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Friday, April 13, 2007
What’s in a Word?
I imagine Don Imus could answer that question pretty well right now. Badly chosen words resulted in a career downfall for him. While I’m hopeful that those of you reading this don’t suffer from the same foot-in-mouth disease, it does serve as a good example of how choosing words carefully can affect your career path. No where is that more true than in your resume.

Most people don’t consider the wording of their resume. Most just sit down and write down what they do – “Managed team of six”, “Designed reports based on quarterly data”, “Supervised programs and plans”. Then you have the small minority that go far overboard on their wording and border on the comical – “Rose above circumstances to rescue failing program from fatal tailspin.”

Choosing the right wording is so important in resume writing. Good writing is clear, powerful and succinct. Good writing doesn’t have to involve flowery phrasing, three-dollar words, or complex compound sentences with highly technical data. In fact, those three writing styles will significantly hurt your candidacy.

The worst problem is the fluff writing or flowery phrases. For some reason, some people seem to think the more adjectives they throw into their resume the better. “Aggressive, self-motivated, enthusiastic, and upstanding senior professional…” is a common offender. That is five adjectives strung together to modify a vague noun that tells the reader nothing. “Senior professional” could be anything from Donald Trump to the manager of the local drive-in.

Fluff writing and over-writing are both signs of poor writing. Some people are just poor writers just as some people are poor at math. Unfortunately, good writing is more in demand in our society than good math skills. We have calculators and spreadsheets for math but Word doesn’t do much with sentence construction. Word won’t tell you when you are coming across too low-level or you sound like you are making things up to fill up page space. Word doesn’t tell you when you are writing in passive voice or when you have created a data dump instead of a resume.

Fortunately, there are some really good writers out there who can help you. Now, if I could only figure out my taxes….

Monday, April 02, 2007
Hot Pursuit
Over the weekend, I watched the movie “The Pursuit of Happyness” with Will Smith. If you are looking for an entertaining, relaxing flick, let me tell you – this is not a good choice. I spent ninety-nine percent of the movie with my teeth clenched as the main character just kept getting hit by one disaster after another. It was exhausting.

But it was also one of those movies that you can’t get out of your mind afterward. If you don’t want to know the end, stop reading now. Basically, the movie is about a fellow who works his way up from the bottom to a multi-millionaire on Wall Street. The obvious lesson from the movie is “keep trying, you can do it”, but there were many other lessons that were more subtle and have a great deal to do with job search and the climb up the ladder.

First of all, what defined this man’s happiness was economic increase and stability. The entire movie revolves around his striving toward economic success on one hand while dealing with total economic disaster on the other, including being homeless. I wonder how many Americans are just one paycheck away from similar situations. On one hand we are striving for financial success while on the other hand we are up to our eyeballs in debt. Something to think about.

Another lesson that was more subtle was the role this man’s education played in his career. He only had a high school education but the viewer is given clues throughout the movie that he had a natural talent with numbers. He could solve a Rubik’s cube when no one else could. He mentioned he devoured math books in school. He used this talent to win an opportunity to start a new career as a stock broker. He did not treat his lack of a college degree as a handicap that automatically disqualified him from certain jobs.

A third lesson was that initiative, innovation, and just plain guts go a very long way in making opportunities arise. What seemed like a failure when he didn’t land the big wheel’s account became a bigger success when he landed all the big wheel’s friends’ accounts. All because he took the initiative to go the extra mile. He did something that no one else did and had the guts to go for the big fish.

A fourth (but not final) lesson was he had confidence in himself. First of all, he bought into a medical device that he had to sell by cold calls – a product that was overpriced and had little true value. He trudged the streets making calls on doctors and in the end he sold them all! He had the confidence in himself to show up at his Dean Witter job interview after a night in jail, dressed in paint-spattered clothes and no shirt because he believed in himself. He had the confidence in himself to study long hours, put up with unimaginable hardships and deal with both financial and personal disasters to finish something he started because he believed in himself.

How many people give up in their job search or simply don’t get started because they feel they are too old, too young, not the right race, don’t have a degree, not from the right background, etc.? How many people don’t excel in their work because they don’t believe deep down they can do it? Are you one of them?

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