Friday, February 26, 2010

Speak Easy Note #22 - The Killer Resume

When I first earned my Masters Degree, I became a resume snob for a short period of time. After all, I thought, I have a Masters Degree in Counseling and I will help people with making critical life decisions about who they are and what they will do with their lives so that they can feel productive and contribute to the world. I will help them look at their internal barriers and emotional roadblocks. I will help them enhance how they see themselves and how they present themselves to others. Any business professional could help people write their resumes, I had decided. And then BAM! How wrong I was hit me quite soon after assuming this limited attitude about the process and value of helping someone write his or her resume! At that time, I was primarily working with women who had taken time out of the workforce to raise children, some of them for quite a number of years. It was astounding to see the transformation that took place for these women when I was able to help them craft resumes that took their lives and volunteer experiences and presented these in a professional and business-like manner. It also became very obvious that writing a resume is very connected to a person’s self-esteem and level of confidence. Writing a resume is putting oneself on a piece of paper. This is not an easy task for people to do. Even skilled writers have a great deal of difficulty writing resumes because of all that I have just described and because the writing itself is quite different from all other writing forms.

At some point down the road, as I honed my skills in fine-tuning people's resumes with them, my cousin and I sat down together to work on her resume.  She was a single mother then and had recently lost a husband and his considerable income; she needed to seek employment.  She began describing her experience and I thoughtfully began to work some magic in turning what she had done into significant professional business descriptions.  As I worked, she commented, "Oh I see.  What you do for a living is b--- s---!"  I continued working and without missing a beat, answered, "No! There's a very fine line between b--- s--- and what we're writing and we're NOT going to step over that line!"

So I came to love the work of crafting competitive and fine resumes for my clients. I came to appreciate the many levels of benefit a strong, well written resume could provide. I saw that resume writing incorporated my two top strengths: Wordsmithing and Counseling.

Since it’s always a good practice to keep your resume fine-tuned and up to date, I have decided to make resume writing the topic for this week’s blog. I encourage everyone to update your resume and/or create your latest bio. Even those readers who are retired or simply not working currently nor seeking employment, will benefit from making sure you have your updated profiles ready to give to those who ask you for these. Maybe you will be asked to speak before a group or participate on a panel on a topic you care about. Perhaps you will want to be a part of a task force. Maybe you will join an organization that asks you for your background. And even if you are someone who is happily ensconced in a job that you want to stay in, it is quite valuable to have an updated, highly marketable version of your resume ready for whatever unfolds.

I have decided to provide another TOP TEN list for this topic:



#10. A resume should be no more than TWO PAGES long - ever. Many people recommend a ONE-PAGE resume. If you use two pages for your resume, make sure to fill the second page so that it is at least 75% filled; otherwise condense to one page! If you use a two-page version of your resume, make sure your name and “Page 2” appear at the top of the second page. If the second page continues a section from the first page, create a heading or indication of what is being continued from first page. No matter what type of resume you’re writing, the first page must have a work chronology with dates included. It’s unnecessary and not recommended to include the months in the dates on a resume. Most students, younger less-experienced workers, and entry-level individuals usually would have a one-page resume.

#9. Remember the Three Cs of resume writing: Be CLEAR, CONSISTENT, and CONCISE.

#8. AVOID using HACKNEYED, weak, repetitive language such as “responsible for”, “served as”, “acted as”, “handled”, “assisted", “helped”, “performed”. Make sure the language on your resume feels authentic and comfortable for you. You must be prepared to discuss everything on your resume!

#7. When writing the work history sections of your resume, always start with the most recent experience and work backwards in REVERSE CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER.

#6. Use STRONG ACTION VERBS whenever possible to describe your experiences. Resumes require telegraphed language and should never have complete sentences on them. Avoid using “a”, “an” and “the” on your resume. Also avoid “I”, “me” and “my” on your resume. Resumes are actually written in the third person and are about a person rather than written in the first person where I talk about me.

#5. Whenever possible, demonstrate and illustrate your experience with ACTUAL EXAMPLES. Throughout your resume, make sure you have illustrated the strengths and focus you have laid out in the beginning/focus resume sections. De-emphasize or omit unimportant and irrelevant information.

#4. Make sure your career goal is about the VALUE you will ADD rather than about what you want to gain from your employer. Quantify and show actual RESULTS and SOLUTIONS whenever possible.

#3. Your resume must reflect FOCUS. It is okay to omit having an Objective to start your resume. It is not okay for your resume to be without focus. There are many ways to ensure that the focus is strong, including the use of opening sections like the following: Areas of Career Interest, Professional Expertise, Strengths, Selected Achievements, Industry Experience, etc.

#2. The average amount of time spent on the first reading of a resume is only 17 seconds! Make sure the key pieces of information on your resume POP off the page.

#1. A resume is a MARKETING document. Its goal is to demonstrate your key selling points and marketability as an employee and strong contributor to a work environment. Select everything you put on your resume with that in mind rather than include everything you have ever done.

There are many ways to write a strong resume. If you could find the top ten RESUME CONSULTANTS in the entire country to advise you on your resume, they would all tell you something slightly different and for sure, you would end up with ten different versions of your resume from working with each of them.

Once again, I have written about a topic that is not in “SPEAK EASY – The Communication Guide for Career and Life Success” available for purchase through Word Craft Press. Of course, having your resume updated goes hand in glove with Chapter 9 on networking featured in last week's blog posting as well as Chapter 10, WORKING IT AT WORK which may be a good topic for next week’s blog. Tune in to find out …

Until then,
The Wordsmith

Friday, February 19, 2010

Speak Easy Note #21 - Reaching Out

  • Recently, I was searching for some needed information in my old “sent” email list and saw a name of a business colleague whom I haven’t been in touch with for a couple of years. I decided to reach out and say hello to reconnect. The email response I got back said, “It is amazing that you contacted me at this moment because I had just been thinking of you; someone has just asked me to recommend a good communication coach.”

  • I set up a meeting last week with a former co-worker I hadn’t seen for ages. In this meeting we talked about an old colleague that we both liked and respected tremendously. This person we discussed was a favorite executive I hadn’t thought of or spoken to for many years. The coworker was able to provide me with the email address for this dear friend and I am so pleased to be able to reach out to a key person in my professional history that had somehow completely slipped off of my radar screen.

  • In two weeks, a friend I grew up with in Virginia, now living in North Carolina, has invited me to a Sunday brunch gathering of eight women who grew up in my home town and who all went to some portion of school together growing up. One of these women was in my first grade class with me and attended the same schools as I did from kindergarten through our senior year in high school. Some of these women are an actively important part of my life today and are truly like sisters to me. Some of these women I haven’t seen in many years. One of these women was a good friend in elementary school and lived on the same block as I did and I have not seen her since sixth grade.

  • Several years ago, I was in California, sitting alone having dinner and reading outside at a restaurant in Old Pasadena. A lovely young woman at a table along side of mine noticed my book and started a conversation with me about it. We became quickly aware of the passion we share for reading and by the end of dinner, we had exchanged business cards and have been connected from East to West coast ever since. At one point we talked about starting a virtual book club and decided that the formal structure and the obligation to select, read and discuss specific books would not be for us. We’ve ended up sharing our lives, our favorite recipes, photos of our families and most importantly the books we are currently reading and love ever since.
As they say, it really isn’t what you know; it’s always WHO you know, that makes a difference in this world, in this life. And so, it’s always important and beneficial to reach out to people. This applies to every facet of personal and professional endeavors. In particular, in this very difficult economy and job market, with the highest numbers of unemployed workers that most of us have ever experienced, the most highly valued activity we can incorporate into our lives is to reach out to those we know and to expand the quantity and quality of our relationships. The success and satisfaction of our lives will be directly proportioned to the quality of the relationships we create and nourish.

In “SPEAK EASY, The Communication Guide for Career and Life Success” available for purchase through Word Craft Press, I cover a wide range of key elements for successful networking. Instead of including excerpts from this chapter, I have decided to provide the summary and review section found at the end of Chapter 9:

Speak Easy Rules
Review and Summary
Chapter 9 - Expanding Your “Who You Know” Quotient

- See NETWORKING as research and relationship building.
- Include solutions when discussing your challenges.
- Believe you have or can access the right contacts.
- Share what you know when asking important questions.
- View NETWORKING as more than spreading your name.

I encourage you to read this chapter in SPEAK EASY so you can elevate and enhance the way you reach out and build relationships.

Until next time,
The Wordsmith

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Speak Easy Note #20 - Top Ten Reminders for Business Email

There is nothing about email in my book SPEAK EASY, The Communication Guide for Career and Life Success because email is about written communication and SPEAK EASY is only about spoken communication. Someone has suggested that I write a book on written communication and call it WRITE ON. It is certainly something to consider doing since a grand portion of the coaching I do is about written communication. People ask me to provide guidelines for email in the work setting all the time and so I have decided to create the TOP TEN EMAIL RULES AT WORK.

#10. Start your email with the person’s name followed by a comma. “Dear” is not necessary. End all of your emails with a closure. It can be simply your name or just your initial(s) or it can be something like “Regards,” followed by your name. Just make sure you’ve indicated an end to your email.

#9. Keep your emails as courteous, concise and focused as possible. Make sure you include personal concern and brief friendly content in your email communications just as you would if you were speaking directly to a business associate, colleague or client. Respond to email promptly.

#8. Keep your business email professional. Use complete sentences, correct spelling and proper language for business email. Avoid using your business email to receive or distribute dirty jokes or X-rated photos. Once you hit “send” your email is out there and can come back to haunt you at a later time.

#7. People often attribute tone and attitude to email communications that are unintended. Monitor your email carefully and communicate directly with people to avoid the possibility of misinterpretation.

#6. Make sure that you’re not using email to avoid a face-to-face or direct communication with someone. Conflict avoidance often escalates a situation or can bite you on the backside down the road.

#5. Remember that anything you send via email can be forwarded to others without your control. Ask yourself before you send it if you’re comfortable with the potential of your email being forwarded.

#4. Be highly selective when choosing to copy others on a business email. When appropriate, use the blind cc feature to protect people’s privacy and to avoid exposing people’s email addresses when you are sending email to multiple recipients. If you’re sharing the contributions of others or helping others to get recognition, copying key people is a positive action. It’s bad practice to use email to expose someone who has made a mistake, whom you don’t like, or who you think is stupid.

#3. Use email when you need to communicate written dated proof of factual information; otherwise communicate all other necessary negative feedback or views through personal verbal spoken communication.

#2. Never send email in the middle of an emotional reaction. Give yourself at least overnight to calm down before firing off an email response about something or someone that has upset you.

#1. The company you work for owns your email account and all of its contents. Make sure you’re aware of this and that everything you send and receive through your work email account would be appropriate for your boss to read.

Until next time,
The Wordsmith