Welcome to Change

March 16, 2010

I just spoke with a client who works for a real estate investment group as its business developer and legal counsel. With this sector’s slow recovery, he’s feeling displaced, nervous and desperate to find financial stability. At 45 with 4 children from 3 to 13, he needs to be in the prime of his earning potential. Yet, he feels like he’s got little to show for over 20 years of impressive work.

Unfortunately he’s in great company, as a vast majority of candidates we speak with are in the same position or feel anxiety about their stability. In an economy that’s shifting faster than we realize, we’re all playing musical chairs. Unless we get moving, find clarity on what we’ve accomplished and what it all means to someone who’d hire us, we will be left standing when the music stops.

Relief came as he reflected on his experience and realized that he’s “in the business of earning sizable revenue from untapped sectors of the real estate market”. Suddenly his anxiety turned to excitement and darkness turned to light. He discovered his WOW and can now articulate it to people he networks with and to potential hiring managers.

Now he has an unfair advantage in the game of musical chairs because he can better align himself to the music of the market and use his speed and agility to find his well deserved spot.

Read more tips & strategies on this and other topics  from the Get What You Set web site.

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Is Your Resume a Silent Career Killer?

March 9, 2010

Spend a few moments taking the following vital signs on your resume:

No response: Does your resume go unanswered when you respond to ads?

Experience: Does it list the functions you performed in your jobs, such as “responsible for …”?

Personality traits: Does it include phrases such as “team player”, “detail oriented” and “effective communicator”?

Aspiration: Does it leave out the specific role you are seeking and how you are positioned to make a meaningful and relevant difference to a prospective employer?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then your resume is in need of an overhaul. To get it on a healthy track and captivate the reader’s imagination, make sure your resume communicates

  • The measurable results you achieved by performing your day-to-day functions (or from special projects), and how they impacted various stakeholders and/or the bottom line.
  • How your personality traits helped fuel your results (the phrases alone are just generic and used by everyone).
  • Your interest in assuming a specific role and your ability to deliver value that goes beyond the scope of management’s expectations.
  • An expression of your work ethic, such as how your competitive intensity, disciplined and focused approach, or extraordinary commitment to getting things done was manifested.

Taking the time to invest in the health and vitality of your resume will surely yield better results.

Read more tips on Resume and Pitch Strategies and other topics  on the Get What You Set web site.


The Art of Self-Promotion

March 2, 2010

Everyone is repulsed by braggarts – people who are shameless self promoters.

The truth is that (thankfully) these people rarely exist in the job search and career transition arena, as I can’t remember the last time I spoke with a candidate whom I felt was arrogant. Sure, people say off-color things when the stakes are high in an interview. But this doesn’t mean they are bragging. Typically, they are nervous and get caught in an awkward moment.

Here’s the formula for broadcasting your skills without being viewed as bragging. Write down and rehearse the 4-5 points that distinguish you from your peers. In other words, what home-runs have you delivered that demonstrate why you are such a strong candidate for a job. Know your messages cold so that in the heat of the moment, they are ready to be launched without a moment of consideration.

Don’t be afraid to speak matter-of-factly about your specific achievements. For example:

  • Exceeded management’s expectations by deploying a restructuring initiative that achieved…
  • Helped position my previous employer to be more market competitive and provide value-added service to its clients by…
  • Received multiple awards for generating year-over-year improvements to…
  • Worked with world-class experts in “x’, which provided me with a unique perspective to…

Be proud of who you are and what you have done and deliver your accomplishments in a direct, professional and measured way. Every action creates a reaction, and your role in selling yourself is to activate job opportunities, promotions or advancements. You’ll know if you did this well when a faint smile appears on the listeners face or you sense some other visceral reaction that captures their interest.

Read more tips & strategies on this and other topics  from the Get What You Set web site.


Don’t Stand in the Shadows of Modesty

February 23, 2010

I recently received a resume from a credit executive whose summary said the following:

Highly skilled, customer-focused Financial Professional with extensive experience in Risk Management and Corporate Banking. Primary skills include portfolio management and transaction origination and execution for large cap global and mid cap corporate clients. Excellent track record of partnering with clients and senior management to develop and implement complex solutions to customer or internal needs. Expertise in financial analysis, risk assessment and mitigation, structuring and documentation negotiation. Strong team player with diverse background that includes the management of diverse portfolios and the implementation of various corporate finance products in multiple geographies.

Let’s examine some of his phrases, which, by the way, I see ALL the time:

“Highly skilled” – duh, I assume this.

“Customer-focused” – would he be in this business if he was not focused on customers?

Where in this summary does he sell me on his professional value; i.e. what is he positioned to CONTRIBUTE to a future employer? Everything presented here are the generic functions that he’s performed over his extensive career. Yet, I have no idea if/when he has been the fuel that propelled a business. And, since he’s a credit executive, what has he done to mitigate risk and add measurable value to key stakeholders?

It would have been more compelling if he said something like this:

Globally astute credit executive whose career has spanned Big 4 auditing, to raising a global lender’s leadership profile, and harvesting opportunities beyond the risk associated with complex loan transactions for one of the world’s top finance companies. Recognized for finding novel business solutions that accelerate transactions while mitigating risk and enabling record levels of revenue growth to be actualized. Positioned to leverage 20 years experience structuring, marketing and protecting the assets that keep companies in business.

By formulating a message that shines a light on your accomplishments you can step out of the shadows that otherwise dim your value.

Read more tips on Resume and Pitch Strategies and other topics  on the Get What You Set web site.


Under-deliver by a Yard or Over-deliver by a Mile

February 16, 2010

“Increased sales by 10%”.  I often see statements like this on resumes and it drives me crazy.  How and why is this achievement relevant? Sure, any discerning employer wants to see sales growth, but 10% of what? If sales went from $100,000 to $110,000 and the goal was to double revenue for a specific product line, you can see why the lack of information begs the question — was this enough and against what objective?

Similarly, I often see statements like, “Increased revenue by $50,000”. Again, what was the goal or benchmark?  How do I know if this is a significant achievement? This is why it’s critical to qualify and quantify your accomplishments. Anything short of this will make your “results” seem as if you really under-delivered by a yard.

To over-deliver by a mile you need to unambiguously demonstrate the measurable impact you had upon the company or a specific initiative. Management is always looking for results that can be quantified and qualified. Since this seems to be missing from so many resumes, those that follow this rule will certainly gain credibility and attention.

Read more tips on Resume and Pitch Strategies and other topics  on the Get What You Set web site.


Where’s the ROI on My College Education?

February 9, 2010

News alert. A senior who’s graduating from an Ivy League undergraduate business school just reported to me that unless you’re in the top 10% of the class (as measured by GPA), the pedigree finance firms will not grant you an interview.

So after spending well over $150,000 on her education, and even earning very respectable grades, she’s left to her own devices to find a meaningful job.  What about the school’s Career Services office?  In her words: “Frustrating. I hardly got any personal attention, and was given boilerplate information.  So now I’ll sound just like everyone else out there.”

When I asked her where she wanted to work, she mentioned the top finance firms.  However, she wasn’t granted an interview with any of them through Career Services. I saw on her resume that she didn’t have an objective, as she was instructed not to write one because it was assumed that she was seeking a first year analyst position (ugh, another story).

As I read further, I saw that she was bi-lingual and lived in South America. When asked if she would, by chance, have an interest in Latin American finance, she piped up and exclaimed, “that’s exactly what I want”. Then I asked her why she didn’t express this aspiration on her resume, as it was clear that she had passion for the subject, an on-the-ground understanding of the culture and language, and, duh, a pedigree education. She looked at me and said, “how would I say it?” On one foot, I asked her if this sounded ok:

Seeking an analyst role in Latin American finance to leverage a bi-cultural point of view along with a pedigree finance education. Aspire to provide the analytical scaffolding to actualize opportunities in emerging markets in South America, especially at the intersection where cross border deals meets wise investment decisions.

Her eyes nearly popped out of her head and I sensed a huge weight lifted from her shoulders. “That’s it”, she said, “maybe I should use an objective statement after all, but how do I find such an opportunity?”

That’s the beauty of having clarity.  Once you identify your gifts and you can see how to apply them, the rest is tactical. If she breaks down the financial universe and pinpoints the firms and the executives that concentrate on the specific investments that interest her, then the world starts to shrink. With much less work than it would take to chase opportunities that aren’t ideal for her, she can assemble a customized list of the players in this sector. Then, her go-to-market plan is to sell her passion, education and skills that will surely exceed expectations.

With the right message targeted at the right decision makers, success can be closer than you think. Thus, clarity on your value offering, along with a dose of confidence and tactics, will yield a return on investment that will pay long term dividends.

Read more tips & strategies on this and other topics  from the Get What You Set web site.


Beyond Keywords

February 4, 2010

All resumes have keywords.  Sure you can use them, but by and large this is not the way to be discovered on the internet job boards.  What’s missing is key accomplishments.

I recently received a resume from a financial analyst that was so dry and insipid that it was like eating 2 week old white bread.  It had all the requisite keywords such as budgeting, forecasting and planning, and it is clear that for the past 3 years he performed these three critical functions in his previous job.

But why is this so tasteless?  Because that’s all it said; and that’s all most resumes say. When I asked this person what made him so good at what he did, he “drew a blank”.  After rephrasing my questions, he finally responded when I asked him to describe his “winning homerun story”.  It turns out that he uncovered a huge financial discrepancy that would have put his company at risk.  With more probing, he said that the team was understaffed and he proactively assumed the extra work load for three months.  In that period he found ways to streamline their systems by deploying a certain technology.

In the end he saved the company the equivalent of a $90,000 salary.  Moreover, his innovations positively impacted other support teams who were able to receive information faster.  This took 45 minutes and we only discussed the homeruns at his most recent job.  More importantly, his whole energy level changed when he was able to confidently express the transformative value that he has delivered.

Having the right keywords will probably get your resume through the first line of computerized screening.  But getting the attention of the humans who screen at the next level requires a more thorough demonstration of how you – and more specifically, your accomplishments – are relevant for a prospective employer.

Read more tips on Resume and Pitch Strategies on the Get What You Set web site.