored, she was funny, smart and a beautiful soul.  Unfortunately she still held a lot of anger and resentment from her divorce.  As our friendship grew it the complaining, hatred, anger and pitying became more and more intense and frequent to the point that an entire evening was consumed with her sarcastic or sad commentary on how things should be different.  It got to the point that I had to tell her that as much as I cared about her I could not hang out with her any more.

She wasn’t ready to move forward and I wasn’t ready to go through the emotional war zone every single time we were together.  Within a couple of weeks after we stopped hanging out I could not believe how much lighter my mood was because I was no longer saddled with her crap.  Sometimes people do not want to let go of their crap – that does not mean that you need to take it on and own it.  Sometimes you need to limit it or eliminate it all together.

Be honest with your person because in the end they may not realize that they are clinging to their crap so tightly that they are not allowing anything else to come into their world and your putting limits on it or having to walk away may be the wake up call they need.  It may be the wake up call you need, too.  You have your own stuff you are dealing with in your own world and you have other people so is it really fair for you to take on all of theirs?  No.

It is a fine line between helping, fixing and needing to walk away – the best way to determine which way to go is to be honest with your person and yourself.  Ask how they need you, offer what you can and be prepared to give as much to yourself in walking away if necessary.

As a fixer one of the hardest lessons I have had to learn is sometimes I can help, sometimes I can’t, sometimes I have to walk away and some people like being broke.


Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Career Coach-Strategist

Certified Professional Resume Writer

Career Polish, Inc.


Giving Up An Out To Score A Run

When I teach seminars or lecture about networking and elevator pitches one of my main points is that people have a subconscious instinct to naturally form a connection to a title.  Whether that be a good connection or not depends on their personal experiences.  For example if your house was foreclosed on then you probably do not have the warm fuzzies when you hear the title “Mortgage Broker”.


Words are so very powerful and often overlooked in their ability to impact or engage.  I have always been a natural born communicator; however, in my line of work words take on greater importance – and receive greater scrutiny.  It is because of this heightened sense that I realize that it is not just titles that we respond to – there is a whole array of words that generate an immediate and strong response.


One of those words is “sacrifice”.


Think about it, when you just read that last sentence – what was your natural reaction?  I would hazard to guess it was probably one that leaned toward not so great because sacrifice is normally thought of as a negative thing.


Sacrifice is defined as surrendering or giving up for the sake of something else.  One must sacrifice one thing in order to get to get another – whether that is a tangible, physical, emotional or mental “thing”.  See – it just sounds so…negative.


But what if what you are giving up is something that is not of value or benefit to you?  Then sacrifice is a good thing!  What if you decide to give up the negative feelings, the fear, the apprehension, the frustration – this will allow you to replace those things that are holding you back with positive, acceptance, excitement or joy, which in turn will actually help you reach your goals.  It will also help make it a much more pleasant journey.


Let me step back for a minute and say that first you need to identify what it is that you want – or at the very least what you do not want.  From there you should look at what is holding you back.  Is it your own fear, is it lack of knowledge, is it lack of time – what is it that is really getting in your way?


If it is an emotional thing going on in your head then you need to find a way to bring closure to the negative then sacrifice it for the sake of replacing it with a more positive.  For example if there was a job that you really, really wanted and you did not get it.  You may be feeling depressed or upset as a result and that is hindering your job search.


Yes, that sucks.  However my best suggestion would be to sacrifice those negative feelings – come to terms with the fact that it just isn’t going to happen – accept it, embrace it then let it go.  Once you can do that you will make room to start thinking about the next open position.  What if this next one is a better opportunity?


What if you need additional training in order to progress within your industry?  Then it may be necessary to sacrifice money to pay for the training.  But it is not a negative sacrifice – it is an investment within yourself.


Benjamin Franklin said, “Pour your purse into your head.”  Investing in yourself is the wisest investment you can make.  Looked at in this prospective it isn’t a negative sacrifice; it is actually a very sound strategy which will result in an increased rate of return.


I had a business deal that started out extremely hot and promising then one day seemed to cool off to just above chilly.  We continued to talk but the prospect of working together seemed to fizzle out.  Not only am I communicator – I’m also a “take it personally” kinda girl.  So for some time I would come back to it and think, “What am I missing?” which translates to “What did I do?”


About a month ago I sacrificed a couple of natural instincts of any business owner: wanting to know the whys on everything and thinking there is some measure of control that I have in every situation.  What I replaced this with was a sense of “going with the flow” in combination with embracing risk.  My best friend gave me some wonderful advice which was, “You can’t control others only how you respond to them” and “you can’t win if you don’t play.”  She is so sage.


This sacrifice seemed to help release some of the strangle-hold this situation had on my brain.  This past week I realized that as business owners we are at two different stages and have two different visions with this project.  I have a positive outlook and envision the collaboration as a mutually beneficial venture.  Not to be disrespectful, their outlook is more wishy-washy and do not want to take a risk.


Once this came to light I sacrificed again: I let go of the whole damn thing and replaced it with putting that energy into other aspects.  This allowed me to release an incredible weight I did not realize I was carrying and replace it with excitement to entertain other ventures.  Literally this weekend I was so jazzed at the possibilities that I literally thought very little of the old, and when I did it was more with an attitude of, “huh, well that was too bad’ and went on.


I sacrificed a career within the financial industry to start my own business.  This meant sacrificing the security of not only income, but of knowledge and experience.  But what I gained is immeasurable.  I have never looked back.  To be able to take any day of the week and absolutely love what I am doing could never have happened had I not sacrificed something.


Take a moment today and think about what negative you are willing to sacrifice – whether that is that you do not want to invest in yourself, a feeling or actual physical block.  Then think about what positive you are willing to replace it with; now go one step further and think about what good can come of this sacrifice.


If using the word “sacrifice” still makes you all dark and twisty inside then think about it in terms of a sacrifice fly – you are giving up an out to score a run.



Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Career Coach-Strategist

Certified Professional Resume Writer

Career Polish, Inc.



Getting Unstuck

A lot of my client’s come to me in a state of stuck.  Mostly mind stuck – frustrated with being in transition or lack of career progression.  It is very easy to get stuck and sometimes it proves very difficult to get unstuck; but everyone gets stuck in any given aspect of their life.


I get stuck a lot – because I have a continual battle in my head between the creative and analytical sides; and sometimes it is an all out war which deepens the stuck.  I do a lot of research on how to get unstuck and I have come to a couple of conclusions:


It aint easy getting unstuck.

There is no one size fits all cure for getting unstuck.


If your frustration about your job search or progression has led you to the point of feeling stuck, here are some things you can do that can help.


Take A Complete Break.


This involves two parts: the first is to literally put your resume away, shut off the computer, turn off the phone and just disengage from the whole thing for just a little while.  The second step is during this time of disengagement do something that makes you smile.  Go sit in the sunshine and read a book, go watch your favorite movie, take the dog out for a walk or go have lunch with a friend – just do something that will make you smile.


Get Your Blood Pumping.


I am not an exercise freak, sometimes my greatest exercise of the day is one flight of stairs to let the dogs outside.  When I feel like my mental capacity is a nil then I have come to realize if I get up and move then my energy level increases.  Sometimes I’ll push myself on the treadmill – which completely exhausts me but shortly thereafter my energy level does come back better than before.  Sometimes it is a matter of simply popping in the earbuds and dancing it out for a while.  I just find that getting off my butt and moving with intent makes a difference.


Allow Yourself To Accomplish Something – Anything.


Sometimes I have a project that is very complex or involved and I begin to feel that until the entire thing is completed I have not accomplished anything which allows for the stuck feeling to sneak in.  At this point I step away and find something small around the house or office that I can complete and mark off my checklist.  Load of laundry done, dishes put away, floors swept, brush the dogs, clean the bathroom – anything that I can accomplish easily and relatively quickly just to have the sense of accomplishment.  Sometimes we just need a win – no matter what the size or in what area.


Kick Your Own Butt.


I have had a silly idea rattling around in my head for quite some time and the longer it lingered the more space it took up and the more frustrated I became.  I tried the above tactics and they didn’t seem to help so I did what I really needed the most – admonished myself for being silly.


Literally, had my own little conversation in my head asking why I was giving this so much attention as it was proving to be of very little consequence and once I started I really got on a roll.  It went from boo-hoo stuck feeling to a feeling of empowerment.  End story: I let it go, gladly, willingly and finally.  Whew.


Give To Someone Else.


Too often we get wrapped up in our own little world so much that we lose perspective.  No matter what the day brings I wake up every morning with a supportive and loving family including relatives and friends, a beautiful home, food in the kitchen, the ability to live life that day in whatever manner I choose and of course my four dogs.  I am blessed before the day even begins.  When I start to loose perspective I find that putting someone else before myself often helps get me unstuck.


Making business introductions, helping a friend, volunteering – whatever it takes to stop being selfish really does help diminish the stuck feeling and the bonus – I’m helping someone else!


Start Fresh.


When coaching clients I often have to remind them that they hold expertise in their area and they should learn to use that knowledge rather than neglect it in moving forward.  An example would be if you have been a supply chain manager for 15 years then you know the industry – so if you were interviewing for someone to train to take your job what would you be looking for?


Stop looking at your resume as this black and white simple recollection of your past and look at it from the eyes of the reader.  Put yourself in their shoes.  What would you think of you?


We tend to put ourselves tightly in our own little boxes and stay there, afraid of changing the box for fear of failure or what others might think.  Fear is a great partner to stuck – they go hand in hand.  Break their bond by simply looking at yourself in a new perspective.


Have you always dismissed others compliments about a certain skill that you posses?  Now is the time to recollect all those compliments and this time really listen – and take them in.  If you were recognized by someone that means they appreciate something about you – learn to appreciate yourself.  We rarely appear to others as we see ourselves because we are hiding insecurities, fears and all sorts of negative baggage.


Here’s a little butt-kicking for you relative to your baggage: we’ve all been hurt, rejected, ridiculed etc – but we’re all still here.  Hang on to those negatives and it is more than likely you are going to continue along that negative path.  But if you take the attitude, “Well, that sucked, won’t be doing that again!” and move on it will be amazing what kind of doors will start opening for you.  The secret is you really do hold the key to opening those doors.


Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Career Coach-Strategist

Certified Professional Resume Writer

Career Polish, Inc.



It’s Not a Demand, It’s What I Want

I heard someone say once that they loved children because they were so honest.  Obviously this person did not have children.  Ask a child with chocolate smudged around their mouth standing next to an empty plate that once held a piece of chocolate cake if they ate the cake and without blinking an eye most will instantly answer, “No.”  So much for honesty.

However; it is a whole different story when you ask a child what they want – they have no problem being honest and just laying it out there.  Sometimes they even tell you without asking – they are honest that way.

A peculiar thing happens when we start to grow up; we stop telling other people what we want or need.  I think it is a conditioning thing; we are told we are asking for too much, it is impossible to grant, we are silly for thinking of such things or worse yet that we are being selfish.

Then when we combine our desire to express our needs within relationship situations it gets worse.  When I say relationships I mean both personal and business.  It gets all confused and often times it comes across as a demand; i.e. if they other person does not provide it then the relationship will end.  Because of this misconception too often we stop asking for what we want.

For example, in a working situation perhaps you are getting bored and you want to be included in more challenging projects.  The dilemma comes in how to ask for more challenges without being perceived as ungrateful for what you have or threatening in a manner of it you do not get the opportunities you will look for a new job.

Before you get yourself all in a tizzy about this stop and take a breath.  Think about the reasons for asking for what you want, as well as if you do get it will it make you happy?  If you don’t like the people you work with and ask for more responsibility it is not going to address the personnel issues so ultimately it probably won’t make you happy.

It is important to identify the reasons behind the need in order that you can clarify them to the other party.  On the flip side, identify the things that you are doing now that you enjoy or the positives about the relationship – you will need to include both of these elements into your request.

If you were to approach your boss about more responsibility I would suggest starting with thanking them for taking the time to speak with you; reiterate the aspects of your job that you really enjoy; point out your strengths; open the door by stating that you want to be an even more integral part or contributing member of the company and then request what you want.

It could sound something like this: “I know you have been really busy so I wanted to thank you for taking a few minutes to talk to me.  Let me just start by saying I really love working on the corporate development side within our department; I think that my organization and follow up have been a really great contributing factor to a lot of our successes over the past year.  If there is anything else you can think of that I can be doing to help even more I open to suggestions.

One thing that I have been thinking about is that I would really like to get more involved in a deeper level to help the company even more.  I know we have a lot of membership events and I would like to be involved in those.  I think I have a lot to offer those events and it would give me a chance to be challenged and grow even more within our department.  I’m coming to you to see if we can make this happen and get your thoughts.”

No where in that conversation was there an implication of being unhappy or threatening to leave if the opportunity is not available.

You might think you are ready to go have this conversation – but wait.  There are a couple more factors you need to prepare for: namely your reaction and statements to their response.  Have three ready: one for acceptance of your proposal, one for rejection and one for a neutral response.

Will you need to provide examples to help sell yourself in the case of rejection?  What if they try to give you a blow off response – are you going to let it die right then and there or will you respond that you will give them some time to think about it and offer to come back in a few days to circle back?

Another factor to consider is if you get the rejection – how will it make you feel?  Will you feel resentful or upset?  If so be mindful of this because if it comes across during your initial conversation then it is going to be perceived as a threat, not a request.  There is a chance that the opportunity is not available at this time, ok, keep your eyes open and try again.

Of course it could be that they feel you are not quite ready.  If that is the case be open to listening to their objections and suggestions as to what you can do to be better prepared; then do them.

Life would be wonderful if we all got what we wanted when we wanted it without additional effort – yeah, but that is not always the case.  There may be factors that you are not even aware of that are hindering your ability to get what you want.  Once these have been uncovered it is an opportunity to make adjustments or improvements in order to move forward.

Let’s be honest, if it is something you really want then you are not going to be opposed to working for it are you?  If you are then I guess you really didn’t want it that much in the first place.

Lastly, I find that many people almost feel bad for asking for something that they want.  Don’t.  Hey, if it is something that is going to make you happier, more fulfilled and all around feel better about yourself than to heck with what anyone thinks – go for it.  At the end of the day it is really all about what makes you happy.  When you are more fulfilled and happy it is a natural progression for you to want to give more of yourself – and that is a win-win situation for all.


Don’t forget to logon to http://career.thegrindstone.com/sign-up/career-transition-workshop-series-1 to sign up for the kickoff session of Career Connect presented by The Grindstone!  I’ll be talking about career progression.  It’s going to be great so sign up today!!

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Career Coach-Strategist

Certified Professional Resume Writer

Career Polish, Inc.