As a career strategist, I engage with people who are just passing through; people who earn a living doing something other than looking for work. When I come across a common question, one that seems to resonate with job seekers across many fields, you’ll find it here. Feel free to toss over a question of your own, and please visit this space frequently for updates!

About Resumes:

Q:         Quick question about resumes… unfortunately, my friend got laid off this week and I’m helping her update her resume. Her last two positions were the exact same thing: Closing Assistant at a title company. With them being the same position and her duties being exactly the same, how would you put that on a resume? List the position title, then the two employers, then the bullets? Or should I break them up and list them both separately and do my best to make them not say the same exact thing?

A:         Your instinct is right – Give the title in boldface type, and below it write the companies and dates, and below that the job description and accomplishments. Like this:

Professional Hockey Star
Chicago Blackhawks 2009 – Present
Detroit Redwings 2000 – 2008

  • Captain
  • Lead scorer, averaging 7 goals per game
  • Stanley Cup winner 2002, 2008, 2010, 2013, 2015


About References:

Q:         I am about to submit my application, but I noticed there is no place to put references down and on my resume, someone removed my references from there. I am unable to go back and remove my resume and add on references. I would have to do the entire application over again. Should I go ahead and send it without references or should I start over and add my references to my resume?

A:         Submitting references isn’t what it used to be. These days, you provide those only if requested, and that will usually be at the very end of the process (sometimes even after an offer is made). That is why you don’t see a place for them on the application, and why they were removed from your professionally-written resume. Keep a separate list and provide quality references if asked.

Q:         QUALITY references?

A:         Supervisors, Peers, Subordinates, Vendors and a couple of friends (for personal references). These should be people close to your work, who know you well and who know what your current employment situation is. They will confidently support your application by providing honest examples of your strengths and development potential, and they’ll be quick responders. The former boss who loses emails and ignores phone calls? Not a quality reference.00 2013

Job Search Like a Champion


A friend of mine ran into a roadblock yesterday that I think is pretty common. Networking like a pro, he identified a position he was interested in and qualified for. He applied online and then reached out to a connection he had within the company. He sent a brief note asking the person to please send his resume along to the Sales Manager.

The connection was a good sport and passed the resume along… to the Talent Acquisition team. This is where things went south.

A recruiter reviewed the resume and sent a note back to my buddy saying, “Thanks for playing.” Actually, it was a timely, kind and professional note, but you get the idea.

Now, my buddy feels like a loser. He wants to go back to his contact and ask him to send the resume to the Sales Manager, as he had requested in the first place. Why not?

Never burn out a contact. The employee did what he felt was appropriate. If the Sales Manager were the right person, he would have sent it there in the first place. Sending it there now isn’t going to change the outcome. Why not?

Generally, an application ends up filtering back through Talent Acquisition or HR. In this case, the resume did end up in the right hands. Our contact bypassed a middleman to get the resume into the right place expediently.

OK, so now what?

Recruiting is expensive. Most TA / HR teams keep a “pipeline” of candidates to review against open positions. Employee recommendations are especially valuable, so this person’s resume should be in good hands. If the company has a requirement that looks like a match, they’ll be in touch.

My friend was disappointed, understandably. He was on kind of a high when he applied: good company, good fit for his talents. He felt hopeful. Now, he imagined he could hear his resume being crumpled up and tossed in the trash, along with the better future he was hoping for. What more can he do? Easy. Stay in the game.

  • Get the rebound: catch that hopeful feeling again and stay positive.
  • Thank the contact for his help and offer to return the favor.
  • Thank the recruiter for the quick response and connect with him/her right away on LinkedIn.
  • Set up an alert on the company’s Careers page for updates about new openings.
  • Target this company’s competitors. If they’re hiring here, they might be hiring there, as well.
  • Ride the high and keep moving forward with applications to other companies.

Winning Job Search Wisdom of the day: Search, Apply, Connect, Repeat. You’ve got this.


What’s Your Resume Doing this Weekend?

Friday afternoon. You’re either powering through something important, or your thoughts are drifting toward the weekend. Happy hour tonight, baseball tryouts in the morning, friends over Saturday for dinner… typical stuff. If you are looking for new work, “applying for jobs” might have to be wedged in there somewhere. During a job search, it seems like applying for jobs is always hanging overhead, spoiling a relaxing weekend even (or especially) if you don’t find time to spend on the hunt.

This weekend, let your resume to the heavy lifting.

  • Friday afternoon, tweak your LinkedIn profile to a nice shine, update your Headline to reflect the job you’re looking for and upload your resume. Next on LinkedIn, check to make sure your information is “open” or visible to the public. Your boss won’t notice.
  • Set one or two new alerts on and Glassdoor.
  • Spend the weekend relaxing, and if the opportunity for small talk comes up at those baseball tryouts or during dinner, ask questions about the work other people do, and the companies they work for. This is called networking, but it’s the easiest kind. You don’t have to hand out business cards; just build knowledge.

Monday morning will come, and with it the job search. Because your profile and resume were accessible, your inbox will include alerts to positions you hadn’t noticed last week. On LinkedIn you can begin to “Follow” the companies you heard about over the weekend, and connect with the people you met casually over the past couple days. Job searching can be a hassle, but don’t let it ruin your weekend.


The 15 Second Resume

Fifteen Seconds. That is all the time your resume has in the spotlight before a recruiter or HR manager decides whether or not to look further at your resume. Fifteen seconds? People spend more than 15 seconds reading a fast-food menu! The pause between channel surfing clicks is at least 15 seconds! 15 seconds? That’s all you get.

So how can you be sure the person glancing at your resume recognizes the value in your rich and storied work experience? Pick up a couple of magazines and peruse the ads. You’ll see white space, varied font size and color, and precise, powerful language. Apply that to your resume, and you’ll improve your odds of going to the next round.

In their book on messaging and advertising, “Made to Stick,” Chip Heath and Dan Heath outline six key principles that make messages stick.

  1. Simplicity
  2. Unexpectedness
  3. Concreteness
  4. Credibility
  5. Emotions
  6. Stories

The Heaths wrote about advertising, but what’s a resume if not a slick advertisement for your skills and expertise? Check your resume for the same six qualities:

Keep it Simple: Include necessary, relevant information, but save the minute details of your everyday responsibilities for the interview. If your resume is fourteen pages, no one’s going to look past page one. Is your contact information easy to find?

Deliver the Unexpected: Stand out. Which accomplishments or activities set you apart from the competition? Every Accountant can reconcile a bank account; tell me how your reconciliation saved the company millions of dollars.

Use Concrete Language that connects to the job you want: This is about Search Engine Optimization. When you apply the word choices the company uses, your resume will more likely come up in an electronic search. Boldface type accenting relevant words and phrases a manager might be looking for will help the manager quickly make the connection between you and the job.

Be Credible: Tell the truth. This may not be a factor in the first round of resume reviews, but it will definitely matter later.

Emotions and Stories: Is your resume attractive to read? Does it tell a compelling, chronological story of your career thus far?


Job Search, Canyoning Style

Canyoning (‘canyoneering in the U.S. / kloofing in South-Africa / torrentismo in Italian) is travelling in canyons using a variety of techniques that may include other outdoor activities such as walking, scrambling, climbing, jumping, abseiling (rappelling), and swimming.

canyoningIn the mountains of Spain, in the middle of what many might describe as nowhere, there is a tiny blip of a town called Jorox, and in Jorox there is a gate which opens onto a creek. Which leads to a river. In a gorge: a narrow, jagged edged fissure in the mountains of Jorox, with steep rocky walls and waterfalls jettisoning torrents of ice cold water toward the Mediterranean Sea.

Standing at the gate, looking up at the mountains and down at the rocky creekbed, the inordinate power and beauty of nature is humbling. Thoughts swirl like the rapids over the rocks: Can I do this? Does anyone know we’re here? One wrong move and…

Protected by a wetsuit, helmet, old tennis shoes and (we hope) a company’s liability coverage, we are keenly aware of our circumstances, our limitations, the risks. We discover a serious language barrier between our guides and our group. We wonder if we really want to be here, doing this. But we are here. We have come too far to turn back, so we have to muster up the courage to get through it; we have to reach deep inside ourselves for faith to trust things we can’t control, and people we can’t understand. Words like “fortitude” and “grit” come to mind. And “pluck.” Does anyone use the word pluck anymore?

When we finally have the audacity to push open the gate and step into the creek, the journey becomes a series of careful steps, tying and untying ropes, looking up, down and sideways before making decisions, and trusting our wits and ingenuity to move forward in the right direction. The exhilaration of  reaching the destination is worth it. We come out on the other side changed, better for having made the journey, and mostly unharmed.

Cool. But what does this have to do with job searching?

  • The fear of it will keep many people from pursuing a job change, even when the current situation is untenable. It just feels overwhelming.
  • Deciding to make a change, or through a layoff having the decision made for you, the time comes when you assess your gear: will this resume, education, blue suit and shiny shoes be enough?
  • Does anyone know I’m doing this? Job searching can feel lonely. For some people, networking comes naturally; for others, it takes a little more… pluck.
  • Who can I trust to help me? The only people who get more unsolicited advice than job seekers are people buying houses, and maybe brides and grooms. Everyone’s been there, so they say, and their ways are certainly the best ways to job search. The communication barriers might be subtle, but they’re there.

Take careful steps. Tie and untie the ropes that tie your career experiences together, and look around carefully before making decisions about where you apply, how you negotiate, etc. Call on your faith, wits and ingenuity to lead you in the right direction. It might seem like a slow process at times, but the exhilaration of reaching the destination is worth it. That is, if you have the audacity to step into the creek.

Early & Wrong: one and the same?

They’re not. They just feel the same. If you’re early — on your innovation, timing, plan — you’re going to feel vulnerable, afraid, a little worried about facing investors and pundits. But you’re not wrong to be there. You just have to make smart decisions about what to do until everyone else catches up.

Being early gives you insider knowledge. If you arrive at the wedding reception early, you’re the one who knows where the bar is, right? If you arrive at the market early, you get to set the bar. Use insight, metrics and creativity to determine what to measure and how to use the data. Define success in this space, and others will follow you there.

Being early gives you a unique vantage point. If you arrive at the party early, you see who’s arriving with whom and can decide for yourself where to mingle. If you arrive at the market early, you can identify the players coming after you, and decide for yourself who your competition might be, and who your potential partners could be, as well.

Being early isn’t wrong. It doesn’t mean you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time. It just means you’re in a place, and using your intuition backed up by data, you can decide for yourself whether it’s the right place at the right time, or if there’s somewhere better to be.

Early can be better; late rarely is.

Being Early is the Same as Being Wrong?

Margin Rich

How many times have you heard that saying from the post title in the world of speculation? A bazillion to be sure and it’s true, but the beautiful thing about that saying is that it only applies to timing. It does not necessarily always apply to analysis. Traders lose all the time. It’s just a way of trading life. That’s why the discipline to cut and run is all important. Just because your analysis may have led you to be early on a move, doesn’t mean you cut and run from the analysis. There could be profit left to squeeze out of it and if you let your emotions get the best of you, then you might leave money on the table…and we all know that’s a trading sin.

Observe the following 2 charts from a June post for a perfect example of this notion in action with the Aussie…

View original post 2,007 more words

Why investors love spin-off startups

The difficulty in identifying the next hot startup has lead many venture firms to employ a wasteful “spray and pray” strategy, sometimes making more than 1,000 investments in the hope of getting lucky with a wildly successful startup that more than pays off their other sunk costs. Spin-offs from known companies, in contrast, mean less risk, as investors have a clear view of the reputation, infrastructure, and credentials of the parent company. For founders, being at the helm of a spin-off rather than a from-scratch startup, has its advantages, too — you’re likely to get VC funding more easily and on more favorable terms.

Source: Why investors love spin-off startups

Job Interviews: How to Answer Any Question

Are you ready for your next job interview?

Quick! List every question you might be asked, and write down the answers to those questions.

Just kidding. No one can do that. No one should do that. Instead, list 10 questions you might be asked, and write down the answers to those questions. Now, rip up that piece of paper and recycle it.

Next, think about HOW you will answer interview questions, the likely ones and the surprising ones, too. You can not anticipate every question. But if you think through your process, you will easily be able to respond to whatever anyone throws at you. All you have to do is listen, pause and respond. That’s it.

#1 Listen. Did you hear all the parts of the question? Do you understand what is being asked? Repeat it aloud or in your head, or even jot a couple words from the question in your notebook so you will remember the whole question.

#2 Pause. It’s okay to think through your answer, even very briefly, before spitting something out.Think about it. Why did someone ask that question? For example, asking someone if they get to travel much might be an icebreaker, or might be an indicator that this job requires travel. Understanding the role and the purpose behind the question will tell you whether to casually comment on your epic spring break trip, or to professionally describe your international purchasing experience.

#3 Respond. To all parts, concisely. If your answer is going to be long and detailed, break it into parts and check in with your audience to be sure you are keeping them captivated (or at least awake).

Responding to behavioral interviews can be tricky, because people skip parts of the question when they answer. If the question starts, “Tell me about a time…” that’s a behavioral interview question and you should answer in three parts: Here’s the situation, here’s what I did about it, and this was the outcome. Situation, Action, Outcome. Practice telling your career stories using the Situation – Action – Outcome formula because behind every question is a “Tell me about it.”

Listen. Pause. Respond. Practice telling your stories and you’ll be ready for any interview, anytime. Good luck!

Interview Prep

This Year, Resolve to Build Something Better

First published in Insight News, African American newspaper serving Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Source: This year, resolve to build something better

This is an update to an article published a couple of years ago. I stumbled across it and realized a topic like this is timeless. Think about it. What are you building today?

Looking back on this day twelve months ago, what was different? What aspects of your life (career, family, home, finances, fitness level, spiritual depth, musical ability… you name it) are better now because of something specific you did during 2014? What’s worse?

Fast forward to the end of 2015. What do you hope will be different? The best way to ensure that your personal remodel is satisfactory is to oversee the construction yourself. Don’t wait for your ship to come in; if you want something better, build it. This year, resolve to be your own architect.

Things you can build: A house, a car, a sculpture, a family, friendships, career, bank account, roads, bridges, walls, teams, muscle mass, fatty deposits, spiritual understanding, websites, blogs, a following, a brand, a name for yourself…

During 2015, what will you build into your life to make the world around you a better place? What are the pieces you’ll put together to create a foundation? How will you reinforce the framework so the end result will be strong and long lasting?

What are the finishing touches that will say to the world, “Here is something truly valuable? Look! I did this! This matters!”

Building something of quality can be challenging work. Every little pig who ever slapped a few sticks together knows what happens when a wolf shows up at the door. Better to take the time to plan for your own success. If you are thinking of building a better career for yourself, take time to think about what that journey needs to cover. What positions do you need to tackle or what education do you need to get where you want to go in your career? There are no shortcuts. Lay a strong foundation.