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April 2013

Resume Reboot

Nobody should be the victim of their own resume. 

Odds are you have neglected your resume. It is a poor reflection of who you are, what you have done and where you are going. I see so many horrific resumes! This is your key marketing and networking document whether you like it or not. Once you come to grips with the fact that this document will probably determine how your career path goes, hopefully you will spend more time updating it than the few seconds it takes to read it. Yes, the average resume is read for just 8-10 seconds. However updating your resume will take hours. But it has been my experience that few people update their resumes regularly and then slap one together when they need it.

I have joked that I send my resume to my mother for mother's day because it makes her beam with pride.

We all know that a resume is not whole truth, but it can't contain lies. Big difference! Resume

Every resume should be re-booted and renovated. For if you have not learned anything, accomplished anything, or done anything over the last x years since you updated your resume, you should go straight to the unemployment office and not collect $200. Every resume needs to be updated.

How do you differentiate yourself? How do you tell YOUR story? How are you interesting?

Here are 10 easy basic steps to evaluate and tune up your resume:

  1. No Career Objective--Save your customized language for the cover letter. Listing a generic job goal hurts you.
  2. Chronological Only!--No functional resumes! These look like you are trying to hide something! No one can read these and figure out what you did and when. Use months to show employment periods. 
  3. Lead with Education If You are Young--New grads have to tout their degrees. But people out for 5 years or so put education at the end.
  4. One Page for New Grads Only--If you have no substantive work/professional experience, then use a single sheet. But if you have accumulated real and relevant experience then you can go to two or more. After three, you better have cured cancer!
  5. Describe Your Employer--If the reader does know the company/organization they assume the worst. Add a couple of sentences that describe the unique qualities and mission of your employer. You can take it off their website. Some employers are well known, but most are mysteries.
  6. What Did you Do with your Job  Responsibilities?-- List the duties of what anyone would do in your job, but add bullets that relect the accomplishments you achieved. What did you do with the job that was beyond the average occupant of this position? Did you bring in money, save money, create innovations, solve problems.....? How did you add value?
  7. Nothing Fancy--No special fonts, no colored paper, no images/logos or photos of you! Remember most resumes are input into systems and fancy formatting gets re-arranged and makes your resume look really bad. 
  8. Add Internships, Volunteer Work, and Other Activities can be Integrated--When relevant to a particular job, you should include the substantive roles in and amongst your work history. If you chaired a major board or a committee of the company, then list it as a "job". 
  9. Remove References Upon Request--Never list your references at the end. You will want to give the hiring organization a customized list of names that reflect their interests and requests. Taking off the obvious statement "References Upon Request" will give your more space. 
  10. Great Cover Letter--Very important that this never is a generic note that feels like a mass mailing form letter. This is a great canvas where you will paint a picture of yourself that you want the reader to get. What is your story? Tell it so the reader does not have to guess. Plus you can mention who referred you to this job/organization. Being referred is the most powerful thing you can do. That referring name differentiates your resume/application from the others. Plus, they have to remember what they did with you in case there is follow-up!

Time Gaps--You were laid off 8 months ago. You been on maternity/mommy leave for a couple years. Unless you were just on the couch, you were doing something besides applying for jobs online, right? Any consulting, volunteer work, internships become more relevant especially at the top of your resume. Recent studies show you will get way fewer call backs when there is an extended gap at the top of your resume. Duh!

Proof Readers--Have your confidantes read your stuff for readability, typos, grammar, formatand to help you present the best case. They know you and they will also push you to brag appropriately. 

Resume Resources--Many online free resources. I like Rileyguide.

Please reboot your resume. Get it into to shape to represent you well! Impossible to network without one.

Thanks for reading. John 


The Difference Between Performance and Potential

I was leading a training workshop of ambitious managers and executives for a Fortune 100 company recently. One of their top executives provided her story about her meteoric rise up the company hierarchy from immigrant non-English-speaking roots to the corner office. 7 promotions and one lateral move in 20 years. She told her riveted audience that her key to success was her mentoring. Being mentored by other executives who pointed her way through the corporate maze. People who "tapped her on the shoulder"  and pushed her into new opportunities.  Opportunities she did not see for herself. Opportunities that set her up for other moves. She had a plan to advance but learned that it would not be a linear process, but to be open to and trust the advice of others. That her success would be ultimately defined by her ability to perform in these new settings and grow her potential. Potential of you

She was asked, "How do YOU evaluate potential over performance?" She asserted that performance plays a small part of promotions she gives. Because performance is like the student's high GPA for admission to highly selective universities. Performance is a starting point, a given, a pre-requisite to be eligible to even be considered for a promotion. All of this follows the PIE research. According to her, potential is what executives look for. Mentors and sponsors look for potential amongst the high performers.

But she gave this poignant example: "I am currently evaluating my top managers. Two of them are in the top 10% of performers. They received among the highest scores for their performance reviews. The third one barely scored in the 50 percentile range of performance for the year. But this is the one I will mentor. This one has way more potential than the other two. I predict this is the one who will go the furthest at our company."

You could hear an audible gasp from the group. 

As you might imagine this triggered quite a robust conversation. People in huge orgs with steep hierarchies of classifications and pecking orders expect performance metrics to determine everything. That advancement should be predictable based on these quantifiable measures. But we learn that the straight A students are not guaranteed anything. That leadership, persuasion, and creativity can not be reduced to numbers. Experienced executives see potential. The potential that is revealed not by ambition but by life values, passion, energy, curiosity, critical thinking, and managing up.  Often your potential can be easily seen by others. A potential that you can neglect and forget about. 

Your visible potential is your mentoring potential. Are you mentorable

The teacher appears when the student is ready.

The point is working on your potential is as important as your performance. How do you do that? Potential bigger

By fully engaging yourself in your work, not just what is required, but what is interesting to you and helpful to your employer. I know you work hard and I know you are busy and tired. I am talking about separating yourself from the parade of the competent and the smart. Your superiors see if you are fully engaged. They see if you are acting like you are promotable--not just saying it. Are you wholeheartedly engaged in your career? The answer is how your potential looks.

Connect with your mentors and ask them about your potential. What do they see? Do you really want to know? Really? Are you ready to work on your potential? Don't think that your potential is innate like your eye color, an unchangeable part of your DNA, something you have no control over. That is the lazy and easy way out. Be honest--people have a limited and often a skewed view of your talents, your genius, your possibilities. How many times at work have you said, "If only I was given the chance to.........." 

You can't wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club.   Jack London

Your potential is waiting to be seen by others, but first by you. 

Thanks for reading. John

Your Boat and the Immensity of the Sea

It is so easy to let the currents of life just take us to interesting places and to life's milestones. It is understandable that we surrender to the forces of change, nature, and circumstance that can seem so outside of our control. So our little boat can get stuck or drift to uncharted or even unwanted destinations. 

In my travels and encounters, I find most people trying to trick out their boats. They invest in their little sea craft so it can provide comfort to them. They are more interested in how their boat looks than where it is going.

If you want to build a ship, don't dispatch people to collect wood, don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.  Antoine St. Exupery


Think about the "immensity of the sea" as your life's work and your personal legacy. What is the contribution you are making that is greater than you and your little boat? Yes, yes, why are you rowing so hard?! Why are you in such a rush to go further and further? Where are you going and why?

We do need bigger boats. Not because we need more luxurious space and amenities. Because we have to bring as many people along as we can. Not just our friends and families, but others who need our help. 

Remember this scene from Jaws?

More people need our help than ever before. People you know and care about. People you don't know and should care about. We need bigger boats.

If we fully understand that while we don't control Mother Nature, we have great influence over how we react to her. And where we are going? Our boat attracts to it whatever we invest our time, attention and talent to. 

When the wind dies, row!    Portuguese proverb

As you know, I do believe in serendipity and the minor and major course corrections that life presents, but your boat needs to be propelled by what you believe in and care about. Yes, your boat runs on your passions and your values. 

Many of you have either put these passions aside and others have yet to fully discover them. How you approach the sea of life matters. You need to be going someplace that resonates with your heart and then be open to what the sea presents.

I meet teachers who don't like teaching. Lawyers who don't like the legal work. Business execs who need more meaning. They have lost the joy of sailing. They need new boats and navigational plans.

Why suffer in a life that is not feeding your soul? Why sail on waters that have no appeal? Because it is the best you can have?

Many of these folks have defined their lives by their professional boat. Everyone, regardless of income, stage in life can have a small fleet of boats. Trying to jam everything into one boat is foolish and dangerous. You can launch other boats to new parts of the sea through your avocations, interests, volunteer work, causes, and side businesses. You should have several boats exploring and testing the waters. 

Ships are safe in harbor, but that is not what ships are for.  William Shedd

Whether you like it or not, you are connected to many other boats. Boats following you. Boats dependent on you. Boats you depend on. etc etc

Got way too many boats in this post now :) And I have avoided any references to the Life of Pi---ooops. The point is you are the captain of your boat. Point it in the RIGHT direction, a direction that is based on who you are and who you want to be. Then keep your eyes open to the great immensity and amazing bounty of the sea. You are not headed to shore, your destination is the sea of possibilities. 

Happy sailing and thanks for reading. John