Tag Archives: communication

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

Get a Life. Get a Job. Whatever You Do, Get Creative.

8 Oct

When I was applying to colleges, I heard this story about a wanna-be ivy league-er who wrote their admissions essay to Brown University on Post-It notes.  They were accepted.  Doubtfully due to their perfect grammar or well-structured paragraphs, but because they were innovative, and their vehicle for communication, however unconventional, sent the Brown admissions committee a clear message:  “YOU WANT ME! And now that I’ve got your attention, here’s why…”

This is kind of how I feel about cover letters.  I’m not a fan of the old standard.  Yea, they’re “professional”, but unless you’re saying something that really has value to your reader, usually the person looking to hire you… it’s not really worth it to regurgitate the same resume babble everyone else does.  Granted, in some cases, it’s still just required.

Applying to college was the first time we were faced with the challenge of how to be distinctively creative in our communication while still remaining credibly professional.  Nowadays, as job seekers and career changers it’s something we toil with on a daily basis.  How does one creatively make their brand stand out above hundreds others, while keeping the professional face of the subject matter expert?

I worked in recruiting and talent management for the creative industry for close to 7 years, with hundreds of fantastically talented graphic and web designers, developers, producers and writers.  I love the creative industry and people involved in advertising because they perfectly illustrate this idea – boring self-promotion doesn’t work.  I had more people come into my office in faded jeans than business casual, and this was perfectly acceptable within that population.  Because when you’re vying for a job at one of Boston’s top advertising agencies, you don’t strut into the interview in a Canali suit and briefcase.  No, you rock a messenger bag and t-shirt that you designed for your last brand-name client and show off how awesome you are, because in reality, you ARE getting hired for your awesomeness.  And your Flash design skills.

Granted, that’s far from appropriate for other industries.  But regardless of industry, there needs to be a high level of awareness around who your target employer is and how and what your personal brand is communicating, the second your credentials come across someone’s desk.  Very often in the creative industry, a standard format cover letter detailing who you were and why someone should hire you was not very effective.  Particularly in a profession like design or advertising where your creativity is the driver of your success, it’s imperative that your ability to walk the talk is clearly communicated when you present yourself to a prospective employer.

Walk the talk. I’m not saying don’t write cover letters, ignore standards of professional dress or to not follow appropriate formatting guidelines for your resume – not at all.  The type of company and the nature of your targeted industry will dictate what’s acceptable for those items.  What I AM saying is that no matter what industry you are in, there is competition, and you need to differentiate yourself in an effective, creative and credible way if you’re going to beat candidates 1 through 56 into the door.  Boring self-promotion doesn’t work.

Answer this question: Why should I hire you instead of the person who came in right before you?  You know nothing about their credentials or experience, only that you have something great to bring to the table and you’ll bring megawatts of success to the company.  The other person probably has something great to offer as well.  What makes you different, and how can you highlight that in a way that is memorable, appealing, appropriate and makes the person interviewing you or looking at your resume say, “We HAVE to have this person on our team!”  Hint: it has nothing to do with money or blackmail.

A former boss of mine was pitching her recruiting services to a new department in a well-known Boston advertising agency.  The agency had just won a lucrative contract with a well-known beverage brand, and while they hadn’t publicized it yet, surely they would be looking to build up a new creative team to support the account.  I love what she did next.  She did her research and thought outside of the box of how to approach this potential client who pretty much every other recruiter in Boston was calling on as well.  How could she stand out in a saturated, competitive market?  She bought a case of the agency’s new client’s beer, and emptied out the bottles (I’m not entirely sure by what means), and in each bottle, she rolled up a resume scroll-style of 12 different candidates whom she thought would be great for their new team.  She was still presenting resumes to a prospect, but she got their attention.  And unlike the competition, her delivery shouted, “Hire me!  And now that I’ve got your attention, here’s why…”

Unfortunately, I can’t give you a one-stop formula on how to be creative with your resume presentation and win the affections of your potential future boss.  It simply comes down to knowing your target prospect, what keeps them up at night, how you can solve that for them, and then how you can communicate that ability to them in a way that makes you look irresistible.  Make them have to have you.  At the very least, get their attention, and create the venue to tell them why you’re the best person for the job, instead of waiting for it to present itself to you.  Take control – create an opportunity for yourself to communicate your worth.  While your message may not change the world, it can certainly change your life.  But nothing changes if you don’t allow anyone the opportunity to listen to you in the first place.  So go out there, create opportunities for yourself, and then tell the world what they’ve been waiting to hear – “Your perfect candidate has arrived!”

Get Out of Their Head, and Into Your Own!

4 Oct

Everyone I know is trying to get into someone else’s head lately.  No one is concerned with the inner workings of their own psyche, at least not when there appears to be a plethora of confusing, cliche, emotionally-withheld and skeptical single men and


Photo by mitopencourseware on Flickr

women whom we can date and dissect psychologically until the cows come home.  Everyone I know wants to know, “What is he/she thinking?”

“What are you thinking?” The fiance asks me this as we’re sitting on the couch on a Friday evening, watching the 90s Alternative music channel.  More often than not, this question annoys me, and not by any fault of his, but mostly because I rarely know the answer.  This is due largely in part to my tendency to have 25 different thoughts running through my head at one time, and an unwillingness to commit

to just one as the dominant thought the moment, worth discussing.  Because then I wonder if he really wants me to start a discussion about whether Port Salut cheese is better with or without a dash of salt, and should I or should I not eat what’s left of it in the fridge with a couple of saltines?  Or maybe I should reserve the bit of information about “Step by Step” being my favorite New Kids on the Block song, as of not that long ago.

See, this is the dilemma.  There’s no one really interesting thought, just a bunch of small ones that give the illusion of me contemplating something really deep and noteworthy.

But the difference is that the fiance’s quest for this information and insight into my brain isn’t driven by his desire to uncover some breakthrough, some long-awaited clarity on how I feel about him.  He already knows this. He’s just curious as to why I’m staring blankly at a wall. And only when you can ask this question without the resulting answer determining your self-worth and your legitimacy as a potential partner…is it  safe to ask.

One good friend of mine is navigating a breakup while another is navigating a new relationship, and both want to know what the other parties in each of their situations is thinking.  In the case of the former, she feels that knowing exactly what he’s thinking about her (and how often) will better help her determine whether they’ll get back to together at some point, which will assumedly ease her feelings of loneliness and longing.  She’s made it all about him, and not her, which is more common than we like to admit.  We all do it. The other friend  wants to know what her partner is thinking so she can better determine whether they’ll STAY together. Again, we all do it, we all try to figure out our potential based on vague clues and references from the other party. The point is that both share the same inconclusive theme of “What does he want from me?”  And now here is the magical answer that will answer this every time for you without fail:  It doesn’t matter.

Here is why it doesn’t matter: Because no matter how well you know someone (or how manipulative you are), you absolutely cannot control either 1) what someone else thinks of or feels about you, and 2) how someone else reacts to any given situation.  If you want a great book on this and how you need only focus on “your 100% of what you bring to a relationship”, check out Don Miguel Ruiz’s “The Mastery of Love”.  And he explains this theory in depth.  Of course, the answer here isn’t to just sit back and hope, it’s not to wait to see if the person echoes your sentiments and your desires to remain or become a couple.  It’s about understanding that every time you ask yourself “What is he/she thinking?” you are taking the control away from yourself, and giving it to someone else, whom you may barely even know.

When you give up control to someone else, whether it’s by becoming emotionally dependent upon a partner, a job, or allowing yourself to be manipulated in any way, you are putting yourself in the victim seat. Plain and simple. Trying to figure out what is going on in someone else’s mind or heart, so that you can feel better about yourself, the relationship or your future, is allowing yourself to be a victim at the hand of someone else.  Even if they didn’t ask for that control, you willingly gave it to them.  But luckily, it’s very easy to take it back.

And it’s important to note that when I say “regain control” that does not mean having the upper hand.  It simply refers to regaining the control you have over you… not anyone else.  The mistake we commonly make upon entering a relationship is forgetting to clearly define to ourselves what we want out of this potential partnership.  Unlike relationships, we do typically do this with jobs…we figure out what industry we want to work in, what our core strengths and talents are that we bring to the table, the types of people we want to immerse ourselves in, the desired outcome, etc.  So why do we throw values to the wind when it comes to seeking a successful, fulfilling relationship, and instead just rely on hope that it turns into what we want?  Why are we not asking ourselves first and foremost, “What do I want out of this relationship… and does this person fit into that which will support my objectives?” Instead we assume we’re the ones that need to prove our worth and fit into their picture.  This is why so many relationships fail – we don’t set any expectations, for our partners, and more importantly for ourselves.

Just think – if you know confidently what you are looking for in a person and what you need out of a relationship to feel fulfilled, energized, motivated and loved, won’t it be much easier to determine whether it feels right, rather than trying to decode their every thought, movement and word?  This isn’t an invitation to be close-minded, or saying that you will be happy if you’re committed to only dating a guy who is 5’10, makes X dollars as a pediatric surgeon and says things like “I completely understand how you feel…please, tell me more.” It’s about establishing your non-negotiables, the underlying aspects of a person and a relationship that you want and need, that are based on your values.  These are the  things you’re not willing to bend on – like monogamy, or someone who is legitimately interested in a serious relationship that has long-term potential.  But do be aware that once you know what you want, you’re not wasting your time trying to mold someone else who’s not on the same page as you, into the ideal partner that they’re not.  Be honest with yourself.  If the shoe doesn’t fit, there are a million other pairs potentially more flattering.

So start by asking yourself these revealing questions:

  • What does a successful relationship look like to me?
  • What do I need from someone to feel appreciated and loved?
  • What are my non-negotiables?
  • What level of commitment am I looking for right now at this stage of my life?
  • What qualities does the person I want to be with possess?
  • What am I currently tolerating, or have I tolerated in the past, that I won’t tolerate going forward?
  • What excites me about a person?
  • If I found this person, am I in a position to give to them what I want them to give to me?

I can give you a bunch more, if you want.  But the general idea here is to construct your own vision of your  successful relationship, to build awareness and confidence around that, know that you deserve it, and then be able to use that vision as a foundation for moving forward.  Knowing what you want and need eliminates that typical early-on scenario of the blind leading the blind, where neither person knows what page you’re on, what the other person wants, or what’s okay or not okay to say.  And yes, being the one to stand up and admit what you need can be scary, as you’re essentially putting yourself on the line, hoping the other person accepts you for that.  But know that our fears of doing this simply stem from our own  limiting beliefs that we have about ourselves as a partner, or about what we think other people expect of us.  They’re not necessarily true, but they certainly hold us back.  What are those limiting beliefs keeping you from voicing what you need, even if it’s just to yourself?  They exist…we all have them.  It’s time to break them down.

Drop the labels, drop the rules.  Know your relationship vision and stick to your plan.  Leave room to improvise, of course, but build that awareness around where you’re coming from and where you want to go, and you will eliminate that feeling of being at the mercy of someone else all the time, and the god-awful  drudgery of trying to decode someone else’s thoughts and feelings.  Because that should be the fun part – finding someone who really compliments you, some in ways you’ve always wanted, and in ways you never even know you needed.  Personally, I think relationships are self-discovery at its best.  And the next time someone asks you “What are you thinking?” maybe it’s not a bad idea to <gasp>… let them know.  For the love of God, (and hopefully the love of someone else) get out of their head and into your own.  If you’re like most people, you already have your work cut out for you there.

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.

30 Email Etiquette Tips

5 Feb

No matter what career path or position you’re in, chances are you use some form of email communication to reach out to your customers, colleagues, prospects or associates.  A colleague of mine forwarded me some tips on email etiquette that are really great to keep in mind (and equally easy to overlook).  Especially if you’re a job seeker or reaching out to a party whom you don’t have a prior connection to, adhere to the rules to gain that much more of an edge over your competition.  Behold:

1.    Be concise. ‘Nuff said.

2.    Get to the point. Place your main point, request, or question in the very first sentence of your message.

3.    Spell check. Proofread. Make sense.

4.    Use proper layout.

5.    Use a readable font in a size that is easy to see.

6.    Avoid stationery that takes a large amount of megabytes

7.    Use the person’s name, either in the greeting, or in the body of the message.

8.    Keep language gender neutral.

9.    Avoid text lingo (oops, I mean language.)

10.   Use only abbreviations that are well known.

11.   Avoid emoticons and smiley faces.

12.   Avoid long sentences.

13.   Use active vs. passive voice.

14.   Answer all questions, and anticipate future questions.

15.   Include the important points of the message thread.

16.   Clean up forwarded emails. Either delete unnecessary verbiage or highlight the important points.

17.   Use detailed subject lines to help your recipient quickly understand the focus of your message.

18.   For very short messages, use the subject line as the message, ending in EOM (End Of Message) to let them know not to open the message.

19.   Avoid writing in ALL CAPS. It is viewed as “shouting.”

20.   Use the high priority option only when it is truly high priority.

21.   Use the words “URGENT” and “IMPORTANT” sparingly, and only when it is true.

22.   Use ‘Reply all’ only when every person in the distribution really needs to receive the message.

23.   Avoid sending email messages when you are emotional. Regardless of how you try to mask it, people will “feel it.”

24.   Never forward messages that are off color, offensive, racist, or obscene.

25.   Don’t forward chain emails, or emails threatening you if you “don’t forward in 24 hours.”

26.   Copy ONLY the persons who really need to receive the email.

27.   Avoid using email to provide “constructive criticism.” It is never taken positively. Those conversations should be done in person.

28.   Avoid using BCC to rat out your co-workers. It turns YOU into the rat.

29.   Avoid using email to “discuss” issues among several people – the threads become diffused, and the content is difficult to follow. Call a meeting instead.

30.   Avoid sending urgent emails. If you need a response in under 3 hours, visit or call.

Oiling the Company Machine in Difficult Times

3 Feb

Several weeks ago a friend of mine attended a ‘state of the union’ company-wide meeting for her organization.  It was a dual-purpose rolling out of the numbers from 2009 and the new game plan for 2010, which included across-the-board salary cuts for all company employees.

Now I’ve been a “numbers person” for years, with a front-row seat to the P&L’s and budgets at my last company, so I know well that operational expenses and operational income go hand-in-hand.  However, it doesn’t ease the pain of those employees under the  umbrella, from the soon-to-be college grad intern to the senior VP who started the company several years back.  Knowledge doesn’t refill the bank accounts, or pad the paychecks, it doesn’t pay the bills, and sometimes it fails to simply ease the mind.  While the optimist may say “Well, at least I still have my job,” most people are thinking “I’m expected to do the same job at 20% less of my salary.”  So what’s an organization to do when it comes to the well-being and retention of their good employees?

A few weeks later an email from the CEO arrived detailing a couple of new policies.  “Great,” my friend thought.  “Just what we need- more policies to force us to work harder under diminished quality of living”.  At least this is the mistake many companies make in times of cutbacks – if the company is doing poorly, we simply have to work harder and more diligently to make up the gaps.  But this CEO knew better.  Though a seasoned professional, he was new to the organization, and had been essentially called in to fix the lingering financial and organizational problems that had been plaguing the organization for years.  He knew that enforcing stricter policies when morale was already low wouldn’t do any good – it wouldn’t motivate anyone and it would decrease productivity.  Instead, he worked on ways to “give back” to the employees what he could outside of a financial realm, to increase morale and show that upper management really was in fact taking the employees’ needs and suggestions into consideration.  He announced a new dress code policy, no longer requiring business casual, and allowing for casual dress 5 days a week (with exceptions of course for meetings and sales).  He also announced that employees would have the option of working flex hours to better fit their schedules and increase the work-life balance.  While it didn’t sooth the financial wounds employees felt, it was something, and more importantly sent the message that employees were still valued.

In a time where so many companies are failing and almost everyone is feeling a deep financial pinch, isn’t it important for companies to consider retention of good employees, given that it costs three times as much to hire and train a new employee than to retain an existing person?  At the very least, it’s an exercise in reality and rationale – you can’t run a machine without the parts that work in tandem to make it function.   So keep them clean, polished and do your best to reduce unnecessary wear and tear… and results will be positive.

Photo Credit: Leon Bibel (1936)

“Can I ask your advice…”

18 Jan

I had a good laugh today at an article forwarded on to me by one of my LinkedIn contacts, about the misguided perceptions behind giving and receiving advice, from professional development group Fish Out of Water (FOOW).  Amazing, how EASY (and quite honestly, detrimental) it is to gloss over the vast difference between, ‘advice’, ‘truth’ and ‘realization’.

Think about it – as a woman, I’m guilty of having asked SOMEONE (boyfriend, girlfriend, best friend, roommate), the timeless “Does this make me look [insert self-depricating adjective here]?”  And likewise with any similarly stereotyped inquiries that go along with being a man.  Now consider this- did I really want their truthful answer?  Or did I really want the answer that made me feel better in the moment?

Quite honestly neither scenario really does anyone any good.  Because whether you get a false response loaded with awkwardness-avoiding sympathy, or you get a brash and heartless truth, it’s not going to lead to you a positive end result.  What we should consider is that it is not about seeking anyone’s “advice” at all, but rather asking a question that prompts us to come up with our OWN answer, and act upon our own truth accordingly.  After all, YOUR truth is really the only one that matters, because let’s face it… it’s the only one you’re going to respect in the end.

Check out the rest of the article here.

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