You Are Not An Old Dog Stuck In A Career – You Can Learn New Tricks

old dog learning new tricks

I was at a party last weekend and had a wonderful conversation about dogs with a fellow guest.  Us dog people can sniff each other out in a crowd.  I mentioned that I had hired a trainer to train me on how to train my dogs and he was quite interested as he had a pup or two that could use some guidance.

Near the end of the conversation a light bulb went off and he remarked that my dogs were not young.  No, they are not.  My boys are both 7 and the little princess is over 10.  And yet, they took to the training.

I do not know where they phrase, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” came from.  After my training experience, I have concluded it was coined by a person who was not trained to train their dog and therefore their dog did not respond.

Too often during our career journey this phrase pops into our heads when we feel stuck.  Unable to move forward or even laterally into a new position or company that would better benefit us.  Perhaps we use it as a consolation phrase to make us feel better.  It is an excuse.

We can learn new technology, skills, systems or even ways of thinking at any age – it is our will to do so that is the determining factor, not our age or length of time in a position.

I am continually motivated by clients that have completed advanced training, education or even a complete jump into a new career after years being stuck in a box.  That is courage and it is impressive.  The one common denominator with all of these amazing people is this: they had a desire that they turned into action.

They wanted more, better or different.  They realized it was not going to materialize out of thin air where they are so they went after it and did it.  Sometimes it is to advance their careers, other times it was to expand their own capabilities without a direct correlation to their career.

Not all knowledge is going to serve as a means to propel your career – if you want it, go for it anyway.  Setting and achieving that goal gives you a sense of accomplishment and pride that is irreplaceable.

To learn new tricks does not always mean formalized certification or education.  Sometimes the best tricks you can learn are free.  You have a wealth of knowledge and experience all around you in your network.  Look around at your circle of influence, alliances and friends.  Explore your connections on LinkedIn.  Then take the most important step – ask.

One of the best ways to increase your knowledge is to simply ask.  I have a wonderful alliance of women that I see frequently and we combine exercise with expansion.  If any of us have a question, problem or contemplating a new idea – we ask the others.  We discuss our businesses, marketing, opportunities, experiences, thoughts, failures and stories.  This is a mobile MBA program in business!

In the world of knowledge, we are all very young pups with a lot to learn.  Let’s start by asking.

✰✰✰✰✰✰✰✰✰✰

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. ★

 

How to Ask for – and Receive – LinkedIn Recommendations that Count

pen and paperRecommendations on LinkedIn are wonderful. 

If you are searching for that next job or that next level in your career, they provide instant referrals from coworkers and past associates.  For those building a business, they allow potential customers to read reviews from your current or former clients.

LinkedIn even makes it easy in providing a form complete with script.

Often there is hesitancy in requesting a recommendation because it might feel as though you are bragging in asking for one.  There is no other way I can say this: get over it – there is a reason that that feature is listed on LinkedIn.  It is valuable!

Even if you send out several recommendations, you might find that you are not receiving much of a response, or the responses do not speak to your value. 

And this brings us to the point of today’s blog: how to write recommendations that make it easier for your contacts to complete while highlighting the value you wish to promote about yourself.

Receiving the general, “I’m sending this to ask you for a brief recommendation of my work that I can include on my LinkedIn profile” recommendation request can either strike fear into the recipient’s heart or leave them completely incapable of responding.

From the Receiver’s Side

That statement is too broad.  If you give someone too much room to think or navigate they will normally end up not taking any action at all.  We need rules, parameters, expectations or even just a hint of an idea of what you want.

In giving a recommendation, we do not want to get it wrong.

If you are in transition and looking for recommendations to boost the skills, abilities and qualities that you are selling to prospective employers then please, tell me what you need.

It may feel pushy or odd in helping direct your contact for a recommendation, but it is the best thing you can do.

Tell me what you are looking for and, if I feel qualified to speak to it, I will.

I had a good friend who is job searching send me a general request.  Since this is a good friend I took the time to send him a message back and ask, “What would you like me to speak to in the recommendation?  What would help you in the job search?”

He responded, “Whatever you want.”

We worked together several years ago so I do know him and his work.  However, I do not want to go on about some quality or trait that he did if that is not what he is selling in his current job search.  I do not want it to be irrelevant.  I want it to help him.

Since he has still not defined it for me, it still sits in my inbox.  Poor, lonely request being ignored because I have not been given any direction.

Example of a Recommendation when Job Searching

“I am in the process of searching for my next opportunity.  I am looking to remain in the FGH industry where I can really utilize my abilities in A, B, and C in the role of LMN or QRS.  As you and I had worked together at XYZ Company and you are familiar with my abilities in A, B and C, I am writing to ask if you could write a recommendation for me about these traits.  If you have any questions please feel free to contact me.  Thank you in advance for your assistance, I appreciate your time in writing a recommendation.”

You accomplish a few key points in the above recommendation request:

  • You let them know you are looking for a job (in case they did not know).
  • You have spelled out what you are looking for so that they now have those key words in mind in case they immediately know of an opportunity that would be right for you – or come across one in the future.
  • You sold your best qualities by outlining them and asking them to comment on them.  This will reinforce your selling statements to prospective employers when they check out your LinkedIn page and there are recommendations boasting about the very things you have introduced.
  • You narrowed down exactly what you would like the person to speak to, therefore making it easier to write a recommendation. Instead of receiving a general response such as “He was a great guy to work with” you have a recommendation that speaks directly to your skills and abilities.
  • You took the time to write a targeted email, not click and send a generic request showing the recipient that you took the time to think about them as and what is directly relevant to them.
  • You showed appreciation for their time, instead of leaving it empty and possibly the assumption that they have the time to do so and will just because you asked.

Example of a Recommendation in Building a Book or Business

“I wanted to take a moment to thank you again for allowing me to provide XYZ service to you.  I truly enjoyed working with you and was glad that you were satisfied with my services.  As you know, I pride myself in ABC, EFG and JKL and am writing to you today to ask if you would mind taking a moment to write a recommendation about my work, your experience or how you feel I delivered on these qualities.  If you have any questions please feel free to contact me.  Thank you in advance for your assistance, I appreciate your time in writing a recommendation.”

This type of request accomplished the same points as the job seeker: allowing your client to speak directly to your best qualities and the quality of your work within set parameters making it easier for them to respond.

What to Avoid

Do not send a recommendation to someone who is not qualified to speak on your behalf.

I accepted an invitation from someone a while back and within a week I received a recommendation request from them.   The problem was – I do not know them.  I never worked with them.  How could I possibly write a recommendation for someone I do not know?

From my personal perspective, I look at it this way: if I write a recommendation I am putting my name on it, it represents me.  I lose credibility if I recommend someone that I know nothing about their skills, abilities or value.

I am not going to risk my reputation and trust of my clients, friends or followers by putting my name to something that I personally do not know.  Forget it.  If you want me to bestow praise, then you have to earn it.

Do not ask for what you do not deserve.

Take a few extra minutes to craft a message that will help guide your contacts in writing a recommendation for you.  This is your reputation – it deserves that at the very least.

Give and Take

Lastly, return the favor.  If this person worked with you and is able to talk about your skills and ability, odds are you can do the same for them. 

 

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Brand Strategist & Career Coach

Certified Professional Resume Writer

http://www.CareerPolish.com

What are They Thinking When They Read Your Resume

ImageWhenever I work with an individual client or facilitate a workshop on resumes, I always touch on this topic.  I think it important to have an understanding of the “other side” and reinforce the point that your resume isn’t really about you; it is about them.

It is Not All About You

The point of your resume is to answer their most important question, “What can you do for me?”  They need to be told why they want to talk to you rather than the other 300+ people that applied.  What do you bring to the table and how can it help them? 

The Mindset of the Reader

Let’s get one thing out in the open: no one likes reading resumes.  I have embraced the fact that people hate my work, that is the people reviewing resumes.  Because they do not want to read them.  Why?

If a position is open they get inundated with applicants.   A majority are not qualified for the position.   A good majority lie on their resume and a great number do not even attempt to match themselves to the position.  This does not make for a positive attitude in reviewing resumes.

The First Step is Elimination

They are looking for qualified candidates, ultimately.  But their first step it elimination.  Eliminate all those that do not meet the criteria.  There are normally two or three piles:  Yes, Maybe and Oh Heck No.

Reasons for elimination make this first step easier.  Not meeting qualifications, not giving contact information, not having a good presentation – these all help them whittle the huge stack of resumes down to a manageable few. 

Do not give them a reason to eliminate your resume.

They Don’t Believe You

There is a lot of fluff in resumes.  Some tend to over-exaggerate their experience or qualifications.  No matter how you say it the bottom line is there is a lot of lying going on there and they have to spot it.  So their mindset in reviewing your resume is from a critical standpoint.

Telling someone that you are experienced in xyz is not enough.  They are not going to believe you just because you said so.  You have to demonstrate it.  How do you do xyz, who do you work with and what is the value in you doing xyz?  This then proves your experience or skills.

They are Going to Fill in the Blanks

Make an incomplete statement and they will fill in the rest of the story for you.  Since they are coming from a place that is lacking sunshine and rainbows, they normally do not fill it in with a happy ending.

For example, if you are in sales and you state that you were second in your district, their first though (consciously or not) is “What, out of three?”

You need to fill in the blanks, giving the parameters that demonstrate why this is important.

If you state you increased territory sales by 60%, awesome, but how?  Did you inherit someone else’s book or did you actually have impact on this result?

If it Looks Hard to Read, No One Wants to Read It

Here is a trait that has not changed much since we were kids.  When I was little my mom would take us to the library to pick out books to read for the week.  If I pulled a book off the shelf and it was wall to wall little words I put it right back.  If another one had pictures, bigger words and looked easier to read that was the one that I picked.

If you submit a five page resume with itty, bitty print and no white space you are shooting yourself in the foot.  It looks hard to read and therefore they do not want to.  They may read it, but begrudgingly so.  I had a friend tell me once a great line, “Even the Pope doesn’t need a five page resume.”

I realize have made some generalizations, however, anyone in HR or with hiring responsibilities that I have discussed these points with agree on all counts.

You think it is hard writing a resume, think about how hard it is reading several hundred!  Give them a break and make it easier on them to identify your value, see you in the role and gives them the complete story. 

It makes their life easier and makes you a much better candidate. 

 

 

Lisa K McDonald, CPRW

Brand Strategist & Career Coach

Certified Professional Resume Writer

www.CareerPolish.com

 

My Superwoman Cape Strangled Me

Yesterday I was a panelist at the ASIS International Indianapolis Chapter meeting discussing careers, transitions, branding and service in the law enforcement/security industry.  I was honored to be asked to participate and further honored to be sitting with two very distinguished and intelligent men as panelists. 

 

During the course of the conversation the topic of mentoring came up, specifically mentoring young college students wanting to get into the industry. First – how fabulous is it that this group of professionals actively want to mentor?  Pretty freaking fabulous if you ask me!

 

One point that I brought up was about expectations.  I encouraged them to ask any potential mentee what their expectations are about the industry and certain jobs in terms of what happens when they graduate and possible career paths.

 

A second point, somewhat related, was getting exposure to life skills or skill sets that are important yet not normally thought about – written communication for example.  It is vital in any industry but let’s face it, write a warrant incorrectly or unclearly and you are screwed.

 

I was discussing the meeting with my best friend this morning and she brought up another topic that – and I am generalizing here – young people need to learn: time management.

 

Ok, I’m just going to say that I just had to give myself a mental smack because using the term “young people” instantly makes me feel old and I did it to myself.  Damn it!

 

One thing I love about my best friend is that her mind takes the same twists and turns that mine does so our conversations begin at point A and take some weird, winding path to reach point 14.  It works for us.  During our conversation we realized two things:

 

  1.  There is no such thing as time management.
  2. We, as parents/caregivers/providers are primarily responsible for young people’s inability in time management.

 

It is because we wear Superman capes.

 

This point was further illustrated to me courtesy of my 21 year old son this morning.

 

Now that I have about four different lines of thought going on here, let’s see if I can bring it all together to actually make my original point…stay with me here…

 

Illustration from my son

 

My son got a tax refund – yay him.  It was mistakenly mailed to him instead of being deposited into his account.  I received the check yesterday and let him know that 1. Calm down, I got your check and 2. I would be depositing it into his account today.

 

I got a call, ok, repeated calls until I answered, this morning asking if I had deposited it yet.  I had a scheduled call this morning and planned on doing it after my call.  This did not set well with him.  His expectation was, and I may be exaggerating a bit here, that I would be waiting outside the bank doors for when they opened so  I could get it in there the first possible moment of the day.   

 

Yeah, not going to happen. 

 

I explained that I have a schedule and I worked it into my schedule.  After explaining this and letting him know that if he had certain expectations I would suggest that he communicate them to me prior to the day of the event.  His response was that he needed it deposited.

 

I tried to do the grown up explanation thing, that didn’t work.  So I responded, “Well baby my world isn’t always on your schedule.”

 

That pretty much ended communications for the day.

 

No, wait, I literally just got a response: “Yes it is, your my mom”

 

There is no such thing as Time Management

 

Time cannot be managed.  It is a continual, constant every progressing thing.  Everyone has the same parameters.  You cannot bend time or make it adjust to you.  We do not manage time we manage actions.

 

Knowing you have set parameters to work with allows you to manage the activity within those confines to complete whatever tasks are at hand.  You learn to plan, identify resources, prepare and allow for challenges.  This is action management, not time management.

 

Need to write a report? The most effective way to do so is plan; not your time per se but your activities.  You need to perform research, how much time will you allow for that.  You need to compose a draft, how much time is involved in that?  You need to perform revisions and finally a final draft.  Included in those time parameters are you allowing for delays, interruptions, writers blocks or heaven forbid technology issues? 

 

Now, knowing what all is involved, where do they fit into your schedule?  Do you have classes to attend, a job to perform, family commitments?  This is true management.  Seeing the entire picture and blocking out the appropriate time.

 

This is where the Superman cape has strangled us and we have failed our children or young people (dang it, there is that phrase again.)  Again, a generalization, but stick with me.

 

Throwing Away our Superman Capes

 

When my son was younger he was involved in a lot of things: school, sports, practices, family activities and personal time.  He never just played one sport, oh no, he had to have about 10 things going on at one time.  So, being the good mom, I controlled all the scheduling.

 

I knew when the practices where, what time, what was required, fitting travel time into all the planning and made sure I got his little butt to everything he needed. 

 

I made his little life easier because I handled all the logistics.

 

It was a mistake – one I wish I would have realized a long, long time ago.  I never allowed him to think about what was involved in participating in all these things; ie the time commitment and the conflict with other people’s schedule (namely mine).

 

He just knew the schedule that I prepared.  I wish I would have taken a step back and said, “Ok, you have practice at 6 – what do you need for it?”  This would have allowed him to think about getting his practice gear ready.  Then I could have asked, “Did you wash it?  It will take about an hour to do so, so when are you going to do that to make sure it is ready for practice” instead of saying, “I washed it, it is in the dryer. – because I wear the cape”

 

I would have also asked, “What time is practice and how are you getting there?”  This would force him to think about the time prior to practice and if I had a conflict.  What if I had a client meeting and couldn’t take him?  He would be walking if he didn’t work it out with me prior; and if he was walking that was additional time he would need to tack on to his schedule.

 

The cape I wore so proudly that allowed me to get him where he needed, all prepared actually strangled me.

 

I didn’t help him prepare for managing activities himself. 

 

So let’s not be so hasty to get frustrated with (sigh) young people for their lack of “time management”.  They haven’t been taught because we have been so busy wearing capes.  Even in a work setting, we are making the same mistake, in setting schedules for them instead of engaging them and asking them to assist or even think about the planning.  Because it is easier to do ourselves.  And why not, we’ve been wearing the cape so long, we know how to do it with our eyes closed.

 

I hung up my cape a long time ago, but as you see, the effects of wearing it for so long still come back to bite me in the…I mean strangle me. 

 

I recognize that I have played a part in the lack of certain skills (not that I like admitting that) but in doing so I also realize if I helped set the stage for it, I also have a responsibility to retrain the brain.

 

It ain’t easy or fun; but it is important.  Take a look at the (double sigh) young people around you – are you allowing them to learn?  It is time we stop complaining about their lack of skills and knowledge and give them the opportunity to learn. 

 

Be a mentor and when you do incorporate not just industry skills, but life skills and skill sets that we take for granted from wearing that cape for so long.  They are not going to get it right the first time and it may be a struggle because it is new to them, but given the opportunity, communication and expectations, they will surprise you and that will make them much more prepared to succeed.

 

Lisa K McDonald, CPRW

Brand Manger & Career Coach

Certified Professional Resume Writer

http://www.CareerPolish.com

 

 

 

Are You Professionally Mechanically Inclined Enough To Fix Their Problems?

I’m a limited care kinda girl.  When my son was younger we played the “slug bug” game; but we couldn’t add many other types because I would get them wrong.  So either I was slugging away for no reason or getting pummeled because I couldn’t recognize the right kind of cars.  So we stuck to slug bugs.

 

My dad was a diesel mechanic; he was the most mechanically inclined person I have ever known.  If it were broke, he could fix it.  I don’t care what it was; anything inside or outside that house he could fix it.  When I was married my husband was also very mechanically inclined.  He could build or fix anything inside or outside the house.  Very rarely have I ever in my lifetime hired a handyman or mechanic. 

 

The great thing about these two men, besides being able to fix anything, is they also taught me.  I learned about power tools from my dad and my ex-husband has helped me learn a bit about carpentry.  I love it.  I deeply respect their skills and knowledge and the fact that they took the time to teach me was awesome in my eyes. 

 

So imagine my shock when I dated someone who didn’t know the difference between a Philips and Regular screwdriver!  Wait, what??  Isn’t that a guy thing?  It honestly never dawned on me that some men never learned about mechanical things or fixing things. 

 

It was quite an adjustment and although not a huge factor in the demise of our relationship, I will admit that I have a whole new appreciation for my dad and former husband.  I break things.  I break cars, plumbing, flooring, walls – you name it I can break it.  Luckily I have learned enough to know when it is something I can figure out and when to call in reinforcement. 

 

I have come to realize that this is a quality that I appreciate in a man.  Right or wrong, it is something that I prefer he poses.  Judge me, whatever.  I think there is a thing about a man wanting a woman to cook so we just are not going to go down that road.

 

The point is, companies are a lot like this.  There are certain qualities that they look for in candidates.  You may not always know based on the job title all of these qualities.  However, if you can do a little digging you can start to get an idea of what these qualities might be.

 

Get to know the company.  Check out their webpage – beyond the home page.  Get a feel for the mentality of the company.  It is not just what they say, but how they say it.  Listen closely to the written language. 

 

Research people that work there.  Check them out on LinkedIn.  What do their profiles sound like?  Do they like their jobs, what are they bringing to the organization, what does the leadership sound like?  This gives you more clues about the environment.

 

Is it a progressive environment embracing and encouraging forward thinkers and those that think outside of the box?  Or are they a conservative organization who is very methodical in their approach and execution of all things?

 

If someone were to talk to me for more than a day they will quickly learn that I break things.  You won’t figure that out by just doing an initial meet and greet – i.e. reading the home page of a company’s website.  Take time to invest in investigating the company if you are truly interested in working there.

 

By doing so you will discover an opportunity to bring out those qualities you bring to the table that are in alignment with that organization.  They have broken things – be prepared to demonstrate that you are professionally mechanically inclined to fix them.

 

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Career Coach & Brand Strategist

Certified Professional Resume Writer

www.CareerPolish.com

Presentation is the Winning Edge

Jack Everly Chris Botti

Last night I had the pleasure of introducing two friends to a fantastic musician, Chris Botti, who was in concert with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra last night.  I had seen this combination several years ago the last time Chris Botti was in town so I was very excited to see them again.

 

Knowing that friends Lorraine and Andy are both music lovers I suggested going not too long ago and thankfully we were able to get tickets just a day or so before the show.  Not only did we get tickets – we were on the floor eight rows from the stage!

 

Prior to the concert Andy made the comment about the seats not being very important since it was about the music.  I agree; however, I had seen this before so I knew the visual aspect was just as important.

 

There is an interesting thing about both the Jack Everly, the conductor for the ISO, and Chris Botti and his band – they are performers, not just musicians.  The attached picture is of Jack Everly and Chris Botti – sorry about the fuzzies, apparently I was enjoying myself so much I couldn’t hold my phone still!

 

When Mr. Everly conducts, he is not just leading the musicians; he is communicating his passion and the music through his movements.   The musicians respond not only to the direction but they also respond to him; as does the audience.

 

Chris Botti does this and takes it one step further – he continually admires, praises and recognizes the members of his band and accompanying professionals throughout the entire performance.  It is honest, genuine shows true leadership in promoting those around him.

 

Every member of his band and the accompanying professionals were amazing in their own right.  I wish I could remember all their names so forgive me by referring to most by their instrument.

 

The drummer was flat out phenomenal and fun to watch.  He interacted with the band and the audience, his facial expressions were engaging and his techniques were spellbinding.

 

The bass player was like the cool jazz cat that would hang out, bobbing his head and then out of no where he would break out into an amazing solo full of energy that instantly brought everyone up to the next level.

 

The pianist, Taylor Eigsti, I don’t know how he didn’t pass out on stage.  No only is he extraordinary gifted but that man gave it everything and more when he played.  I was seriously hoping there were EMTs near by!

 

The guitar player was gifted and serene easily standing to the side unnoticed until you realized that he was mesmerizing you with a solo.

 

There were two guest vocalists, the gentleman appeared dapper and reserved and then this big, beautiful voice filled the auditorium.

 

The female, Sy Smith, was nothing less that electric.  You literally could feel her touch you through her voice and her presentation.  At one point, Lorraine leaned over and whispered, “She’s adorable!”  Not only can this woman knock you off your feet with her talent, she exudes passion, excitement and a love for what she does.

 

The musicians of the ISO; well, there are none better.

 

Let’s face it, there are a lot of musicians out there.  Many are great at what they do but they lack that one thing, the thing that propels them from good or great to exceptional:  presence.

 

Everyone listed above had that one quality – presence.  They had it in spades.

 

It is not just a matter of being good at what you do – it is a matter of loving what you do and of making a difference.

 

If you are searching for a job or looking to transition to the next level – take a lesson from them.  Your competition may be just as good as you at what you do, but what will help you stand apart from them is your presence.

 

Before you talk to someone about a possible job take a minute to remember why it is you do what you do.  What do you love about it?  What keeps you engaged in it and wanting to improve?  Speak from that place and you will create the right presence.

 

Keep in mind those around you as well.  Remember – one of the most refreshing and admirable things Mr. Botti did was to continually put his band front and center.  How has your supporting cast not only supported you but also succeeded in their own right?  How have you made a difference in that?

 

How have people helped you along the way and what did you learn from it?  Mr. Botti also mentioned his music teacher at IndianaUniversity who was his great inspiration and such an influence on so many jazz musicians – he even recognized him in the audience and cheered on a standing ovation for him.  He also mentioned his great thanks and admiration for Sting for helping propel his career.

 

I will gladly pay to go see this professionals any time they are near, but I am not going to pay to hear someone play the same music in a pretty good way.

 

Employers are thinking the same of you.  They will pay top dollar for those with the skills, passion and presence, but will pass on the ones that can just get the job done.

 

 

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Career Coach-Strategist

Certified Professional Resume Writer

Career Polish, Inc.

www.CareerPolish.com

 

 

 

 

 

Organize Your Resume to Organize Your Mind

organized closet

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.  In my work I am laser-focused organized.  In my home – that is a different story.  Let’s just say it is a work in progress.

 

But I am hopeful and vigilant.  This weekend I tackled my bedroom closet.  I kept in mind some of the basic rules of organizing:

 

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

 

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.

 

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

 

System:  Have a system in place.  Group like items, make it easy to see and find what you are looking for and if there are items that need attention be honest if you are actually going to give them that attention and if so then set a specific location for them to keep them all together.

 

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

 

I will have to say my closet is looking pretty darn good.  I have sections that make sense to me, function, a lot of cloths to donate and a lot more breathing room in there.  I’m not completely done because now that it is starting to work for me I realize there are some more tweaks I need to do to make it a space I love.

 

This morning starting my day was much less stressful.  I could see everything clearly, decide quickly what I wanted to wear today and was able to get ready in much less time.  Total win for a Monday!

 

Maybe it was this new found freedom of stress that helped me realize an a-ha moment: these same rules apply to resumes, too.

 

I’ve said it before and I will say it many times again: your resume is the foundation of your job search.  It drives everything from your LinkedIn profile, interviewing, networking and job searching.  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.

 

If your resume is an unorganized mess than that is the impression you are giving the world.  Let’s use the same organizational rules to help tweak your resume without feeling overwhelmed:

 

Purge:  Let’s revisit that 80/20 rule.  For the position you seek or the career you desire you must first understand what is important in that role.  Then use that as the 20% to focus on with 80% of your resume.

 

Decide: Right here right now.  For each position, 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?  If you answer no then get rid of it.

 

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

 

System:  Have a system in place.  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.  As for those items that need attention be honest if you are actually going to give them that attention and if not do not include them.

 

For example if you are barely functional on Word or Excel; first do not put that you are proficient because you would be lying.  Second, if you know you have a weakness with them are you going to go take a free class to brush up on your skills?  Great, leave it in; if not, take it out or else an interviewer is free to ask you about it and that could be a negative point if it was an unattended item.

 

Focus:  The driving force is the next position, not your past.  Focus on the overall goal and let go of the overwhelming desire to emotionally beat yourself up on past mistakes, poor position choices and seemingly unexplainable career history.

 

Again, 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.  Putting it bluntly: if you can’t figure it out how on earth are they supposed to?

 

 

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 because what you are left with is what will fully support you.  Then 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.

 

 

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Career Coach-Strategist

Certified Professional Resume Writer

Career Polish, Inc.

www.CareerPolish.com

 

Don’t Craft Your Resume Like an Online Singles Profile

Computer FlowersAbout me: Hard working, honest, trustworthy, simple person looking for someone who can have fun, go to a ballgame or dress up for dinner; no drama from past relationships or relationships that are not fully over; must be open, honest, trustworthy, genuine, love family, having fun and being affectionate. Blah, blah, blah….

 

Likes: Long walks on the beach, spontaneous outings, holding hands, great conversation

 

Looking for: Friendship with possible long-term if it is the right connection, let’s meet soon and see if the sparks fly!

 

I have a friend that joined an online dating service.  The above pretty much summarizes about 90% of what she has seen so far.

 

First of all – no one is buying any of this.

Second of all – it really says nothing.

Lastly – really?  This is the best you could come up with -the same as 9 out of 10 others?

 

And stop putting a picture that you took of yourself in the bathroom!

 

Your resume is not a personal ad, it is not about what you are looking for and will make you happy.  It is a sales statement to be focused on the employer answering the question what can you do for me.

 

Starting off your resume with a summary that is close to: “Looking for an opportunity with a progressive company to lend my talents and abilities to help them grow” is following the personal ad tactic.

 

No one is buying it

It really doesn’t say anything.

They don’t care what you want.

 

Look at it from the employer’s perspective: why would they want to read your resume and how are you going to generate enough interest to have them pick up the phone?

 

Focus on them.  What needs or challenges do they have and how can you solve them.  Explain how you have done this in the past to show a pattern of consistency.  Utilize demonstrative statements to tell not only what you did but how you did it, who you worked with and the results you achieved.

 

Revamping your resume away from the personal ad will take you from lonely single to happily employed!

 

 

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

www.CareerPolish.com

 

Wanting What They Have

resume (2)

I have heard it more than once from job seekers that they do not understand why someone else with comparable experience got a job that they wanted.

 

They had the same type of jobs, same type of responsibilities and yet the other person was snatched up and they are still looking for their next job.

 

Why?  If on paper they are the same why is it that they were not selected?

 

This is where I can use quotes to help illustrate a point, and here is one of my favorite:

 

“Two men looked out from prison bars; one saw the mud, the other saw stars.” Dale Carnegie

 

It is not necessarily the experience, rather how you present it.

 

To you previous positions could have just been a job.  But to the candidate selected their either learned something from it or were able to contribute value.

 

Remember two important factors in job searching:

 

Employers want to know what you can do for them.

Past success is an indicator of future success.

 

If you are portraying your past positions as space on your resume you are not proving giving prospective employers the one thing they are looking for: proof.

 

Proof of success and proof that you can bring immediate value to them.

 

The first thing you need to do is change your thinking about your present and past.  Stop looking at them as a waste of your time or ability and look at them as opportunities to prove yourself.  Ask yourself:

 

What did I learn?

How did I contribute?

How did I grow?

Who did I serve?

How did I serve them?

How was I able to do my job better/different than my peers?

What did I do that will help me in my next position?

 

Once you start finding the value then write your history toward your future.  Use those key items that are important for that next position when describing your past responsibilities.  For example, if in the next position that you are targeting it is important to have good communication skills find examples that demonstrate you utilized your skills in the past.

 

Tell the story potential employers are looking for and you will be the one that grabs their attention.

 

 

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

www.CareerPolish.com

 

A tip on Asking for Recommendations on LinkedIn to Take the Pain Away

linkedinIf you are a LinkedIn user, I am sure that you have heard all the benefits about asking for recommendations to include on your page.

 

Instant testimonials to how wonderful you are – sure, who wouldn’t want that?

 

A lot more people that you would think.

 

Some people are embarrassed to ask for them or think that they would look like they are bragging in asking for them.

 

Get over it – there is a reason that that feature is listed on LinkedIn.

 

Because it is valuable!

 

Before you send out a boatload of requests to your contacts for recommendations, let me give you a quick tip on how to make it painless for your contacts, which will improve the chance of getting recommendations.

 

Not just recommendations – recommendations that count!

 

Receiving the general, “I’m sending this to ask you for a brief recommendation of my work that I can include on my LinkedIn profile” recommendation request can either strike fear into the recipient’s heart or leave them completely incapable of responding.

 

That statement is too broad.  If you give someone too much room to think or navigate they will normally end up not taking any action at all.  We need rules, parameters, expectations or even just a hint of an idea of what you want.

 

As a recommender – we don’t want to get it wrong.

 

If you are in transition and looking for recommendations to boost the skills, abilities and qualities that you are selling to prospective employers then please, tell me what you need.

 

It may feel pushy or odd in helping directing your contact for a recommendation, but it is the best thing you can do.

 

Tell me what you are looking for and, if I feel qualified to speak to it, I will.

 

I had a good friend who is job searching send me a general request.  Since this is a good friend I took the time to send him a message and ask, “What would you like me to speak to in the recommendation?  What would help you in the job search?”

 

He responded, “Whatever you want.”

 

We worked together several years ago so I do know him and his work.  But, I don’t want to go on about some quality or trait that he did if that is not what he is selling in his current job search.  I do not want it to be irrelevant.  I want it to help him.

 

Since he has still not defined it for me, it still sits in my inbox.  Poor, lonely request being ignored because I have not been given any direction.

 

If you are job searching, change the standard email to read something along the lines of:

 

“I am not sure if you are aware but I am in the process of searching for my next opportunity.  I am looking to remain in the FGH industry where I can really utilize my abilities in A, B, and C in the role of LMN or QRS.  As you and I had worked together at XYZ company and are familiar with my abilities in A, B and C, I am writing to ask if you could write a recommendation for me about these traits.  If you have any questions please feel free to contact me.  Thank you in advance for your assistance, I appreciate your time in writing a recommendation.”

 

You accomplish a few key points in the above recommendation request:

  1. You      let them know you are looking for a job (in case they did not know).
  2. You      have spelled out what you are looking for so that they now have those key      words in mind in case they immediately know of an opportunity that would      be right for you – or come across one in the future.
  3. Sold      your best qualities by outlining them and asking them to comment on      them.  This will reinforce your      selling statements to prospective employers when they check out your      LinkedIn page and there are recommendations boasting about the very things      you have introduced.
  4. Narrowed      down exactly what you would like the person to speak to, therefore making      it easier to write a recommendation.       Instead of receiving a general response such as “He was a great guy      to work with” you have a recommendation that speaks directly to your      skills and abilities.
  5. You      took the time to write a targeted email, not click and send a generic      request.  You are showing the recipient      that you took time in thinking about them as a recommender and what is      relevant to them directly.
  6. You      show appreciation for their time, instead of leaving it empty and possibly      the assumption that they have the time to do so and will just because you      asked.

 

If you are in business and looking to expand and reaching out to past clients, change the standard email to read something along the lines of:

 

“I wanted to take a moment to thank you again for allowing me to provide XYZ service to you.  I truly enjoyed working with you and was glad that you were satisfied with my services.  As you know, I pride myself in ABC, EFG and JKL and am writing to you today to ask if you would mind taking a moment to write a recommendation about my work, your experience or how you feel I delivered on these qualities.  If you have any questions please feel free to contact me.  Thank you in advance for your assistance, I appreciate your time in writing a recommendation.”

 

This type of request accomplished the same points as the job seeker: allowing your client to speak directly to your best qualities and the quality of your work within set parameters making it easier for them to respond.

 

One last note: do not send a recommendation to someone who is not qualified to speak on your behalf.

 

I accepted an invitation from someone a while back and within a week I received a recommendation request from them.   The problem was – I didn’t know them.  I never worked with them.  How could I possibly write a recommendation for someone I don’t know?

 

From my personal perspective, I look at it this way: if I write a recommendation I am putting my name on it, it represents me.  I loose credibility if I recommend someone that I do not know or, quite frankly, is not good in business.

 

I am not going to risk my reputation and trust of my clients, friends or followers by putting my name to something that I personally do not know.  Forget it.  If you want me to bestow praise, then you have to earn it.

 

Don’t ask for what you do not deserve.

 

Take a few extra minutes to craft a message that will help guide your contacts in writing a recommendation for you.  This is your reputation – it deserves that at the very least.

 

 

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

www.CareerPolish.com