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How to Write a Resume Summary Statement That Brands and Sells

8 Dec

An effective introductory Summary statement at the opening of your resume is a critical component of effectively branding yourself to a prospective employer.  This is the first part of your resume that a potential employer will read, and the goal is to communicate clearly what your

Photo by Brent Nelson (Flickr)

expertise is and why you are qualified.  Often an “Objective” statement tends to focus  more your own interests as the job seeker, while a “Summary” statement communicates what you can bring to the table in the targeted role for the organization.  Why should they hire you, essentially?  This is communicated by highlighting the most relevent strengths, skills & core competencies that are unique to you as a candidate, versus a trait or skill that’s an industry or professional standard (i.e. “multi-tasker” or “team-player”).

A cover letter basically addresses similar points, but in more detail, and allows for a certain amount of personalization to shine through.  The Summary statement should be approximately 4-6 lines and speak only to your professional background, and not address any outstanding circumstances (employment gaps, change of career, personal experiences, etc.). Continue reading

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Dressers, Dream Jobs & Boyfriends – Stuff I Got By Networking

22 Sep

Networking works wonders for both your career and your relationships (personal and professional).  Case in point- the fiance and I, by the grace of God, found an AMAZING apartment in Brooklyn that was nothing short of everything we were looking for.  This, after weeks of scouring Craig’s List and the numerous floor-throughs and “luxury” rentals where the standard for “luxury” was a subterranean dump to which the landlord added a last minute “jacuzzi” to class things up a bit. I suppose I could enjoy building the next decade of my life looking out into the rotting underpass of the BQE…as long as it’s done from my jacuzzi, 24/7.  But anyway.

What’s even more amazing than the wall-to-wall carpeting, the functional fireplace, or the lovely Italian family downstairs, is how I found the place.  Several weeks ago I went to a women’s networking event in Manhattan and met a couple of great women with whom I’ve since stayed in touch.  One graciously invited me to an invite-only networking website called “Quentin’s Friends”, where members share information and recommendations on local services, real estate, buy/sell items or offer up their own expertise or professional services.  I figured I’d post an ad for an “apartment in Park Slope or Carroll Gardens for October 1”.  Miraculously, someone replied that their friend was moving and looking to sublet.  We got in touch, exchanged contact, and I arranged a meeting with said friend to view the place.  My hopes weren’t high, but what the hay, it was worth looking.  Less than a week later, we signed a lease on our new amazing Brooklyn abode.  Karma! I promptly emailed my contact from the event, promising her a few rounds on me the next time we meet up!

Trust in the unconventional happenings of the world, I say.  I’ve found two  best friends and a future husband via networking sites and other forms of untraditional advertising (that’s not what it sounds like…).  But that’s another story.

So there is truth to networking, and a great deal of it. And one thing I always stress to job seekers or newcomers to the networking arena is to remember that the results don’t manifest within the course of one conversation at a rooftop bar.   Nor does it happen overnight.  In nearly all cases, you are not going to attend one event and walk out of there with a job offer, so you cannot go into it with that intention.

The key to networking is approaching it in a manner of generosity and gratitude – how can YOU help someone else?  It is much easier to approach and talk to a stranger if you go into it with the mindset that you are open to helping them (and of course, they will help you in return).


Photo by Craig Hamnett on Flickr

And the first conversation is simply that – the first conversation, the initial encounter, the starting point.  You don’t make best friends in one conversation, and similarly you don’t make trusted business contacts in that way either.  It is about building a complimentary relationship with someone with whom you share professional and personal interests, and perhaps can benefit from one another’s knowledge and community.  That is why most networking groups or events have themes – women’s groups, entreprenurial-focused, young professionals, dog lovers, alumni of Boston University, etc.

For instance, you can’t look up the person who heads up the HR department at your dream company on LinkedIN, send them an invite to connect, and expect them to respond.  Sure, it’s beneficial to you to connect with and know them, but what benefit will the person on the other end get out of the relationship?  Why should they connect with you?  Give them a reason.  A good way around this is to see what groups you have in common, or that you can join, and then contact them asking about their experience in the field, and how they navigated their own path to the role they’re in today.  Be open to simply listening and learning.  If nothing else, remember this:  people LOVE to talk about themselves and offer advice, so invite them into your circle by offering them a venue to share their story with you.  Most times, they will be glad to.  That is far more effective than approaching someone you don’t know and blurting out selfishly, “Hi, my name is so-and-so, and I’m looking for an entry-level marketing position.  Is your company hiring?”

When you go to a networking event, and you collect cards, keep track of the people you meet.  Follow up with EACH of them the day after the event, even if you have nothing in common and it’s simply to say, “Nice meeting you!  Thanks for that last drink- it really put me over the edge.  I don’t even remember how I go HOME last night!” Fine, that’s too much information, but a cordial note of acknowledgment will go a long way.  Why?  Because people know other people, and other people might know about opportunities that you don’t.  But no one is going to put their professional reputation on the line and recommend you to a colleague or contact if they don’t have some kind of very positive rapport with you.

And rapport is built over time, with communication, gratitude and mutual effort. Even if it takes a few months to receive a lead, isn’t it worth the couple of emails you sent to build the relationship, in return for a lead that could potentially lead to a fulfilling job with a great company?  Keep in touch, send an article you think might be of interest to your new contact, or put them in touch with someone you know who might be able to help them out. Set them up on a bad blind date…at least you tried.  No doubt, if the opportunity arises, the favor will be returned.

The next time you walk through a door at an event, intimidated by the fact that you’re flying solo in front of a room full of other professionals, ask yourself calmly and confidently – “How can I potentially help someone today?” And then put yourself out there, and see what is created. And while I don’t need an accounting degree to realize that the bills can’t be paid in karma (at least not in New York), that is the point-  you have to start somewhere.

Honey, We All Have to Fetch the Coffee at SOME Point…

30 Aug

When you’re 21 years old and fresh out of college, you’re full of energy, exuberance, enthusiasm and a plethora of other anabolically-loaded words that start with “e”.  You can’t WAIT to get out into the working world and show the man what you’re made of.  “I’m going to be different – I’m going to change the [insert industry here] world as we know it!” And dammit, good for you!  It’s not the least bit realistic… but as you move through the ranks of the working world, experiencing the ups and downs of being a career-ist, you will no doubt realize just how valuable that unrealistic attitude can be for you.

Here’s a newsflash to the Class of 2010, and pretty much anyone who came before, and will follow suit – you don’t have to change the world.  Changing your own life to simultaneously fit what you want and what the world demands of you is hard enough.  Where we make the mistake is not putting enough value and acknowledgment on what we do every day, you know, the little things that don’t always garner the accolades, but end up being topics of “man, I never realized how much that would come in handy later,” conversations.  Maybe not even that.

When I was 21 years old, I was a senior in college, and slightly bitter, because alot of my friends had these fantasically lax schedules, chock full of BS classes (and that doesn’t stand for bachelor of science…) and plenty of down time to, well, “be a senior”.  My Wednesday during the spring semester of senior year started at 9am and ended at midnight, commencing with my PR internship, continuing with my liberal arts classes I’d left ’til last semester of college, climaxing with my 3-hour art studio courses, and finally dying down around 11:59pm when it was time to close up the gym in my dorm, where I worked part-time.  The next day it started all over again, with my THIRD job, which was working at a modeling agency in downtown Boston.

Some days that job was a nightmare.  I remember riding in on the train in the mornings from Brookline with nervous aches in my back because no doubt

Yours truly, at 21.

my boss would find something to scream at me about, whether it was my fault or not.    After all, I was just the intern.  And then we’d make up, joke about something stupid, he’d insult me again and I’d go out and get him his coffee and French crueller donut at Dunkin’s.  With the added benefit of graduating college at the tail-end of the dot-com bust, I didn’t really have a choice about working there.  Job prospects were scarce, and in early May of my senior year I signed onto the modeling agency full time, as the head of the men’s and runway division.  I put up with a lot from my boss, but at the end of the day, my job was to talk to, take pictures of and look at male models.  I never said I was looking for sympathy!

Nearly a decade later I’m looking back at that first job and realizing how much I’ve grown professionally, and also how much I put up with.  I look at some of the ridiculous tasks I was stuck with (putting together a giant metal filing closet, or picking up my boss’ burrito for dinner), and sure, I thought I could do better.  One day I got stuck walking my boss’ friend’s pitbull, Neno, down Newbury Street, where he decided to relieve himself in front of the upscale brunch-goers at the Armani Cafe.  Also not impressed was Jimmy Fallon, who Neno nearly attacked on the sidewalk, shortly after (and just think, without my hasty restraint, there may never have been Fever Pitch!).

But I also look at the opportunities that came from demonstrating that I wasn’t afraid to do the low-level boring tasks.   I could easily sit on my high horse and argue that I didn’t go to the best communications school in the country to answer phones and shuffle resumes.  But processing and faxing a couple of hourly timesheets each week at the agency lead to eventually managing the financials of a multi-million dollar company less than 2 years later.   Shuffling a few thousand resumes over 7 years produced the credibility to build my own company in career advising.   I’m still not afraid of the small stuff.  In fact, I love it, because there’s something bigger underneath it all!   I’m not picking up the coffee anymore, except for myself, seeing as now I only have myself to answer to.  But when you work for yourself, there is no one else to do the low-level tasks.  And I’m okay with that.  Because more than anything that I might have learned in 10+ years about recruiting, advertising, graphic design or art, I learned that entitlement gets you nowhere, and initiative opens up more doors than you can even imagine.  I’ll give partial credit for that lesson to my dad, a several-decade successful entrepreneur himself.   At 61, does he complain about still fetching the coffee every morning?  I assume not, since these days he’s the one drinking it.   Yea, you might get stuck taking on an extra PowerPoint or two, and you may hate it until the sun comes up, but someone will remember that you threw your hand up, in the end.

So you don’t have to change the world.  You just have to accept that change is the only constant, and as long as you’re willing to roll with it, you’ll undoubtedly be okay.  Not every day will be great, not every day will be tolerable.  But the next one has potential to be life-changing, if you choose to make it that way.  And it’s all about conscious choice, making choices that, while they may not be ideal, they’re still YOUR CHOICES and they’re in line with the authentic you.

Sometimes it’s the small accomplishments, even the things we don’t ask for, but we STILL GET DEALT, that make us stand out.  Don’t be afraid to embrace those things and turn them into positive experiences that open up other doors.  Don’t be afraid to stick your hand up and volunteer for the crappy job you really don’t want to do, because in the end, you’re the person who said, “Sure, why not?  It’s not below me to offer up my expertise.”  It was my conscious choice to be that person, to stand up and say, “See me?  I’m here! And I’m worth it!”  Coaching is all about shifting perspective, from the catabolic to the anabolic, but we all have the innate power within us to do it.  It just needs tapping into. There are not magical tools, and as you’ll read on my “Services” page, my practice thrives solely on people who want to believe in themselves, that they have the answers already, and who want to do the work to uncover the hidden treasure within.  That may sound a bit cheesy, but it’s true.  It is within.  I found it, and [holy deity] knows that if I can, and others before you can, well, you can as well.

So what little thing are you proud of today?  Forget the world at large – what have you done today to change YOUR world that you would have otherwise overlooked?   Think about that…while you go take a coffee break.

Aspyre Solutions Named as Top Career Expert by Tim’s Strategy

12 Aug

Aspyre Solutions is very proud to be featured on the Tim’s Strategy list of approved career experts.  Tim’s Strategy is a new online directory that includes a growing list of the best career experts in the world across multiple categories, including career coaching, resume experts and personal branding. Each expert organization or professional is personally selected and approved by Tim’s Strategy creator and former consumer marketing expert Tim Tyrell-Smith himself.

Written from the perspective of a job seeker and a hiring manager, the site delivers free advice, tools and templates to support anyone looking for a new job, to create a new career path, network into a better situation or find the right life/work balance.

Check out Aspyre Solutions on Tim’s Strategy.

I’m Just Going to Say It: Bad HR Practices Make Everyone’s Life Difficult

2 Aug

So…what are your thoughts on the idea around telling a potential employer that you’ll “work for free”, as part of an effort to potentially get yourself in the door at a company?  If you’re an intern, sounds like a great idea.  Even for you entry-level folks who could eventually monetize that extra experience.  But outside of that, I question such desperate tactics and the message a candidate would be sending about the value of their talent.  Punk Rock HR wrote a good article last week about why candidates ought NOT to work for free, which sounds pretty common sense in normal circumstances… but given the state of the job market, maybe not so outlandish an idea for some people.

And I agree with PRHR.  That idea sucks.

Because now more than ever are people struggling to make ends meet and pay the bills.  If you’re a resident of NYC or Boston in particular (and probably any other equally-indebted metropolitan area), transit fares are on the rise, while service quality is on the decline.  Congress is “talking” potential tax breaks, while adding in other places.  And sales tax in some states has risen exponentially in the last 18 months alone.

The lengths that job seekers will go to these days in attempts to impress, or even satiate, HR alludes me sometimes.  Granted, there’s a certain air of desperation floating around the professional atmosphere, but to what degree should job seekers be reduced to begging at the feet of some recruiter or hiring manager, to get a couple of scraps of employment?  Aren’t we all better and more highly skilled than that?  Of course we are.  Unfortunately, economic circumstances remain as they are.  So with that in mind, what are we, as HR professionals and business owners, doing to shift that perspective and better the situation where we can?

I have hired, fired, fought and questioned the legality and ethics of numerous employment situations in my tenure as a recruiter and career adviser. And on the other end, I have been the intern, the job seeker, the hiring manager, the newbie, the senior associate, the boss and the owner of various companies, and I’ve found one thing to be fairly consistent – my disdain for the American HR system.  Now do NOT confuse that with a lack of respect for HR professionals, because at the end of the day, we are all just doing our jobs, and many of us simply regurgitating orders from a higher power that we may, or may not, agree with. Now it’s a known case that third-party recruiters and internal HR folks aren’t always on the same page when it comes to recruiting processes and details.  It helps if you are, as it’s a partnership.

And despite classifying myself as a former HR professional, I was very often miffed by the manner in which my candidates were treated by either internal recruiters, hiring managers or department heads with whom they were interviewing.  While I worked with literally hundreds of fantastic companies whom I absolutely loved partnering with, others I found to be misleading about either the terms with which they were talking to my candidates, or establishing a so-called business partnership with my recruiting agency.  In fact, I’m happy to share my top ten complaints around bad human resources practices, as they best relate to you (and once upon a time, me) as the job seeker:

10. HR filling their pipeline with resumes, “just in case” they decide to pull the trigger on hiring for a particular position.  Why?  Because unemployed people don’t like to sit around hoping and praying any more than they already have to.

9. Overlooking very relevant skills for the exact wording of a job title.  Marketing Associate and Communications Coordinator… same thing.

8. Assuming that someone who has worked in all corporate environments cannot physically function or breath, let alone work, in a casual or agency environment.  In some cases, this may be true, but not always.

7. Knowing in advance what a candidate’s salary expectations are, and after three mutually successful interviews… offering them $15K less.

6. The “Hurry Up & Wait” tactic.  Company X needs someone in that chair YESTERDAY, and when the perfect candidate comes strolling in, the hiring manager is out on maternity leave, with no one to replace her.  Call back in three months!

5. HR generalists recruiting for specialized areas, in which they have no knowledge of applicable skill sets.  “This candidate knows ActionScript 3, but I see NO mention of Flash on here… Can you explain that please?”  Of course I’m never allowed to email the resume to  the Creative Director… DIRECTLY!

4. This conversation: “Hi Janet, just following up on my email and my previous voicemail regarding that great candidate I sent you on Friday for the Marketing Manager role.  Please let me know if this is still a priority for you, as he’s considering other options as well.  Thanks.”

3. Rejecting a candidate without any explanation of where they didn’t stack up.  Unfortunately, this one will never change, and likely it’s because they “weren’t a good culture fit”.  Although in HR’s defense, try saying that without royally offending someone, and inspiring a potential legal retaliation.

2. 3 in-person interviews for a contract or freelance position.  Generally, the interview process should span less time than the job itself

1. Hiring a new employee and providing no support or on-boarding process whatsoever to get them acclimated to their new role.  It’s not a matter of hand-holding.  It’s expensive to hire new people… and it’s three times as expensive to hire their replacement when they quit.

And as an amendment, one more that makes the list, and unfortunately, will always remain on it:  Sh*tty recruiters.  They don’t return candidates’ emails, calls or inquiries, they submit their resumes without informing them first, and generally treat them like another paper in the stack.  I was a good recruiter, as were my colleagues and my agency in general.  So I say in all honesty that as a job seeker, perhaps you have to be most cautious about this one, because in some cases working with a recruiter can do more harm than good.  That’s an article for another time, as well as a few good tips on how to circumvent ALL of the situations above…

Stay tuned!

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