Fatal Distraction–When Your Resume Highlights Work You Don’t Want to Do

resume 14255685-hiring-and-job-search-concept-in-word-tag-cloud-on-white-backgroundResume panic–that unique feeling of crippling dread that overtakes you when facing the need to promote your skills and experiences to get a new job.

Needing a job is unnerving enough. You’re in transition, going from where you were to someplace new.

The competition for that new job starts with a resume that can get you an interview.


Ditch the panic.

Panic gets you nowhere. In fact, it puts you  at risk.

When athletes panic, they make crucial mistakes that cost them the game. The same is true of business leaders, investors, and trades people.

Panic is stress on steroids…and stress makes people stupid.

So if you want to land the right job for yourself, start by taking a deep breath and clearing your head.

Being between jobs gives you a chance to restart or refresh your career. You have the time and space to think about what you really like to do and what you’re good at.

The biggest mistake many job seekers make is writing resumes for jobs they think they can get, instead of ones they want.

 If the stresses of being a supervisor caused health problems, don’t extol your accomplishments running a call center. If you don’t like working directly with people, don’t promote the duties you had clerking at The Gap. If you do, your resume becomes the fatal attraction for a job you really don’t want.

Hit your reset button.

Before you start updating your resume, dedicate a good block of time to thinking about the best next job for you. Talk to people who know you and whose views you respect, consider talking to an experienced career coach or an expert on resumes.

Remember: Your resume is a marketing tool, so it needs to showcase the knowledge, skills, and experiences that you are eager to bring to the job where you will add real value.

If your resume is cluttered with everything you’ve ever done, it demonstrates that you have no real career focus–that you are, in fact, panicked.

To be sure your resume attracts jobs you want, avoid these two big mistakes:

Big Mistake #1: Listing all the duties, tasks, and responsibilities from your prior jobs.

If there’s work you don’t like or want to do, don’t tell the screener via your resume that you know how to do it and are even good at it. When you aren’t looking for that kind of work, it  just clutters up your resume. (Caution: the screener may have another opening full of all that stuff you hate to do and you’d be perfect for it. Ouch!)

You want to list the outcomes you achieved in your prior jobs that excited you.That’s       how your value is measured. Past behavior is a predictor of future behavior.

Big Mistake #2: Showing your entire work history, even down to high school jobs.

Your resume is a marketing tool not evidence in a jury trial designed to prove you’ve         worked hard all your life.

Use your resume space to present relevant work and/or academic experience, the           kind that aligns with the requirements of the job. The fact that you worked at McDonald’s   when you were in high school and as a coach’s assistant in college doesn’t market your    talent for strategic planning or app design.

If you’ve been in a professional role and want to stay there, only include your professional experience. If you’re just starting out, align the tasks you performed in those early jobs and internships to the kind of work you’re seeking.

Attract don’t distract.

Attract what you want. Your resume is the bait. The tastier it looks, the more likely you’ll get a bite.

The same is true for the jobs you’re seeking. They have to look yummy to you too. It’s not just a meal you’re after, it’s sustenance for a long time.

The best jobs come when both you and your employer have hungered for the same thing and found it on a shared plate. Let your resume be the appetizer.

Photo credit 123rf.com     

Engaging Employee Minds and Hearts | Marketing Tools for Nonprofits

It’s special to write a post inspired by the new book by my friend, Sybil Stershic, a champion of the key role employees play in the success of any organization. Sybil gives voice to the intimate connection between marketing effectiveness and the engagement of employees who deliver on the organization’s promises.

Her first book, Taking Care of the People Who Matter Most: A Guide to Employee-Customer Care framed her message for business. This book, Share of Mind, Share of Heart: Marketing Tools of Engagement for Nonprofits, aligns marketing strategies with employee engagement essentials tailored to the challenges faced by nonprofits. The book’s concise principles and guide format will help you frame a plan. It’s rare to have a marketing guide specific to the needs of nonprofits. Sybil has filled the void.


It’s a downer when we murmur to ourselves at work, “My heart’s just not in it today.” It’s even worse when we realize we feel that way most days.

Explaining away malaise may be easier when we’re doing work that feels mechanical without an  “I’m making a difference” dimension.

What’s not so easy is feeling de-energized even when the work we’re doing, either paid or unpaid, fills an important human need in the community through a nonprofit organization.

I’ve been there myself. Years ago I worked for Head Start where my job included all of these duties: grant writing, coordinating volunteers and parent programs, supervising cooks and bus drivers, and schlepping government surplus food. Yes, there were many days when my mind knew how important the work was but my heart couldn’t overcome the weariness.

Nonprofit jobs are just as demanding today, maybe more so. Employees in nonprofits are the mission’s engine. Most aren’t there to get rich but to enrich. Nonprofit leaders need to recognize that their jobs include being in service to their employees.

The  essential link

Most nonprofit leaders face challenges to sustain their organizations, meaning they need to bring in the revenues that keep things going.

What too many leaders forget is that they need to invest considerable time and attention in their employees, the very people who are the real faces of the organization and the credible voices “marketing” the good work being done each day.

Sybil Stershic’s new book, Share of Mind, Share of Heart: Marketing Tools of Engagement for Nonprofits, provides nonprofit leaders with a fresh and practical approach to marketing their organizations with an inside-out strategy.

She starts by reminding us that:

Proactively marketing your nonprofit enables you to:

  1. create an effective presence in the marketplace that helps differentiate you from competing organizations, and
  2. pursue your mission through positive relationships with your stakeholders (consumers, members, volunteers, donors, referral sources, influencers, etc.)

Then she quotes marketing professor Philip Kotler who posits that: “‘marketing is supposed to build up…share of mind  and share of heart for the organization.'”

Further defining this concept, Sybil writes that:

  • share of mind “is about creating and maintaining public awareness of your organization”
  • share of heart “is creating and maintaining an emotional bond with people who are important to your organization.”

Leadership is the mission within the mission in successful nonprofits. Executive directors and all others managing operations need to balance their marketing outward look with an internal one.

The employee as marketer

Taking employees for granted or inadvertently making them feel that way invites an organizational downward spiral. It’s like shooting yourself in your marketing foot.

Sybil reminds us that:

Engaged employees stay for what they give–they like their work and are able to contribute, whereas disengaged employees stay for what they get–a comfortable job, good salary, and decent job conditions. Who would you rather have work in your organization?

She makes this essential point:

An “inside-out marketing” approach enables you to take care of …internal stakeholders so they can take care of your external stakeholders….”

Many nonprofit leaders then ask: “How do I do that?”

Sybil’s answer is straight-forward:

To gain employee and volunteer commitment and facilitate their engagement with an organization, internal marketing strategy is based on what I call ‘The Three Rs Formula':

  • Respect–ensure your staff members and volunteers have the necessary tools and support to do their work.
  • Recognition–catch them doing something right.
  • Reinforcement–continually support a mission-based, customer-focused culture.

She drives home her point writing:

The difference in how volunteers and employees are treated on a daily basis depends on the management style of the…people in charge. Are employees and volunteers recognized and respected for their roles in fulfilling the mission or are they considered disposable commodities?

Minds and hearts

Nonprofit employees are the faces and voices of the organization and its mission. They need to have their hearts and minds fully engaged to feel fulfilled.

Nonprofit leaders need to pay attention to what  employees need and listen when they provide  feedback, verbally or by their actions.

Marketing needs to be an organic function that starts with a strong internal message voiced by engaged employees. When the heart and mind work together, we can make big things happen.

Discovered the Trick to Career Success? | The Magic’s Up Your Sleeve

Career success seems so elusive as we face constant changes in the work environment and economy. Here’s a post I wrote in 2010 to help sort things out and form the basis of a plan.

Success is out there—somewhere. We watch others achieve it, but why not us? They don’t seem any smarter than we are. So what’s the trick?

We assume the answer’s in all those how-to books, so we read them. We go to presentations by celebrated experts, follow bloggers, and invest in webinars. These are all good things to do, but….

No one can tell you how to get the success you want. Why? Because they aren’t you!

We’re all in the same boat. Getting to success is a struggle. So what’s the winning formula? 

I can’t tell you that. No one can. We have to figure it out ourselves. No whining or complaining. No funny business or short cuts. And, hardest of all to swallow, no guarantees!

There are some concrete steps you can take to get started or to keep going if you feel stalled. Here goes:

1. Answer this: What do I want my life to look like when I cross the finish line? 

Describe what you see in your mind’s eye: your surroundings and location, who’s there and who’s not, and what you do on a typical day. Write it all down and save it. What you describe tells you what you want to achieve, what you’ll be working toward, and how you want it to come together.

2. Then answer: What career work fits me? 

The right career feels like lycra: a close (actually intimate) fit that supports you as you move freely in any direction. Lots of people wear burlap instead. They may find success but it comes with a rash. Real success includes work satisfaction, growth, and fair rewards.

3.  Can work in that career get me the success I want? If no, now what?

Sometimes the work you love doesn’t pay well or offer advancement. That means you’ll have to add another work component to your success plan.

There is no rule that says all of our income must come from one source, our job. Additional revenue can come from freelance work, side businesses, and on-line services/sales. The internet offers many new paths for adding revenue. It’s time to explore.

4. Visualize the success you want. Pick up on the vibes.

If visualizing didn’t help golfers make tournament winning putts, they wouldn’t pay their sports psychologists to teach them how to do it.  Every athlete who wins a championship says the same thing: “I’ve imagined this moment since I was 9.”

Once you focus on the success you want and the career work you love, you’ll find yourself noticing articles in the paper, segments on TV, comments at work, and on-line posts that will move you forward.

5. Write the words that describe the success you want and the paths you’ll explore to get it.

Writing things down makes them real and prevents you from side-stepping the work you need to do. When you explore options, you will stay open to alternatives until you’ve settled on the winning direction.

Anyone can do this. It’s not magic. 

I struggle and question just like you. The success I wanted was a life in the country, working for myself, helping others achieve their own career and business goals.

To get this far meant passing through many seemingly unrelated gates. I was a high school English teacher, a social worker, a corporate manager. While I was employed, I made extra income as a practice management consultant for veterinarians, then as a horse breeder and art dealer.

Each path led me to the life that I visualized. My definition and measure of success isn’t yours and yours isn’t mine. We each own the success we seek—that’s the beauty of it.

Don’t let anyone else define success for you. That’s important to becoming business fit. Own your success goals and desires. It’s what’s up your sleeve that matters. Keep looking—there’s a rabbit in there somewhere!

Photo from garethjmsaunders via Flickr

How “Now-I-Get-It” Discoveries Expand Career Savvy

Careers are mysterious. We skip naively into them, assuming that our generally optimistic assumptions about the company, our boss, and coworkers are true. Then wham, the gilt flies off the lily.

That’s okay, actually. Careers teach us to pay attention continuously.

A pulse exists below the surface of every business. It may be:

  • Unseen or foreign to us
  • Outside our understanding
  • Separate from the work we perform daily

That pulse drives business all decision-making, actions which include both simple and wildly complex variables.

Directly or indirectly, that business pulse impacts us in ways we either like or don’t. When we “get” what’s going on, we’re better positioned to respond or react in ways that are good for us, building our savvy.

What you see v. what is

Marketing is the juice. The business markets its goods and services for profit; we market our capabilities for reward.

We are also marketing targets even when it’s not obvious that we are. When we feel the pulse of it, we’re likely on the verge of a “now-I-get-it” moment.

Consider this: I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but several colleges have stepped out lately  in some wild, new football uniform styles and designs—from helmets to jerseys to shoes.

Journalist Mo Rocca did a piece for the CBS Sunday Morning Program (January 8, 2012) featuring the gridiron wear of the Oregon Ducks who won the Rose Bowl. Rocca’s piece described the Oregon Ducks as looking “less like football players and more like comic book superheroes, sporting mirrored ‘special edition’ helmets that had never been worn before.”

In fact Rocca reports:

This regular season alone, the Ducks wore eight different jerseys, six pants, five helmets and four different shoe and sock colors . . . a staggering number of possible combinations.

The Oregon football team isn’t the only one sporting snazzy new unis: Notre Dame and the University of Maryland did too.

On the surface, you would think the change to more high-tech gear was strictly for on-field performance, safety, and durability. Well, as Coach Lee Corso would say, “Not so fast, my friend!”

ESPN’s Paul Lukas explains to Rocca the story behind the new uniforms move:

…when you and I were kids, you couldn’t go and buy a jersey. That market didn’t exist…They hadn’t figured out that someone would drop $200 for a polyester shirt.

And…now that they know people will do that, ‘Well, you already bought this year’s jersey. Well, what if we change our jersey next year?’ You’d go and buy another one.

The “now-I-get-it” discovery is that this change was about merchandizing and not just great TV optics.

Savvy up

There’s a secondary story about most everything in business, that’s why you need to be savvy to the underlying pulse and needs of the company you work for.

Think of the last time you didn’t get hired or promoted. It’s likely the decision wasn’t all about you. The successful candidate may have been:

  • Representative of an under-represented constituency
  • Identified for a growth assignment
  • Someone’s favorite
  • Passed over once before and due a second chance
  • A non-controversial choice

We all want to think hiring is purely about talent and capabilities, but that would deny the existence of the pulse.

Human beings create and lead businesses in service to other human beings who buy from them. The human element creates the pulse. To succeed ourselves, we need to keep our fingers on it!

Photo from Monica’s Dad via Flickr

The Job Seeker’s Death Knell—Believing Your Own Excuses

Beating the pavement does more than wear out your soles. It can wear out your self-confidence.

Rejection is strength sapping. When the reward for trying hard and staying the course keeps netting a big fat zero, we become frustrated beyond belief, plagued by that nagging question, “Why?”

Hiring decisions are the great unknown.

When we walk out of a job interview, we usually have a sense of “how it went.” If we think it went well, we expect a call back or a job offer. But often that never comes. Once this pattern starts to repeat itself, we become uneasy, struggling to figure out how we’re falling short.

We’re inclined to take it personally. Remember George Costanza from Seinfeld who could never understand why he didn’t get hired, or even sometimes why he did! It’s easy to forget that the hiring process isn’t just about us. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes that we never hear about.

Excuses only get in our way.

A woman recently e-mailed me about her many months out of work, the high unemployment in her state, and her credentials. She’d been to many job interviews without success. The reason, she decided, was her age, refusing to acknowledge her “job hopper” work history.

I empathized with the stress this woman was experiencing. She’s not the only one who’s made excuses for unsuccessful job searches. Have you ever used any of these excuses for why you didn’t get an interview or a job:

  • My resume and cover letter aren’t right.
  • The interviewer asked quirky questions that didn’t make sense.
  • There are just too many college grads out there for me to compete.
  • My degree and/or training are outdated.
  • They don’t want to hirer Baby Boomers (or Gen Xers, new grads).
  • Companies already know whom they want. These interviews are a set up.
  • I’m too short, heavy, contemporary, handsome/pretty, or tattooed. 

When we create excuses to feel better temporarily, we risk the likelihood that we’ll reuse them, until they become a truth that we’ve accepted. That will only bury our chances.

Set yourself free! 

Throw off any negatives you have about your job search experiences. If you don’t, you’ll carry them into your next interview. You may not think so, but it’s in your posture, your voice, your eyes, your tone of voice, and the words you choose.

You’ve got to shake off the negative stuff! Think of yourself as a pro athlete who’s had a bad game and needs to put it out of his/her mind and take the field again. Excuses don’t wash. You’re mantra needs to be: “Do better next time.”

When you aren’t the winning candidate, take action to make yourself a stronger one. Focus on things you can control:

  • Fire up a bright, can-do attitude
  • Expand your skills, particularly software applications and social media
  • Ask: “Have I been too narrow in my job search?”
  • Increase and perhaps redirect your networking efforts
  • Stay in touch with your contacts at companies where you weren’t hired (You may have been their second choice.)
  • Reexamine the way you present yourself (appearance, style, energy level) 

The job search is a marketing effort! 

If you have something of value to offer that an employer needs and can afford, you will be a viable candidate! Your ticket to the job you want is good marketing of your capabilities and attitude.

We all need to be prepared and ready to showcase our value. That’s what business fitness is all about, smart moves that you execute with consistency. It’s how you keep the Grim Reaper far away from your job search!

Have you ever lapsed into excuse-making when you didn’t get a job? How did you turn that around? We need all the help we can on this one!

Want Control? Manage the Message. | Words As Power Tools

“I’m at a loss for words.” Such a helpless moment! We’ve all been there, I suspect. Can you remember a time when someone unexpectedly pushed your hot button and you became tongue-tied? I sure can. And that made it worse!

What you say matters. 

Too many people in the workplace simply don’t know what to say when faced with an issue, problem, or challenge.  So they either say nothing or the wrong thing.

Big messes in business are generally the product of the wrong words delivered at the wrong time in the wrong way. The result often is:  

  • Customers furious with the phone rep’s comments
  • Employees complaining to HR about their performance review
  • Harassment suits or diversity complaints
  • Poor morale
  • Employee turnover 

It’s not industry jargon that’s the issue here. It’s insensitive or antagonistic language, used by supervisors (and employees), that hits a nerve.

Companies need people who have a command of the language, so that they can:

  • Describe performance behaviors objectively
  • Open up collaborative discussions
  • Address the needs of upset customers
  • Resolve disputes
  • Provide compelling reasons for change 

The right words clear up misunderstandings, change behavior, build teamwork, and influence progress. The wrong words create dissention, alienate employees, paralyze growth, and build distrust.

Words give you control. 

Successful careers are a function of your ability to use words effectively. You need words to:

  • Describe the root cause of a problem
  • Provide justification for a raise, promotion, or special assignment
  • Promote the value of the work you achieved
  • Build positive relationships
  • Make effective presentations
  • Sell your innovative ideas 

Never underestimate the power of words and the asset value they have to your career.

A case in point 

I was an English major working in an engineering company. It didn’t take long for me to realize that the language of this business, a Fortune 500 energy corporation, was technical. Papers and memos were loaded with analyses and endless minutia, regardless of the needs of the reader.

Part of my job was to convert the language of complex energy issues into information easily understood by customers. My challenge was to “translate” engineering “speak” into laymen’s terms without compromising the accuracy of the information.

It didn’t take too long until I realized how much influence this role gave me. It became my brand and stayed with me with every career move.

I realized that word power creates the opportunity to influence ideas, thinking and action. Here’s how you can enjoy this advantage:

  • Offer to take the notes at strategy meetings where you summarize the key points in complex discussions. The words you use can influence direction.
  • Prepare position papers on subject matter important to your work group
  • Write internal marketing and branding language for your team
  • Volunteer to draft “discussion documents” (often called straw men) for key meetings
  • Draft a performance self-appraisal at evaluation time 

Go ahead. Write the words. No one else wants to. 

That’s the truth. Writing—struggling to find the correct words and preparing documents—is the last thing most of your colleagues want to do. It’s drudgery to them, mostly because “they don’t have the words.” Not only will you have an outlet for your perspective, you will “save the day” but taking that burden off someone else.

Look, words are important. It’s how we keep the craziness of the world in perspective. We need to put labels on things so we can manage them. If you can do that at work, you’ve got a huge edge. Business fitness includes attracting a following. I guarantee you that the right words are your best hook!

Do you have a “loss for words” moment to share? Or a time when words saved the day? The word’s the thing!

Got a Job That’s Crushing You? | Start to Lift the Weight

Oh, boy, it’s exciting to get a new job, especially with a new company. Everything looks so promising. We feel really good about ourselves–validated,  reinforced, and successful.                                         

It’s amazing how our careers can start out in one place and morph to another. 

It’s all so gradual that we hardly know it’s happening until one day we realize that we’re someplace that we don’t want to be. Or, more often, a place that’s crushing us. 

I have a talented friend who was hired by a huge company two years ago in marketing communications. After a few months, the department downsized and the work doubled as sales needed more and more marketing materials to cut through the barriers of a tight economy. The demands on my friend accelerated. Other staffers weren’t pulling their weight. So her days got longer and longer. 

Has this happened to you? It has to me. I thought it would be my demise. 

Feeling trapped in your job, paralyzes your ability to make changes. 

Our jobs can’t trap us but we can convince ourselves that they do. After all, we go to work every day by choice. It only takes a letter or a word to say, “Bye, bye.” 

It’s really our personal situations that create the bind. When we have dependents, debts, health issues, and family commitments, we need to keep our jobs, even when they are wrong for us. 

The demands of our personal lives, coupled with the stresses of our jobs, can drive us to an airless place. Here’s how we often feel: 

  • Exhausted and unable to think analytically
  • Defeated and unable to fathom any options
  • Imprisoned by the workload and the realities of our lives 

Truth is: There are always other options. They may require some creativity, planning, repositioning, and timing, but they exist. 

The struggle is: If you are exhausted from your “work life,” the idea of exploring options, solving problems, and firing up your smothered optimism at the end of the day is too much. 

So what to do? Start small and focus on yourself. 

  1. Make a list of the little things that make you feel uplifted (15 minutes of quiet time, an outing with a friend, a short walk, a few flowers in a vase). Give yourself at least one daily.
  2.  Make two lists about your job: Things I Have to Do and Things That Can Wait (Maybe Forever). Smart employees negotiate work output with their supervisors. If you don’t explain what can and cannot get done reasonably, your supervisor will expect it all. We are not mules unless we agree to be. Heehaw! 
  3. Take a hard look at your personal situation and come up ways to reduce your obligations and a timetable for how long you believe you need this job. Doing this will help you feel more empowered, since you’re now staying for your personal business reasons. (Your life is your business, remember?) 
  4. Then, develop a career change strategy—one that you will implement while you still have a job. Do this with your timeline in mind and a focus on work that fits you. 

You always have options and choices. 

None of us much cares for change because it’s disruptive. We operate too often on the principle that “The devil we know is better than the one we don’t.” This can make us our own worst enemy. 

Small steps are important steps because they add up. The more you take, the farther you get. Each one helps you get more business fit. 

Getting help can be a really worthwhile investment. You’ll probably only need a leg up and then you’ll be on your way. I’m rootin’ for ya’! 

Do you have an “I feel trapped in my job” story to share or an “I escaped” one? That would be a big help all around.