Applying Sunshine & Oxygen on Career Change

January 26, 2010

If you want to change your career, you’re in great company as most people make 5-8 significant job/career changes in their working life.  Change is hard, especially when you’re transitioning into another career.  How do you compete with professionals already entrenched in their area of expertise when you’re looking to break into the field?

Ponder this.  If you can convince an employer that your skills, experience, market exposure and personal attributes will more than compensate for lack of specific industry expertise, then you have a better chance of out-selling a seasoned veteran.  Let’s explore something as nebulous as work ethic.  I’d rather hire someone who pours everything they have into everything they do than a tired “expert”.

Having a strong work ethic is a very attractive attribute.  But it’s not enough to say just that because everyone uses this generic term.  What’s more impressive and meaningful is if you can communicate what’s so special about your work ethic and how it manifests in the workplace.  For example, sell an employer on how you have:

  • Rapidly ramped up to speed on various projects
  • Brought a relentless focus and passion to your work
  • Rebounded from failures
  • Hurdled over otherwise immovable obstacles
  • Stepped out of your comfort zone

In thinking about the value of work ethic, consider this metaphor.  Every large tree has expansive roots that spread out far beneath the surface.  These roots are your attributes that stabilize and nourish your professional essence.  And it is this essence that carries the load, withstands the winds of change and enables you to branch out far beyond your wildest expectations.

The reality in the business world is that here are too few superstars and far too many mediocre employees.  That’s why when someone comes around with a “let’s get-it-done” work ethic, they bring the sunshine and oxygen that companies are so desperate for.

Read more tips & strategies on Career Transitions on the Get What You Set web site.

Magnetize Your Summary & Pitch

December 15, 2009

As a recruiter I often get very frustrated reading resumes.  This is the summary statement on one that I received from a sales person who I have known for nearly a decade.

To leverage my 15 years of award winning successes as a hunter /developer in the finance industry to a firm who desires a professional with strong ethical business acumen to add maximum value to an increased bottom line.

Why would anyone go out of their way to say that they have “strong ethical business acumen”?  If she didn’t say this, am I to assume that she would have weak, unethical stupidity?  This statement is absurd and meaningless.

If she’s an award winning professional, why doesn’t she tell me about the assets she has used to earn those rewards, such as:

  • Her “golden rolodex” and her ability to dial-up key decision makers and influencers who are open to a new company’s solutions
  • How she has actualized her talent for adding value while driving record profitability
  • Her knowledge of unmet market opportunities

She further states that she can “add maximum value to an increased bottom line”.  How can I believe that this is a credible statement if she doesn’t explain how she maximizes value and increases the bottom line?  Hiring managers want to hear specific accomplishments and deliverables that position you to enrich their enterprise. They want to know that you can solve the problems that keep them up at night.

Otherwise, they’re reading generic words on generic paper and will never find you in their stack of resumes.

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

Sum Gain Interviewing

December 8, 2009

I recently interviewed a promising candidate who had the goods: a pedigree education, an impressive track record in sales and an articulate and engaging manner.  What broke down was his hubris.  When asked about his professional and interpersonal challenges, he flatly said that he was at a loss to think of one.  Well, I have yet to find the “perfect” person and I’m sure he wasn’t one.  I then took a very direct approach and informed him that his attitude would not fly with hiring managers.

Many candidates have exceptional abilities and strengths.  But, when hiring managers are looking for a true self-assessment from you, they want honest and forthright answers.  Anything less won’t be believed.

Imagine you’re baking a cake and you inadvertently add a pinch of salt to a large batter of ingredients.  It will hardly be detectable and the end product will be no worse off.  Even if the salt slightly altered the taste, the good flavors would overshadow the bad.

Similarly, the sum gain strategy works in interviewing.  It’s acceptable to describe your challenges or weaknesses.  But just don’t leave it there.  Complete your thought with a description of your strengths that are relevant to the position for which you are applying.  People generally remember the last thing you say.  Thus, whatever weakness you have should ultimately pale in comparison to what you really bring to the table.

So this candidate could have said, “Well, I’m challenged with getting my sales reports in on time, but I’m especially adept at developing relationships that go far beyond the value of the transactions.”

Being refreshingly clean and crisp about both your strengths and challenges will always work to your advantage.

Read more tips and strategies on Interviewing on the Get What You Set web site.

If a Resume Could Speak

December 2, 2009

I received a resume from the Senior Vice President of Commercial Banking for one of the largest global banks.  Here’s how it began:


Highly motivated and experienced credit and lending professional possessing strong analytical and communication skills.  Extensive knowledge of analyzing and structuring syndicated loans and other forms of financings for large-cap and mid-cap clients.  Based on professional and academic accomplishments am well suited to analyze, evaluate and approve transactions to be included in loan or investment portfolios.

Let’s dissect what she wrote and see how effective it is in capturing my attention:

Highly motivated (WELL I SHOULD HOPE SO) and experienced credit and lending professional possessing strong analytical and communication skills (HOW ELSE WOULD YOU HAVE BECOME THE SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT?).  Extensive knowledge of analyzing and structuring syndicated loans and other forms of financings for large-cap and mid-cap clients (SO WHAT, IT’S A JOB FUNCTION. HOW WELL DID YOU DO IT, AND WITH WHAT IMPACT?).  Based on professional and academic accomplishments am well suited to analyze, evaluate and approve transactions to be included in loan or investment portfolios. (THAT’S WHAT YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO DO, SO WHAT MAKES YOU SO SPECIAL?)

Everyday my firm receives scores of underwhelming resumes.  If this resume could speak, it might as well say: “I’m ok at what I do and I’m not really special.  In fact, if I have made a difference to the firms that I have worked for, I’m either not especially proud of it, or there’s not much to share.  “You know, I just do what I’m supposed to do and that’s why they pay me, and I can do the same for you. “

What if she talked about:

  • Her aspirations to direct the northeast region for a major commercial bank having been groomed for such a role over the past 10 years
  • How she “partnered with various stakeholders to drive record levels of high quality loans, while instilling a risk culture that kept the firm in safer harbors to weather the current economic disruptions”
  • Her impressive career trajectory and how she “works to the pace of a fast beating drum by being the youngest executive in the region to reach the executive ranks”
  • How she has consistently earned the confidence of senior management through her leadership that awakened dormant creativity and enthusiasm amongst her staff

By celebrating her unique accomplishments, she gives her resume a compelling voice that would grab a hiring manager’s attention.

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

Lost in the Elevator

November 24, 2009

I was recently introduced to an unemployed 50 year old finance executive.  We just happened to be entering the elevator together at the same time as a key investor in a major hedge fund. While we descended to the lobby, I introduced them.  The investor asked the unemployed exec what he did for a living and his response was: I’m unemployed and I’m looking for a finance position.  Then there was dead silence for another 12 floors.  A moment later we were in the lobby and I took the exec aside and I said, “Do you realize that you blew your elevator pitch”?

I invited the exec to my office and asked him what he would have said if he were better prepared.  He simply couldn’t come up with a memorable sound bite.  He sounded tongue tied and anxious.

It’s very difficult to keep your spirits and head up high when you’ve been unemployed for 7 months and you’re in financial stress. I’m sympathetic to his position and see this every day.  The older we get the harder it becomes to succinctly summarize what we do, how well we do it and what it means to an employer.  It’s almost as if we have a very thick crust that’s been building over time and keeps our professional value from coming through.

I suggested that he could have said the following:

  • I’m in transition and I’m looking to leverage a reputation as an investment banker who has a knack for connecting people to opportunities and money in the high tech sector.
  • Would you have any interest in hearing more about what I’ve done to enhance the fortunes of companies?  Perhaps you can recommend some people I could network with?

The exec looked at me and said, “I got it.”

Here’s the lesson.  Have your message prepared.  It should be a powerful statement of who you are and what you bring to the table.  It should also include an “action item” for what you want to achieve with that person.  Then, you must practice and commit it to memory so it can be called upon as soon as any “door” opens.  Otherwise it can get lost in the elevator.

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

Great Resumes 101

November 17, 2009

ABC_Blocks_“No one responds to my resume”.  It’s the most common complaint we hear.  The reasons are tough to swallow, but if you want to know the truth it’s because:

1. Your resume sucks (pardon the expression)

2. You apply to too many of the wrong jobs.

If you want to know how bad your resume is then try this exercise.  Have someone read each line to you and after each one, ask yourself these three questions:

a.     Why is this relevant to my prospective employer?

If the statements on your resume aren’t relevant to the mission, struggles and challenges of a hiring manager, how could you ever expect to engage their interest? This is why it’s critical that your resume includes an objective statement which links your expertise and aspirations to what you can deliver to a future employer, and statements that reflect your accomplishments on the job (rather than just your functions and responsibilities).

b.     How did you enhance the corporate eco-system in a direct or indirect way?

If a company is going to pay you a salary, they will most likely want to generate 5 times that amount in profits or savings.  Thus, they want to see how you have made an impact in your current or prior positions.  Did you contribute to generating revenues or profits, saving costs, or mitigating risks? Can you demonstrate that you have a relevant track record, the appropriate personal attributes, and a basic understanding of the job’s challenges to easily slide into the role?  They want to have some sense of your potential and that you have a relentless spirit to get the job done.

c.     Duh?

Worst of all, if you can say “Duh”, then you have really lost them.  For example, if you say that you’re “good with people” and you’re applying to be a relationship manager or a team leader, then that would generate a “duh” response. Instead, tell them why you’re so good with people and how you have impacted an enterprise with your fabulous people skills (an example might be that you “transformed cynicism into enthusiasm” for a particular initiative).

How do you know you’re applying to the wrong job?  Look at your resume. Does it clearly state what you’re seeking? Do you definitively demonstrate in your resume how your education, work experience and/or community service support your aspirations and how you are uniquely positioned to be hired for a very specific role or a short list of alternative roles?  If your personal mission is not totally aligned to the company’s mission, then why would they respond? Would you, especially if you have been inundated by 100’s or 1,000’s of resumes?

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

Where Have You Been All Your Life?

November 10, 2009

I got a call from someone who read about our career consulting services and sent me his resume.  He had no objective, so I asked him where he’s been all his life.  He told me that he left a lucrative law career after 18 years to launch a company that markets services via the internet.  The company now runs on its own and he’s looking for a “real” job.  He doesn’t want to return to law and desires a sales or business development role marketing mobile applications for consumers.

I asked him why his experience in law is relevant to the role he’s seeking and he said that he “saw the operational faults that come up in the course of business”.  Completely underwhelming.  After 18 years as a lawyer, then a successful entrepreneur, that’s all he had to say. Like so many other job seekers I talk to, he had trouble creating a “where I’ve been all my life” statement that summarizes (a) what he’s done, (b) how well he did it, and (c) what it means to me as a hiring professional.

When I suggested the following, he paused and said “wow, that’s me”.  I felt the energy over the phone change as a major weight of anxiety was lifted from his shoulders.  Here’s what I said:

Recognized as a gifted lawyer who had the courage to leave a thriving practice to scratch an entrepreneurial itch and launch two successful consumer internet marketing initiatives. Hard wired to enhance the fortunes of a marketing firm that is looking to transform ideas into revenue by leveraging mobile technology.  Possess the wisdom that comes from counseling hundreds of legal clients on their operational challenges and the thirst for success that flows from an unstoppable entrepreneurial drive.

When you’re asked to metaphorically look in your rear view mirror, you need to capture a quick glance of where you’ve been without losing sight of where you’re going.  By doing this well, a hiring manager can easily map out your career and see how all roads lead to hiring you for their job opportunity.

Read more tips and strategies on ‘Over 40’ on the Get What You Set web site.