What Your Resume Really Says About You

DSC_3300What does your resume say about you? Go ahead. Take a quick peek.

Would you give yourself a first impression rose or send yourself off to obscurity in a sleek limo with a box of tissues and an intrusive cameraman?

If the stretch wins out, then it might be helpful to analyze why so you can move forward with the necessary revisions, land a gig on Dancing with the Stars, make millions and live happily ever after or at least until the next big thing happens in your life.

In the process of such scrutiny, you might be surprised to learn that the real revisions need to take place in your mind first before you ever make a change on the resume itself.

For example, let’s pretend that the most recent work narrative on your chronological resume runs over half a page. It details every little thing you did, sometimes twice. You clearly worked very hard to make your case for how fabulous you were on the job.

There are a several potential problems here, some of a technical nature and others of a potential mental or emotional variety.

Technically speaking, size matters. Your resume isn’t supposed to be novella length.  If the rest of the resume follows the same pattern, you could be in trouble. Generally speaking, two pages is enough. Bonus points to you if the sections of your resume are aesthetically balanced and contain information relevant to the job you seek.

Specificity is another issue here. Unless you are applying for a federal job, you don’t need to state that you breathe in and out through your nose. The painfully obvious is, well, obvious enough.

Lack of clarity could be the culprit. You just may not be clear on what is important to be mentioned here. Re-examine the qualifications for the job you seek and try to connect the dots between what you’ve done to isolate the relevant skill set.

The underlying problem with this situation could have deeper roots, too.  Don’t rule out the possibility that you have unresolved issues connected to that particular job.

You can’t concisely express your experience and accomplishments for that job because you are still conflicted over them. You overwrite the narrative because in your mind you are defending how you did your job. Maybe you left that job under duress and you haven’t come to terms with the situation in your mind or in your heart.

That kind of conflict can and does often reflect on your resume in subtle ways. The details may not be clear to the reader, of course, unless he is a psychic but the verbosity and inability to communicate the relevant points can indicate an issue of sorts.

What do we do when the problem with our resume is ourself?

[Start background track of Disney hit, “Let It Go”. Pause a moment for full effect.]

Time to go all Elsa on the situation and just let it go. To do that, you may have to revisit the finer points of that job. Can you change anything about it to make yourself feel better here? Do you need to right some perceived wrong or at least make an attempt to do so?

If you can change whatever ails you on some level, do it. If you can’t, figure out a way to accept it. Learn from it and move on.

Once that bigger issue is addressed, you can easily revise the resume.

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Professional Growth & Development

I wanted a new camera.

After pouring over way too many consumer reviews, I decided that a Nikon D5300 was what I should get. It was reasonably priced and had more than the basics of other models. It would challenge me to learn more without totally intimidating me.

As luck would have it, it was my birthday and Sugar Daddy wanted to get me something. Off we went to the camera store…he in search of last minute gift and me fully taking advantage of the procrastinated situation.

As fate would have it, that particular model, however, was out of stock. And it was my birthday. Time was clearly of the essence so Sugar Daddy shelled out way more than I wanted him to and he bought the echelons above model, Nikon D7100 instead.

Happy birthday to me…

This was a total score but I have to honest about my technical abilities here. I do well to find the on/off button of anything that requires batteries and chargers.

Still, I have a gnawing desire to go a step or two beyond the basic point and click. The multi-function menus, graphs and other computer like bells and whistles should excite me, but they don’t.

What does excite me, however, is the end product.

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Long shadows juxtaposed against light shining though a gothic stone window.

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An intense cerulean blue sky accented by a rococo rooftop.

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Everyday life on a busy canal.

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Mismatched pots of blooming flowers on the front steps of a mountain home in France.

In short, what I like most about photography happens when a picture stops being a picture and becomes a feeling instead. A memory. A thing to hold close if only for a moment.

My birthday was seven months ago. Sadly, I’ve yet to master anything beyond charging the battery, turning the camera on and using the automatic setting.

Occasionally I end up with a photo that works for me but not often. I suppose it would help if I took the camera out of the bag more often and turned it on.

As a career counselor, I have advised clients to assume full responsibility for their own professional development. I’ve preached from the top of my own smug soapbox that no one cares more about your own growth and development than you do.

Time to follow my own advice.

I would like to enhance my photographic skill set and know that I need to take the steps, however small and consistent, to make that happen.

And you? Are there any skills in your life just waiting to be mastered?

Take the camera out of the bag.

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Thoughts for Thursday…

IMG_5637 It’s a brand new day.

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You know who you really are inside.

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Life, however, has given you lemons and you hate lemonade.

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You feel like a zombie in search of brains.

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Never fear, though. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.

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Balance will ultimately return to you.

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It’s not just you against the world.

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Angels are watching over you from above.

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And before you know it, it will be five o’clock where you are, too.

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It’s All in the Details

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Flowers to mark the occasion.
A bottle of fine wine.
Dinner reservations at a favored restaurant.
A simple yet heart-felt card and a kiss.

For those of you who have not yet noted Cupid’s date on the calendar, it’s this Saturday, February 14th.

You’re welcome and don’t judge those who haven’t. It doesn’t necessarily mean that love is lacking. Common sense, on the other hand, may well be.

The truth is that we all, at one time or another, forget things. Maybe we forget the date on a calendar. Or we forget whether or not we were shot down in a helicopter in Iraq. Or maybe we just forget to spend precious time doing those things that bring us joy and enhance our own personal quality of life.

Some of us don’t forget but we try to cut corners. We only do those things we feel we should do for whatever reasons but we do them half-heartedly believing that some attention on those things is better than none at all.

I used to think that way, but now I’m not so sure.

The other day, in a fit of pre-Spring cleaning madness or utter boredom (I’m not sure which), I forced myself to open a closet door that held the promise of 1001 quilts. It was time to cull my collection of fabric and make a donation to the middle school’s consumer science class.

As I sorted though the piles of colors, textures and patterns, I discovered an Amish inspired quilt top that seemed to be ready for batting, backing and stitching.

How could I possibly have gotten that far in the process of creating something and not completed it? In my mind, I was already thinking of where I would hang it in the house and then I looked at the top more closely.

Something was off.

Sure, the bold black, blue and fuchsia colors were there, but the middle square, a total must have for this particular pattern, was completely missing.

I had rushed the process of creating something worthwhile, something that I had wanted to keep and treasure for years to come. I just didn’t pay attention to the details that mattered. I wanted to finish the top of the quilt so quickly, that I forgot a critical step.

The result was an Amish quilt gone wrong.

I think that’s how it is when someone forgets the flowers. The wine. The reservations. The card. The kiss. They mean well, but they just didn’t think it though. They didn’t focus enough attention on stuff that matters.

They end up experiencing a Valentine’s Day gone wrong.

There may be hope, however.

I’m starting to think that my inner-squareless quilt top might turn into the center square itself of an even bigger quilt. Call it a hail Mary, a near save or desperate attempt to right a totally unnecessary wrong.

Order the flowers.
Buy the wine.
Make the reservations.
Sign the card.
Kiss the one you love.

Then maybe, just maybe you won’t have to figure out how to make things right.

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Career Change 101

Businesswoman standing on a ladder looking through binocularsIf you wanted a new car, you’d plan for it.  If you wanted a new house, you’d plan for it.

If you want to change career directions, you should plan for it, too. In other words, don’t quit your day job just yet. Be a little methodical in your quest to move from what you’re doing now to what you want to be doing in the future.

Planning for a career change is stressful because  there is often so much uncertainty and stress in the mix. There are lots of questions and so few concrete answers. You have to start somewhere, right? A journey starts with a single step, or so I’ve heard.

So, what kind of questions should you be asking yourself? Surprisingly, they’re not all grounded in dollars but in sense. (Like what I did there? Coffee is my drug.) While your own personal situation may have its niche concerns, here are few basic questions to start you thinking:

  • Is the time in your life right to make the change? Listen to your gut here. You may want to change career fields, but is it a wise time to do so? Why or why not?
  • Who makes the short list of your potential future employers? You can always add to your target list but identify the big contenders first.
  • Where could your new job be, logistically speaking? Are you going to potentially need to budget gas money for a daily commute from hell or perhaps spring for a whole new ride?
  • Will you be earning as much or more than you do now? Less?
  • Will you be able to afford the neighborhood of your dreams or at least one you feel safe in? Will a move even be required?
  • How much will you have left over after paying your rent, mortgage or child’s college tuition bill? And yes, you need to eat.

Keep thinking about it. I’m sure you’ll come up with even more areas to fret over. Either in concert with your stress fest or afterwards, incorporate the following strategies into your career change planning process:

Consider the scenarios. Play the “what if…” game. Identify all the potential outcomes to various scenarios. By thinking through and planning for each possible contingency, you lessen the potential stress of it.

Stash your cash. You may not anticipate every associated expense that will be coming your way, but you can be certain they will come anyway. Be as prepared as you possibly can by saving routinely for it. Putting an allotment from your current paycheck on autopilot isn’t difficult and it’s true what they say. You won’t even notice it missing if you’re not seeing it in the first place.

Consider the fate of your benefits. What happens to your TSP or 401(k) when you leave your job, assuming you are lucky enough to have one? Do you have continued healthcare coverage for that time in-between employers when the need for medical care always seems to occur? Really? What about your life insurance policy? Does it end on your last day of work? Figure out the right questions to ask and then figure out the correct answers. Your benefits are just as important as cold, hard currency so include them in your transition planning and in your future negotiations for a new position.

Surround yourself with expertise. You don’t have to be a subject matter expert in money management or job search techniques. You will be a savvy soul, however, if you identify those who are and take advantage of their services. If you don’t want to lay out the bucks for financial or career counseling at this time, educate yourself. You’re teachable and there are ample free resources online and in your ever so old fashioned public library. Depending on who you are (yes, I’m talking to you college student or service member), you may even have access to real live experts free of charge in your college or university career center or your military family and transition centers.

Face your financial reality. If you don’t already have a feel for what goes in and what goes out of your wallet on a daily basis, get a grip on your cash flow. If committing to a budget seems like extreme accounting to you, then at least commit to tracking your income and expenses for one month. Develop a realistic snap shot so you can distinguish the necessities from the extras when and if the time comes to rein in the spending. Order that Starbucks pumpkin spice latte if it helps you deal with the process but just don’t forget to write down that cost, too.

Project the numbers. Search long and hard enough and you will eventually find that new job. Know the right questions to ask before actually accepting a job offer, however.

  • What kind of salary do you want to make? Need to make?
  • What is the going salary for someone with your amount of expertise in the geographical areas you are targeting? Don’t know? Research it.
  • What benefits are important to you and to your family?
  • Will you be able to negotiate some of the benefits in the process?
  • If you have to relocate for the job, who pays and what is covered?
  • What happens if the job goes away? Is there a severance package in the deal?

Look beyond the numbers. Scoring a higher salary in your next job is always a plus on one level. Make sure, however, it is a plus on other levels as well. Think long and hard about what you want in your next job and why you want it. Make sure this big move will be worth it on a quality of life level for yourself and your family members.

Life’s too short to hate your job, so don’t.

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Moving Past Procrastination

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You need to find a new job and it’s hard. I know. I feel you.

There are just so many other jobseekers out there with amazing skills and experiences. And then there’s you, who may be amazing in your own right, but still. So, instead of dedicating a specific amount of time each day to improving your lot in life, you don’t. You think about it, of course.  You tell yourself that the thinking of it somehow counts.

It doesn’t. Not really. You’re procrastinating, that’s all. Here are three things that will do for you:

1. It will prolong your professional stagnation. Nothing will change. You will stay in the same place you are now and life will go on all around you. Welcome to mediocrity.

2. It will bring you down. If you want to move on professionally and you don’t do anything to facilitate that change, you will be bummed. Being bummed has a negative effect on just about everything in your life. Think snowball effect here.

3. It will reinforce your impressive levels of inactivity and non-progress. Practice makes perfect, right?

Minimal procrastination, or planning disguised as such, isn’t all bad, of course. Sometimes it is just the universe buying us a bit of breathing space, giving us an opportunity to formulate a plan and act on it.

It’s when we get stuck in that warm comfort zone between planning and acting that everything just goes to hell, or worse, just goes nowhere.

To deal effectively with the procrastinator in you, consider implementing these strategies:

1.  Put your next steps down on paper, an iPad or scribble them on your arm. See it. Read it. Remember it. Do it.

2.  Focus your attention on a few tasks versus a hundred. Maybe you’re not getting anywhere because you have too many ideas floating around that over-achieving brain of yours. Ideas are good and you should write them down. After you do that, however, prioritize them. Focus on the top three. Accomplish them and then focus on the next three. Think assembly line.

3.  Bribe yourself. If you need to focus on a particular task, tell yourself that you will focus on it for 30 minutes and only 30 minutes. After that, the universe will free you and you can go and do something else way more fun.

 

 

 

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What Separates Us From the Zombies

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In our various worlds of work, we take time and lots of it.

We take the time to suffer through those never-ending staff meetings and  to work on painfully complicated projects with people we don’t always like.  We take the time to create intricate long-range plans in order to accomplish our company’s altruistic (ahem) goals.

Some of us spend an uncanny amount of minutes rearranging the items on our desks to create the perfect feng shui or perhaps just to procrastinate. Or maybe a little of both. Still others while away the minutes gossiping by the water cooler about who did what to whom and why in the name of perverse camaraderie, utter boredom or pure professional schizophrenia.

Some pass the time as posers, pretending to work while shopping for shoes, chatting with friends or bidding on items that have nothing whatsoever to do with our jobs.

Everyone is different. And of course, some of us have a higher work ethic than others. Regardless, there is one thing that we don’t always do when we should.

When people leave our organizations, we don’t always take the time to facilitate closure…theirs or our own.

We don’t always take the time to say goodbye, good luck and maybe even, under our breath, of course, an occasional good riddance you no good bastard.

We don’t always recognize the positive things that those leaving us have done. Maybe we never even noticed what those things were in the first place because we were so busy doing whatever it is that we tell ourselves we do for a living.

Make no mistake about it, closure is beautiful thing.

Remember that the next time you hear that someone (yet again!) is leaving your organization.  Whether the exiting party was much loved or loathed, go to the farewell luncheon. Shell out the fifteen bucks for a less than tasty lunch. Sign the card.  Suffer through the ever so predicable forced fun of it.

Let the guy leaving you have his moment to say goodbye and thank you to those around him. Take your moment to reciprocate this small yet so important professional decency.

Marking the end of one chapter signifies the beginning of another. It’s a healthy thing to do. After all, it’s what separates us from the zombies.

 

 

 

 

 

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