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     

Relief for Leaders–Understand What Keeps You Up at Night

lipkin book 17987524I couldn’t resist the invitation to write a post about Nicole Lipkin’s new book with this irresistible title: What Keeps Leaders Up at Night: Recognizing and Resolving Your Most Troubling Management Issues. Having spent my own share of sleepless nights over the years, I could relate.

You’ve made it. You’re in charge. The lead is in your hands. It’s exciting and challenging, an opportunity to set direction, form a productive team, and impact the company.

Leaders set the tone and establish workplace culture. Their decisions affect employees individually and collectively along with the company’s customers, investors, and suppliers. It’s a big deal being the leader, sometimes bigger than we can fully grasp.

As leaders we get our real education about the scope and challenges of the job when things start to go wrong…not when things explode but when they start to erode.

Nagging concerns

As leaders we often get a sense that something isn’t quite right, but, gosh, if the work’s getting done, it can’t be that serious, right? But somehow we just can’t stop thinking about something we’ve done, observed, or heard that was unsettling. Whatever it is, it’s ours to handle.

In her new book, What Keeps Leaders Up at Night, corporate psychologist Nicole Lipkin lipkin 6e4120eb91d40a7e9d9ac5_L__V388068734_SX200_targets eight of the most significant management issues that trouble us as leaders. Her focus is on the behaviors that drive both employees and leaders, building understanding through anecdotal situations, psychological studies, and remedies that we can adopt.

As leaders we make mistakes, some big and some small, some consciously and some unknowingly. To that Lipkin writes:

You can’t change what’s already happened, but you can change what you do next…I’ve learned that the solutions always begin with raising my self-awareness and helping others raise theirs.

So instead of self-flagellating, we need to step up to the plate and turn things around. Lipkin covers eight big issues that often plague leaders.Since I’ve written before about bad bosses,  I was drawn to this chapter:

I’m a Good Boss, So Why Do I Sometimes Act Like a Bad One?

Lipkin boils this issue down into three digestible bits. As the leader ask if you’re:

  • Too busy to win…Have I gotten so lost in the trees that I can no longer see the forest?
  • Too proud to see…Letting yourself get so tied to an idea that you won’t let it go.
  • Too afraid to lose…Question and second-guess every step along the way.

The consequences of failing to resolve this management issue are major, so facing your contribution to the problem is key.  Lipkin writes:

Self-awareness begins with admitting that you are human…your natural neurological and psychological make-up must cope with huge pressures….You see what you want to see.

Just pausing to cast an objective eye on your maladaptive or unproductive behavior or asking a trusted ally to tell you the honest truth…can get you back on track.

I have also written about the importance of managing expectations in the workplace, especially by bosses, so I was especially interested in her chapter on this sleep-threatening issue:

What Causes a Star to Fade?

Whenever we take a job or get a promotion, we start with great expectations of what the opportunity will contribute to our careers. In this chapter on the importance of employee engagement, Lipkin writes:

Every company and every boss enters into a psychological contract with their employees…an individual’s beliefs about the mutual obligations that exist between the employee and the employer.

When promises are known or perceived  by employees to be broken, they choose actions, as Lipkin notes, that fall into four broad categories:

  • Exit: Leaving or planning to leave the organization
  • Voice: Speaking up to address the breach with superiors, co-workers….
  • Loyalty: Suffering in silence and hoping the problem will solve itself
  • Neglect: Making a half-hearted effort to do the work

Each of these can negatively affect the business and induce a leader’s sleepless night.

And there’s more. Nicole Lipkin covers these questions too:

  • Why Don’t People Heed My Sage Advice?
  • Why Do I Lose My Cool in Hot Situations?
  • Why Does a Good Fight Sometimes Go Bad?
  • Why Can Ambition Sabotage Success?
  • Why Do People Resist Change?
  • Why Do Good Teams Go Bad?

Bedside reading.

I like a book that I can turn to easily when an issue jolts me into wakefulness. Lipkin’s book is an easy reference for her eight knotty problems. The psychological concepts are written in lay terms and posed in practical situations. Reading adds to our awareness and gives us tools to solve the problems unique to us.The right book and a handy nightlight can be trusty aids to restore our sleep.

Career Not Going Your Way? Try Relaxing Your Grip. | Words from the Wise

Feeling stuck? Frustrated? Just plain mad?relax grip 3325065380_252a4c50de_m

Choosing a career and getting the chance to pursuit it doesn’t always happen the way we’d like.

Careers are unpredictable beasts. They come with promise but no guarantees. While they seem to be about us, they’re actually more about others giving us the opportunity to make their organizations successful.

We often start out believing our careers are within our control. Then reality sets in and we hear ourselves saying:

  • “I’m knocking on every door and still don’t get even an interview. Why?”
  • “I’ve been performing at a high level in this job for three years and still no promotion. Why?”
  • “I never thought the work I do would frustrate me like this. What can I do?”

Too often, we can’t answer these questions. They’re too big, too encompassing, and too far beyond our understanding of the conditions that drive them.

So we keep pressing, driving ourselves forward, dragging our frustrations with us. Some just curl up in a ball and do nothing. Sadly, this doesn’t fix anything.

Words from the Wise

Struggles with career choices and direction have gone on for centuries. Human beings generally want to do work that will support them and bring some satisfaction.

Especially in modern times, the hardest part is figuring out what we like and want to do, given our skills. Once that’s somewhat figured out, we set out to find the right employment.

This figuring-out process requires introspection, which many fail to do. It also requires owning what you know about yourself and the career you want, so that  you can set your direction with an uncluttered mind.

I’ve  worked for many years with job and promotion seekers who have been battered by rejection when they’ve pursued job titles, salary levels, and big name companies rather than the work they enjoy. They’ve held on so tight to their preconceived career must-haves that they have tuned out other opportunities.

I use this quote from Robin Fisher Roffer’s book, Make a Name for Yourself: 8 Steps Every Woman Needs to Create a Personal Brand Strategy for Success, to help clients (both men and women) get free of themselves:

The universe is waiting for you to say what you want…Everything that you are seeking is also seeking you.

Then I add these wise words from Henry David Thoreau in Walden:

 Men (and women, right Thoreau?) are born to succeed, not to fail.

Just think about how complex it is to get all the parts  aligned just right so that you and anyone else can intersect your objectives at the same time.

That means: The job you want has to present itself when your skills and experience are seen as the right fit for the company and when the political forces see you as having the right nature to meet expectations. Whew!

Your successful career starts with your willingness to “put out there” what you sincerely want and then to allow your conscious and subconscious thinking to work together to connect the dots. Your prospective or current employer is doing the same thing.

Relax your grip.

Lots of good things happen when you take that chokehold off your career pursuits and replace it with a realization that what you are seeking is also seeking you.

The benefits can be palpable:

  • Less self-imposed pressure, negative self-talk, and energy-sapping stress
  • A refreshed ability to see and hear snippets of ideas you might otherwise have missed
  • An openness and excitement that blunts feelings of frustration and isolation
  • A renewed belief that you will get there and commitment to the effort
  • Recognition that your attitude and effort are what you control; success will follow

Your career path is a function of the work you’ve done to offer value to an employer and the initiatives you take to get hired/promoted. Your biggest challenge is to be authentic in the process and prepared to act effectively when opportunities present themselves. Taking your hand off the throttle can help you make a nice smooth turn.

Photo from ladybugrock via Flickr

Who Are You When Things Go Wrong? | Tapping Into Gratitude

2358995244_f6f385d0cf_mWe don’t always get what we think we deserve. Situations can take a downturn in a blink. Promises made aren’t always kept. That’s just the way life is and has always been.

There are times when we may expect things to go wrong. Usually that means we’re prepared for it physically and mentally. We still may not like it, but those situations go down easier than stunning surprises.

We learn a lot about ourselves when our stress level is exceeded–and so does everyone around us.

Keep an eye on yourself

All kinds of things at work can tax you:

  • Coworkers who don’t pull their weight and dump assignments on you
  • Bosses who break their promises to you
  • Job loss, reassignment, and/or poor ratings out of the blue
  • Customers or colleagues who make false statements about you

When you’re pushed to the brink, what do you do?

  • Pick a fight, go on the defensive, or play the blame game
  • Curl up in a ball, seek sympathy, or start looking for a way out
  • Look for solutions, ask for information, or seek help from your network
  • Take a deep breath, assess what’s really going on, and develop a workable plan

I like things to be under control, predictable, and within my ability to influence. So it’s also a test for me when a crisis creates excessive turmoil.

Accept what you can’t control. Be grateful for what you can.

When you’re having a bad day, someone else is having a worse one. The news this past week was proof of that.

Thomas “TJ” Lane shot five fellow students at Chardon High School in Ohio, killing three of them. The parents of those students and the entire community were forced to deal with a chaotic situation never expected. Each was forced to look outwardly and inwardly to hold it together.

Phyllis Ferguson, mother of slain Demetrius Hewlin, had a plan that worked for her. She told ABC News:

I forgive him [Lane] because, a lot of times, they don’t know what they’re doing. That’s all I’d say.

I taught Demetrius not to live in the past, to live in today and forgiveness is divine.

I heard her say in several TV clips that to keep hatred for the shooter in her heart would mar her memory of her son.

When decisions, situations, or coworkers upset you at work, what drives your next steps?

Then there’s this:Julie Hays from CNN reports how

Severe storms tore through the Midwest and South Friday into Saturday, killing at least 39 people.

The National Weather Service confirms 42 tornadoes hit 10 states, stretching from Alabama to Ohio.

This comes only days after another deadly line of storms spawned multiple tornadoes, damaging hundreds of homes and businesses across seven states.

Think of what it must be like to be going along at work, at school, or at home and in less than a minute:

  • People you love have been killed by a twister
  • Your home and your car are flattened, your belongs lost
  •  The place where you worked is destroyed along with your job
  • You have no neighbors, no place to go, no records, electricity, or communication
  • Your plans and dreams have disappeared and you’re left to start over

This is when we come to grips with what really matter to us. It’s when we see who we are and what we’re made of.

Who do you become?

When a project goes bad or your appraisal isn’t what you wanted, do you look for solutions? Are you grateful for the resources you have to draw on? Do you have the grit to go forward?

When the chips are down, people are watching us, something which can give us purpose.

Each of us can become a source of strength, a clear-minded leader, and problem-solver when there’s trouble. Gratitude for our inner strength and the connection to others is often a source of the empowering brightness we need. Shine on!


The Gift of Encouragement—How Generous Are You?

One day you’re setting the world on fire and the next you feel like a complete loser. It seems to happen so fast.   

  • Your old boss loved your work; the new one not so much.
  • You used to navigate software effortlessly; now the new system has scuttled your productivity.
  • The work team once looked to you for leadership, now there’s a new member they’re following. 

You’re not alone. It happens to all of us. 

Perspective matters. 

We’re often our own worst critic, setting expectations for ourselves that are, perhaps, higher than is reasonable. Why? Because we want to: 

  • Excel over others or test our limits
  • Chase rewards like performance ratings, raises, or promotions
  • Measure up to what we’re told is our potential
  • Exceed our prior levels of performance 

These are pressures we create and/or accept for ourselves. This pressure leads to stress that can affect our performance, taking our self-confidence with it. 

The key to a successful career is to avoid the downward spiral of eroding self-confidence. The sorry truth is that you can kill your own self-confidence through negative self-talk, but it’s highly unlikely that you can restore it by giving yourself a pep talk. 

Encouragement as gift 

The beauty of encouragement is that you can re-gift it openly and should. You don’t need to give it back to the person who gave it to you, but you do need to be ready to give it when someone else needs it. 

Lest you think that encouragement really isn’t that important, consider what these two highly successful people have to say. 

Jim Furyk, professional golfer and 2010 PGA Tour Player of the Year, recently played in the 2011 President’s Cup, a tournament that pits a select team of U.S. golfers against an international team. Furyk won all five of his matches, a rare and totally unexpected feat. You see Furyk had just come off, quite possibly, his worst year on the tour. 

Here’s how he summed up his surprising success:

I enjoy the team atmosphere, and knowing Phil [Mickelson] for as many years as I have … I’m guessing he asked to play with me, because …I struggled so much this year and played poorly, probably the worst of anybody that’s sitting up here right now.

So knowing him for as long as I have, being good friends, I assume that he asked to play with me because he felt like he could get a lot out of me this week; that maybe he could help me and pump some confidence into me and get me playing well, and he did that.

You see, we give the gift of encouragement by what we do, not just by what we say, although they can go hand in hand.

Michelle Williams, the actress who plays Marilyn Monroe in the new film, “My Week with Marilyn,” was asked by the Today Show’s, Ann Curry where she got the courage to take on such a daunting role.

…in the beginning I just tried to ignore the risk because I thought if I really contemplated it, it would only stand in my way. 

You could say she wagered her self-confidence on her ability to succeed in that role. But Michelle revealed something else in an earlier interview with Mo Rocca on CBS’s Sunday Morning:

A lot of the time I feel like– I feel like I’m living hand to mouth on people’s compliments. I don’t ask anybody, like, ‘What did you think of that scene?’ or, ‘How did it go?’ or blah, blah, blah, because I get addicted to positive affirmation… There’s just so much uncertainty when you’re making your work, doing your job….

In all, we need credible compliments that encourage us, people to stand by us when we struggle, and the insights of others to help erase our doubt and replace it with optimism.

Give generously 

Encouragement builds on itself. The more we give, the more we attract. We need to make giving it a habit, our way to lift others up. In the process we’ll see our own situations in a brighter light. Please encourage generously.

Photo from lie_inourgraves via Flickr

5 Steps to Survive Turmoil at Work | Dealing with Crisis

It’s unavoidable. In life and at work, big things will go wrong with us right in the middle: 

  • Systems fail
  • Employees rebel
  • Facilities get destroyed
  • Serious accidents happen
  • Stock prices plummet

The closer we are to the center of the crisis event, the more it throws our jobs into turmoil, turning our routines upside down and challenging us to act.

Stress levels rise 

Every crisis is stressful. Often we don’t recognize that stress and its compounding effect on us until we’ve been in the thick of things for a while.

A crisis can overcome us with relentless problem-solving demands. We’re called upon to deal with what’s in front of us while trying to anticipate what’s coming.

If we can’t see or anticipate the end of the crisis, its weight gets heavier.

The disruption a crisis causes grabs hold of us when:

  • Work routines are thrown into chaos
  • Resources and facilities we rely on are unavailable or unreliable
  • Direction is slow in coming or non-existent as the leadership engages emergency plans (if they exist) or grapples with the unanticipated
  • Employees become upset, confused or unable to function effectively
  • People race to fix what they can, sometimes with direction and sometimes without.

Turmoil isn’t pretty, although many covet a good crisis every now and then to get their juices flowing. Truth is, the crisis we get may not be one we’re suited for. 

Crisis as teacher 

On October 29, 2011, an un-seasonal snowstorm dumped massive amounts of wet snow throughout the region where I live, including eleven inches at my farm. The trees were still leaf-covered, so the snow’s weight tore off limbs which dragged down power lines. I was out of power for five days—no water, no heat, and no cooking.

I work for myself. So no power meant the loss of my business infrastructure, particularly access to client information and the ability to create work product without internet access. (Fortunately, I still had phone service.) No power also meant I had to change my work routine and live uncomfortably.

This experience made it clear that, whether it’s a personal or workplace crisis, there are five basic steps for managing it:

  1. Take charge—There’s always something we need to do. We have work that’s ours, so we need to figure out a work-around, right away. (I needed water for myself and my animals, so I needed to haul it out of the creek.)
  2. Team up—Others will likely be affected by the crisis, so we need to connect with them pronto, figure out the resources and capabilities of each, and organize. (My neighbor had a big gas grill and I had defrosted meat. Voila, a hot meal.)
  3. Ask for/accept help—If people have help to give, let them. (I’m lousy at this, too stoic for my own good. Several friends got my attention on this, so I’ll try to do better. I eventually asked a friend with power if I could take a shower at her place. Heaven!)
  4. Reset expectations—A crisis puts us off our game, so we need to recalibrate what’s realistic for our performance and work accordingly. (I could still coach clients over the phone, but I couldn’t send email follow ups until the power came back. My work day was shortened because darkness and cold caused me to hunker down, so I caught up on my professional reading–by lantern light.)
  5. Be patient—Every crisis comes to an end eventually, although we may not know when or what our post-crisis life will be like. It’s important to take one day at a time and remember that the crisis, very likely, isn’t just about you. (I accepted new, necessary time-consuming routines like heating water over the fire pit, using creek water for flushing and washing, and taking advantage of daylight.)

 Be grateful 

A crisis is an experience that gives you a chance to step up. When the smoke clears, people will remember how you handled the situation. It’s important to express gratitude for what you were spared and for the opportunity to contribute to the recovery, no matter how large or small your contribution. Good luck!

Photo from Aleksi Aaltonen via Flickr



Success: The Prize for Conquered Fears | Watching LeBron James

Hoopla always masks the grind. No matter what career we’re in, we need to accumulate the right balance of knowledge, skill, and experience to position ourselves to succeed.                                                            

Success, in its own way, is a fight for something we desire. We want to outdo so we aren’t outdone. There are standards to be met or, better yet, exceeded. Some days we know we’re making the grade and others when we’re not sure. 

Intellectually, we know we “have it” to succeed, until, of course, the demon of self-doubt and fear of failure sabotage our thinking. 

Mastering the skills and knowledge of the job isn’t the issue. Overcoming our internal fears of failure are the dragons to be slain. 

The bigger they are…. 

The more dramatic the fall. You don’t have to know anything about professional basketball to understand the performance questions and criticism that will dog LeBron James of the Miami Heat for months to come. 

Think of LeBron like any “golden boy/girl” where you work. He comes to the job with a string of high school court achievements a mile long. He’s already a highly visible, celebrity before he starts work, with a lucrative Nike contract in hand. 

He first played for the Cleveland Cavaliers where he greatly improved the team’s record.  When he didn’t think the Cav’s organization would get him to his ultimate career goal, an NBA Championship, he left to join the Heat, a team which had signed two other superstars, increasing his chances for a Championship ring.     

As a career management strategy, moving to a better “staffed” organization with a stronger brand made very good sense to LeBron. Wouldn’t most of us do that if given the chance?   

However, LeBron didn’t just make a career move; he created a tsunami of criticism and expectations by what he did and said. He made promises, both implied and stated, that he could deliver multiple Championships to Miami, even though he had no prior track record for that kind of success. 

Knowing what we know now, all of LeBron’s hyped up declarations ultimately seem to have stoked, unconsciously I suspect, his own inner fears about his ability to deliver. Arrogance can do that and we’re not immune. 

And so it goes 

LeBron and the Heat got to the NBA Championships this year. But they didn’t win. 

LeBron’s fourth quarter scoring was pitiful, averaging fewer than three points in each of the first five games. It didn’t matter how many points he scored in the first three quarters. It’s the fourth quarter that matters when you’re a superstar. 

Commentators were all over LeBron saying, “He disappeared in the 4th quarter” and “He seems to check out when everything’s on the line.” 

There were plenty of armchair psychologists examining LeBron’s performance. They talked about how he evidenced a loss of confidence, insufficient aggressiveness, and confusion about how to handle the defense. Stress can awaken even our deeply buried fears. 

At an interview during the playoffs, a commentator asked LeBron, “What are you most afraid of in life.” His answer was, “Not being able to succeed.” 

What we’re really made of is tested when the heat’s on. That’s when our mental toughness is called on to silence the fear noise in our heads. 

Royce Jeffrey writes in the “Bleacher Report:”

“LeBron is tragic in that he clearly has issues with ego, anxiety and failure.  All of this weakness encapsulated in a frame of magnitude and muscle reminds us all that real strength comes from within.”

 A word from the wise

Royce Jeffrey shares this quote by Robert Schuller,

 “Nobody who tries to do something great but fails is a total failure.  Why?  Because he can always rest assured that he succeeded in life’s most important battle—he defeated the fear of trying.”

Our success, yours and mine, is the outcome of conquering obstacles. Humility is our best companion. And overcoming fear of both success and failure is our greatest challenge. LeBron will conquer his in time. Let’s do the same.

Photo from Keith Allison via Flickr