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     

Hungry for a Great Internship? Know Where to Find the Meat.

Internships are considered a must-have for many college students (and even some high schoolers) looking for a leg up in getting a job upon graduation. They hunt to find them, compete to get them, and strive to multiply them–all for good reason.

Internships are real workplace experiences that build and showcase the job knowledge, skills, and behaviors essential to career success.

So why do so many complain about those internships once they’ve been landed?

  • The work is too menial. I feel like a lackey.
  • I don’t have enough autonomy.
  • There’s too much/too little/no supervision.
  • I’m left on my own to figure out what to do.
  • I do all this work and don’t get paid (or am paid a paltry sum).

Welcome to the business world!

There is often a misconception that, once you get a real job with a real title, all the work is meaty, independent initiatives are applauded, your supervisor is supportive, and the compensation commensurate with the work. Sorry this isn’t so, but internships can help you recalibrate your expectations.

Internship Lesson #1: Teach yourself to see and understand the realities of the work place and what drives it.

You can’t see what’s really going on unless you look. Too many student interns limit their focus to the work they are asked to perform and not the experience as a whole.

Initially, there’s good reason for that: the tasks are new to them and they want to do them well. That’s a good thing but not the only thing.

The real meat is between the bun.

Internship Lesson #2:  Learn what did or did not fit you about the company, the work, and/or the environment and why.

Your internship helps clarify what you need from a job to perform at your best and stay motivated.

That means discovering are how effectively you:

  • Handle ambiguity and too little/too much direction
  • Perform under pressure
  • Communicate with executives, managers, your boss, and coworkers
  • Overcome flagging self-confidence and self-doubt
  • Use strengths and overcome weaknesses
  • Make independent decisions and come up with new ideas
  • See your work in the context of the company’s big picture
  • Influence or take the lead when there’s an opportunity
  • Stay positive and avoid getting caught up in office gripes
  • Put knowledge and skills to use in the right way

You need to make your internship as much about discovering who you are within the dynamics of the job as you do about future line items on your resume.

Here comes the judge.

This week I served on a panel to judge internship presentations at a local university. The fifteen students in this six hour undergraduate course interned with major corporations like AT&T, Guardian Life, Allstate, Abercrombie & Fitch and small businesses including a restaurant, spa/pool company, law office, and long-term care facility. Most students were business and/or marketing majors.

The students who stood out were those who discovered the most about themselves while interning. One learned he didn’t want to be in law because he knew he couldn’t defend someone he knew had committed the crime. Another loved the company she interned with (they wanted to hire her) but realized she wanted to work for a large firm. Two other students surprised themselves at how effective they were talking to front-line employees as well as the company president, seeing how they were able to adapt their communications styles successfully. Others learned how it felt to own and defend their web design assignments.

Win-win internships

There are no bad internships unless you choose not to learn anything from them. Every business is fascinating in its own right. Each has a unique business model, leader-driven culture, performance history, cadre of employees, and customers/clients. No matter what your internship role, you are always in a position to observe, explore, and contribute. So whenever you can, take a big bite and savor the flavor.

Photo from Lego-LM via Flickr

Out of Work? Hire Yourself.

You think you can’t. I say you can. Don’t over-think it, make it too big, or get in your own way. Just try it. 

Plug the gap. 

Being out of work, creates a glaring gap on your resume. Your work history has come to a (hopefully temporary) dead end. 

This makes job seekers lose sleep at night and I don’t blame them. 

So the question is: “What can you do about it?” 

I say, “Plenty, if you have something of value to offer.” 

Everyone has some level knowledge and skills needed by someone else. You may know how to: 

  • Organize: information, schedules, office space, projects, or events
  • Troubleshoot: software, IT tools, work processes
  • Consult/coach: on performance, problem solving, change, life skills, regulation
  • Create: specialty items, written materials, social media tools, art
  • Present: training, speeches, proposals, videos 

There are clients/customers who need your know-how. It doesn’t matter whether you charge them for your services or not. Each time you serve someone, you are functioning as an entrepreneur. 

It’s time to reveal this work on your resume. 

Hire yourself. 

Self-employment is employment. Working for yourself is about providing services to others. 

When you do that formally, you are functioning as an entrepreneur. 

Working for yourself shows the hiring manager that you: 

  • Take your capabilities and their value seriously
  • Can attract and successfully serve clients/customers
  • Are a self-starter, committed to building your career
  • Have the courage to put yourself out there
  • Are motivated and energetic about taking on new challenges 

“Being” your own business showcases what you’ve been doing since you’ve been out of work. It maintains your employment continuity, so you’re always working up to the present

Your resume will need to name your business and include the outcomes you’ve achieved for your clients—problems solved, installations completed, savings achieved, or negative impacts avoided. That’s what you include in your bullets. 

You may decide to keep your “business” active while you’re working or only between jobs. Either way you’ll want to address that on the resume or in your cover letter. 

Getting started 

Becoming a business entity isn’t complicated, for these purposes. Just: 

  • Create a business name as a sole proprietorship. To keep things simple, consider using all or part of your own name.
  • Get business cards.
  • Write a simple statement about what service(s) you’re offering, so you can tell people when they ask.
  • Decide on a fee-for-service when you need/want to charge
  • Get the word out (social media makes this easy, networking too)
  • Consider a blog that can double as a simple website where you write about what you do and post about what you know (This adds credibility for clients/customers and a credential for a future hiring manager to consider.) 

Find a few clients/customers (non-profits are often a good source) where you can work on a pro bono (free) basis, in exchange for a testimonial that you can use if they’re satisfied. This is also how you’ll get those outcome statements for resume bullets. 

Ask for referrals and see where your efforts take you. Remember, you’re not trying to turn this into an all-consuming business, (although it could grow into something significant). You’re still in the job search. So balance your time. Pick your spots. 

I once worked with a client who’d been out of work for over two years. He was looking for an executive position in sales but couldn’t get a look. So, he set up solo sales training consultancy with himself as the president. He had no paying clients, but that didn’t matter. He suddenly was at the table with the people he needed to meet with. 

Surprise yourself. 

Your career is in your hands. Being out of work is an empty feeling. It can drag you down. Staying in the game is important for your psyche and your resume.   

You don’t need a job to do valued work. You just need an outlet. That you can create for yourself by staying business fit. 

Photo from David Vincent Johnson via Flickr




What Your Job Search Says About You. Sometimes It Isn’t Pretty!

I hear a lot of excuses, justifications, and whining from people looking for a job. It’s always the same things:

  • “I hate networking.”
  • “I followed up on a bunch of leads and nothing!”
  • “I’ve got my resume out there but don’t hear anything.”
  • “I don’t know what to put on LinkedIn or how to use it.” 

Come on now!

Face reality. 

Jobs rarely find you. They don’t call it a “search” or “hunting” for nothing. The process requires research, exploration, and discovery. It means:

  • crawling through a jungle of complex paths and unknown obstacles
  • lifting up rocks and seeing what crawls out
  • following leads and taking advice from people who know the drill 

I can’t say this any more plainly: The job search is WORK!

When you’re looking for a job, you have a job: Project Manager! That means you need to use the right tools:

  • An action plan with steps and deadlines you’ll complete each week  
  • A strong resume and cover letter
  • Behavioral interviewing skills
  • Contacts via social media, friends, community and professional groups 

You don’t just whip this stuff up in a day. You have to invest serious thinking, a zillion drafts until your message is right, and a clear focus on what jobs you’re after.

You have to make big decisions like:

  • Are you willing to move or drive a good distance from where you live?
  • Will you re-credential yourself? If so, how?
  • Are you willing to start over in an entry level job with an industry that you think will grow?
  • Are you willing to work two part-time jobs or perhaps a lower paying job while starting your own business? 

Today, you have lots of options. Sometimes being creative about the way you piece together your career outlets is the ace in the hole you need.

The way you job hunt brands you! 

If you’re not aggressive about your own job hunt, why would an employer think you’d work hard for him/her? The stakes and rewards for you couldn’t be any higher. So why doesn’t everyone dig in and work at their search? Is it:

  • Fear of rejection or laziness
  • Some kind of weird denial
  • Belief that the job-fairy is out there flying around looking for them
  • A crippling lack of self-confidence, low self-esteem, or naiveté
  • Inability to try new approaches, solve problems, or manage time
  • Procrastination, lack of discipline, or poor initiative 

Would you hire someone with these attributes? If not, don’t adopt them yourself!

Suck it up!

Job hunting is a full time job when you’re out of work. That means you need to:

  • Work on it 8 hours a day Monday through Friday; 4 hours on Saturday. (Yes, you need to work OT on your search.)
  • Set up your day to include: networking appointments, follow up correspondence, materials preparation, researching opportunities, and reaching out
  • Arrange information interviews, job interviews, and community/professional meetings weekly
  • Stay current on business matters related to the jobs you’re seeking
  • Expand your visibility (i.e., use LinkedIn, blog, and attend professional events)
  • Follow up on leads, take creative steps to get in the door, and ask friends for referrals 

Do not give yourself “time off” from this work unless you’ll definitely make up the hours. Remember: It could take you 6 months to get the job you want, so you’re in this for the long haul.

Make yourself proud. 

Being out of work feels awful. We can either wallow or get over it.

I developed the business fitness model because we all need to be ready for a career curve ball. Sometimes we’re even thrown a sinker! Working hard on your job search empowers you. It gives you momentum and builds optimism. Get started and stay with it. That’s the measure of your heart! Believe in yourself, okay?

What piece of advice would you give to someone out of work? Every idea helps!

Job Quest Underway? Discover Your Buried Treasure | Transferable Skills As Career Doubloons

It’s unnerving to be out of work. Starting the job hunt can be gut-wrenching. We can even get confused about how to answer these simple questions:

  • What do know how to do?
  • What jobs should I apply for?
  • How do I get started? 

The temptation is to slap together a resume with a chronology of past jobs, titles, and duties. Then, with guns blazing, fire them out to every job board, classified ad, or on-line posting. Ugh!

And the hunt goes on!  

Interesting, isn’t it? Companies are hunting for a great candidate while you’re hunting for a job. So you’re both in the same boat, looking for treasure.

Here’s the problem: You’re focused on all the tasks you did in the past and the company is looking for skilled candidates for the future. Their quest is for the skills you can transport to their open job.

The solution is to figure out and give names to the skills you have in your wheelhouse. Although it’s not that difficult, why don’t most job seekers do this? It’s because:

  • They don’t have the insight.
  • They don’t know the terms.
  • They resist acknowledging their own value. 

Amazing, isn’t it? We have skills that we’ve been successful using. But when we have to assign “important sounding” words to describe them, we start to feel like an imposter.

My advice: “Get over it!” We need to prepare and accept a solid inventory of our transferable skills to get the best job. Those skills are the treasure we own and the treasure a company wants. So don’t keep it buried!

Make your resume your treasure chest. 

If you don’t market your transferable skills, it’s as though they don’t exist. Your resume is where all your skill doubloons are stored. 

Start by answering this question: What do you know how to do and how have you put your skills to work to make an impact? Your past behavior predicts your future behavior.

You can find out which transferable skills companies are looking by reading job postings and job descriptions closely. Go on-line and find out what different types of jobs require.

Look within yourself and inventory your transferable skills. Write them down and then highlight the ones that are your strongest suit.  Those are the ones you want to showcase in your resume.

Here’s a categorized starter list of transferable skills that should help:

Communication: persuasiveness, negotiating, speaking, writing, training, influencing

Interpersonal: teamwork, coaching, customer service, conflict management, employee development/engagement

Leadership: managing, supervising, motivating, decisiveness, problem-solving, delegating, integrity, innovation

Technical: analysis, data management, accounting, planning and organizing

Professional: ethics, integrity, adaptability, tolerance for stress, ability to learn, dependability, attention to detail, initiative

The transferable skills in your resume show the recruiter where the treasure is—in you! When you define yourself and your work using these words, you will see yourself in a brighter light. That’s how a hiring manager will see you too!

Keep digging.

Our transferable skills keep growing. So we need to keep our skills inventory updated. Each new job enriches our skills stash, making us more enticing candidates for bigger and better opportunities.

Acknowledging our transferable skills is immensely liberating and confidence building. Our business fitness is measured by how prepared and ready we are to make our next move.  When it comes to our transferable skills, we don’t have to be the best ever with any of them. We just need to be the best a company can find for what they are willing to pay. After all, treasure chests come in all sizes!

What transferable skills have been your greatest asset? Where did they get you? Thanks for sharing!

Sizing You Up | Dependability Ratings Matter

Being there when expected. Stepping up when needed. Always delivering the goods. Dependability counts big time for getting a  job, a good performance appraisal, and a promotion.  So, are you? 

The way we perform is a measure of the standards we bring. 

Dependability showcases commitment. Are we as good as our word? When we agree to do job, will we give it our best no matter what the circumstances? This can be a big test. It sure was for me. 

A farmer friend of mine was in a pinch. He had about ten acres of alfalfa hay that needed to be baled one Saturday afternoon but had no help available. So I agreed to fill in even though I was no farm hand. 

At that time, I co-owned a three-year-old thoroughbred gelding that was being trained as a show horse. My partner, who trained him, came over that same morning to give him a light ride.

 It was a muggy, buggy, 90-degree day. The horse performed so nicely that the trainer suggested I hop on to get a feel for his easy gait. 

He was a big horse so I needed a leg up to mount. When I was in air, he shifted suddenly because the bugs were annoying him. Instead of landing in the saddle, I came down his rump. He bucked, flipped me in the air, and I landed face first on the ground. 

Although I was wearing a helmet, that didn’t cover my jaw or the rest of me. I heard my neck and back crunch at landing and knew I’d loosened some teeth. I lay there for about 15 long minutes before I could get up. 

My trainer friend was relieved when I was upright. So was I. But all I could think of was that hay laying.

After resting a bit, although I was unbelievably sore, off to the fields I went.

The farmer couldn’t understand at first why I was limping toward the tractor and baler. When I told him, I don’t think it registered. Ten acres of alfalfa that, if not baled at exactly the right time, are worthless. That was his priority.

 His job was to drive the machinery (there’s an art to that) and mine was to hook each bale off the chute and stack it five rows high on the wagon. It was a terribly hard and hot job for me, especially under the circumstances! But we got that crop baled at its peak, ensuring its market value. 

Dependability builds our brand and makes our value visible. 

Lots of people heard that story. It validated me among the hard working, career farmers whose world I was coming to know. It also taught me a lot about how important my “word” was to me. 

Everyone sees or hears about what we do, especially against difficult odds. It can become lore, dubbing some people heroic, angelic, or mythic.   

Think of the people you’ve heard of who: 

  • Never miss a day of work
  • Take assignments that are difficult or high risk
  • Speak up when there’s an injustice
  • Lend a hand to a colleague or customer who is struggling
  • Give up free time to cover a shift
  • Set personal challenges aside to get the job done   

If we can’t be counted on, we’ll soon be counted out. 

The backbone of any career strategy is to build a reputation of dependability. It can come with positive brand labels like selfless, dedicated, and team player. 

Being indispensable is a by-product of dependability, especially when you step forward to solve problems, create remedies, and anticipate issues before they become nightmares. 

When our resumes looks like we’re running from the law, our time off records like we’re a magnet for germs, or our performance appraisals like we’re asleep at our desks, it’s time to reexamine what we’re really committed to.

Business fitness is about being prepared and ready to move forward. Being ready is about being committed—dependable, reliable, trustworthy, and responsible. High standards are good reasons for you to feel proud. 

Have you ever had your dependability tested? How did it go? What did you learn? These moments can be eye-opening.

Start Smart. Finish Strong. | Job-to-Career Strategies

Singin’ the “I Need a Job” blues? It starts like this: “Don’t know what I wanna do with my life…Got so many bills to pay.” It’s a sorrowful tune about the rock and the hard place. 

You want a job that launches your career but can’t find one—the rock.  You settle for a make-do job to cover debts and expenses—the hard place. Luckily, there is a cure for the blues! 

Jobs don’t make a career, but they can add up to one. 

A job is a means to an end. So before you start looking, you need to know what you’re really after. 

I recently spoke to a group of college seniors with questions about the job market. One of the students expressed confusion and frustration about the pull of trying to find a job that matched his major versus taking a $20-an-hour security job to start paying his tuition debts. 

I asked him, “What are you interested in?” 

He answered, “Bodybuilding.”  Bingo! 

The bodybuilding industry is huge. It’s made up of companies that: 

  • Produce body-building equipment, supplements, and attire
  • Build and design gyms
  • Market equipment, products, and services
  • Handle event planning and promotion
  • Offer personal trainers, DVD’s, and on-air programs
  • Produce print and on-line publications 

Each one of these companies has jobs to fill at all salary levels. If you really want to work in a certain industry, first get connected to it. 

I told this young man, “If you’re willing to work for $20 an hour, then look for $20-an-hour job at a company that’s connected to the bodybuilding industry.” 

Why? Because, at least, he’ll get in a door that gives him an insider’s look at the industry that he’s attracted too. Once he’s there, he’s in a position to stand out.

 Positioning is about building your body of work.

When you start any job, you don’t really know how the business works. So your objective is to do what it takes to accumulate knowledge, skills, experience, and insights that will make you a strong candidate for new opportunities when the time comes. 

So what should you do in that current job: 

  • Master the technical skills and processes to maximize your productivity.
  • Make strong, professional relationships with the colleagues, managers, suppliers, and vendors you meet. Stay in touch.
  • Learn about the competition and how the company is dealing with it.
  • Volunteer for special assignments; Offer to work on a project even if it isn’t within your existing job.
  • Participate on work teams to solve problems.
  • Ask people you work with about their career paths; Do information interviewing with them.
  • Keep alert to internal openings and job opportunities in other companies tied to your preferred industry. 

Be ready to move when the time comes.  

  • Keep your resume updated.
  • Maintain a professional social media presence.
  • Let people in your company and outside know that you are interested in other opportunities.
  • Think through the next steps you want to take and what you require to make a move. (Remember: Each job change is about adding to your skills, knowledge, experience, and network! It’s not all about money and title.) 

The key is to be prepared and ready to make those moves. That’s what it means to be business fit. 

You build a career by being strategic about the jobs you take.

Flailing is not a strategy. That’s what taking jobs for paychecks looks like. In order to take control of your career, you need to be under control about your choices. 

The sequencing of your jobs tells a story on your resume. A job history that demonstrates a commitment to learning about an industry from the ground up sets you apart. That’s how to trade that hard place for a warm seat that fits just right.

 What are some of the related businesses you discovered while working in an industry? What do you see emerging in today’s marketplace?