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Tandem Powered offers a full suite of Professional Resume Writing, Career Development, and HR / Business Consulting services.

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Tandem Powered's blog is dedicated to empowering readers by highlighting best practices in the arena of resume writing, career development, and organizational effectiveness, as well as by providing readers with an insider's view of the corporate hiring process.

Strengths First

Kent Nolen

This post is part of my new Everyday Fulfillment series. This series focuses on tips for moving closer to – and embracing – fulfillment in all aspects of life. These posts address topics that frequently come up in my seminars and speaking engagements. They are also the topics that clients commonly want to dig into during Coaching sessions. I hope you find them helpful!


"Because I'm good at it."

"Because it's something I can do."

"Because I just sort of fell into it."

These are things I regularly hear from clients. People oftentimes "like" what they do and are good at it. But, more often than not, they have no real passion for it. The same can actually be said of people's non-work lives. They often feel happy-ish but not completely on track. Likely, that's because they are not playing to their strengths.

Here are a few thoughts that might help you to sort things out and move forward with a strengths-first mindset:

1) Figure out you. Plain and simple. If you don't have a sense of what you are made of, what your strengths are – how you "plug into" this world – you may find temporary gain but you won't find enduring fulfillment. Ask: What do I do that doesn't feel like work at all? When am I happiest? When am I most free?

2) Strip away what doesn't matter and/or add value to your life. Think lean and focused. Ask: What relationships are draining? What old patterns do I need to let go of? How do I waste time in a typical day?

3) Be a change agent. Agility is increasingly important in the modern world. Additionally, a change mindset helps to keep things fresh and forward-moving. Ask: What am I resistant to change in my life? What's something I can do differently this week? When is the last time I was open to hearing a divergent viewpoint?

I Need a Resume That Stands Out

Kent Nolen

Q: I read your last post and don't understand why a resume that visually catches the reader's attention is a bad idea. Isn't this a sound way to stand out from the pack?

A: As I said in my last post, I understand the allure. There's a lot to like about something that sets your resume apart visually. But, overall, it's simply not a good strategy. Let me add a couple more thoughts to this conversation.

  • Highly designed resumes do not play well with automated software, and that's where many resumes start in today's hiring environment.
  • For every person in the hiring continuum who appreciates a design-forward resume, there will be nine who don't. Simply put... When it comes down to the presentation of solid, achievement-centric information, designed resumes miss the mark.
  • As I've said here on the blog many times, I do think there is room for varying degrees of a designed resume, depending on the specifics of your situation. For example, I've seen design-forward resumes work very effectively as a "leave behind" after an interview. The reason? The organization is already working with your primary resume. This "leave behind" version simply presents your information in a unique way.

This is what I want my resume to look like…

Kent Nolen

About once a month a client or potential client sends me “Marissa Mayer’s resume” as an example of how they would like their resume to look. And I always say the same thing, “I can completely understand why the approach interests you, but we can do MUCH better.”

Before I even get into what is wrong with this viral resume – a resume that, despite glaring issues, has been elevated by major trusted publications – let me say that I this is not, in fact, Marissa Mayer’s resume. It was created by a CV design company as a marketing tool. In fact, I would be very surprised to learn that Marissa Mayer even has a resume.

So, despite being pretty and eye-catching, let me point out a few things that are likely to keep this resume from actually being effective.

marissamayerResume.png
  1. Design – The design is compelling but, as I go on-and-on about, a highly designed resume is rarely a good idea. Designed resumes generally don’t take into account resume screening software or even the way actual humans consume information. This resume is a perfect example of form over function.
  2. Picture – In the US, including a photo on your resume is a no-no. Yes, readers can go right to LinkedIn to check you out, but including a photo on your resume communicates that you have not done some basic research about the job search landscape. I am pretty sure Marissa Mayer wouldn’t thumb her nose at basic HR practices, so I don’t suggest you do.
  3. Quotes – Sections like “Life Philosophy” take up room that could be used to speak to actual accomplishments. Focusing on platitudes may be an option if your achievements make headlines on Bloomberg, but otherwise you need to leave the quotes for desk calendars and dedicate the bulk of your resume to what you’ve actually accomplished and the impact you’ve made. 
  4. Charts – The “Day In My Life” chart is an example of something that looks like a good idea – it’s a chart! – but is fairly meaningless. Does anyone believe that Marissa Mayer spends nearly as much time baking cupcakes as she does sleeping? Sure, it’s a cute way to make a point, but cute is rarely effective on a professional resume. And talking about your kids or staying at the Four Seasons on your resume... Let’s not even get into that.
  5. Skills Meters – Like the above chart, skills meters are generally a complicated way of communicating something that could be easily and more concisely said otherwise. In this instance, it is fairly easy to grasp the meaning – 5 dots means fluent – but there are many instances where that isn’t even the case. So why not just simply state your level of proficiency instead of making time strapped people decifer what 3 dots means next to German? Also, how does an automated screening system grasp what 5 dots means (assuming it can even "read" dots)?

Everyday Fulfillment

Kent Nolen

With this post, I am introducing something new here on the blog: an Everyday Fulfillment series. This series will focus on tips for moving closer to – and embracing – fulfillment in all aspects of life. These posts will address topics that frequently come up in my seminars and speaking engagements. They are also the topics that clients commonly want to dig into during Coaching  sessions. I hope you find it helpful!


Ready to have more Big Thinking mojo in your life? Here are some tips:

Think critically – Mindless group-think is a powerful force that goads people into simply "going along" with things. Question the norm. Make your own decisions.

Don't look sideways  Glance sideways from time to time because it's important to know the landscape. Otherwise, look forward. Paying too much attention to what others are doing immediately puts you in the space of duplication and envy. Find your own version of success. When you're focused on the best version of you and doing your best work – regardless of what everyone else is doing – you're less likely to waste time on time-sucking "because they are doing it" activities.

Define yourself – Don't be limited by others' need to put you in a box. We're all dynamic, multi-faceted individuals. Create the frame through which others see you (and not the other way around).

Have a vision for your life – Want to know a great way to become success oriented? Have a vision for your life. Of course, that vision will evolve over time but always have one. Not sure what that vision looks like? Time for some heavy lifting. Start by monster-hugging life's greatest (and most rewarding!) challenge: knowing yourself. The more self-empowered you feel, the stronger your resolution in the face of distractions and the powerful pull of mediocrity. Living with vision is also a prime ingredient of making major change.

Be honest – Being honest is not about being tedious or unkind; it's about growth and authenticity. You can't grow if you are not honest with yourself. And you can't build authentic relationships based on half-truths and lies. That may upset some people, but they will get over it. If they don't get over it, whose problem is it, really?

Keep it positive – Negativity can be fun in the moment, but the fun is superficial and fleeting. Negativity breeds myopic vision and shallow thinking. Sometimes a vigorous, critical conversation can seem negative. That's okay. Here, we're focusing on the kind of pointless negativity that can saturate a conversation or, quite often, an entire relationship. Negativity is the sinkhole of life. If something isn't positive or framed in positive action, run away as fast as you can. If someone is a consistent drain on your life, give them the chop.

Career Blemishes

Kent Nolen

 

Job seekers often feel that the slightest blip or blemish in their career trajectory is enough to eliminate them from consideration for top jobs.

Recently, I was on the hiring panel for an executive search, and – in an interview – one of the final candidates went out of his way to draw attention to a 3-month employment gap in 2008. The panel hadn't even seen it as a problem, but there the candidate was feeling as though he needed to justify it.

As I've gotten into before on the blog, the negative perception surrounding these "deficiencies" (and others) is overblown. 

  1. You’ve taken time away to be a parent.
  2. You have gaps in your resume.
  3. You aren’t working while you search for a job.
  4. You are "too old."

Assertions that situations like the above are career ruiners make me crazy; they are shortsighted and outmoded. Sure, I wouldn’t say that these things make a job search easier, but making such sweeping generalizations is irresponsible because of its inaccuracy.

First off, in the last couple decades we have gone through a tech sector bust, a post 9-11 economic standstill, and a *deep* recession. Because of those events – and the way that the world of work is shifting in general – rarely do I see a resume without gaps. Beyond those facts, though, I have little patience for unwarranted negative spins that don’t point to solutions.

Here’s the deal. There are a lot of people who have set their careers aside to be a full time parent. Many people have a gap or two in their resumes, and many people looking for work are currently unemployed. The key – if you are in any one of those situations – is to stay positive and proactive. Here are three things to think about:

  • Gaps are quickly overlooked if you have a resume that communicates accomplishments (not responsibilities). Employers want to hire people who get things done. THAT will make you stand out more than an employment gap will.
  • Employed or not, a powerfully worded resume helps to make you highly marketable. If you can demonstrate, via your resume, that you are on top of your career (not the other way around), you are a more desirable candidate. Quality employers know that great candidates come from the ranks of both the employed and unemployed.
  • Age can certainly work against you; it’s been proven in court time and time again. Having said that, successful job searches do not end when you turn 50. In this new economic climate, especially, employers are looking to maximize the efficacy of each new hire. Great experience – even a lot of it – can work to your advantage.

Is HR on My Side?

Kent Nolen

Time for a post that comes directly from the mailbag. I love this question (and can't believe I don't get it more often).

Q: I know you work with a lot of large companies so want to get your take on something. Is my HR Department really looking out for my best interest, or do I need to watch everything I share with them.

A: A good HR department is on your side. A good HR department is also on the company's side. Let me explain... a best-in-class HR department is led by a leader who knows that he/she has a job because she/he is protecting the company. That same HR leader also knows that the best way to protect the company is to also protect its greatest assets – its human resources.

Many companies – especially modern, progressive companies – successfully follow that model. The reality, however, is that many HR departments do not have your best interest in mind. As such, treat your relationship with HR just as you would with anyone you are building a relationship with. Do not divulge the details of anything unless the HR Rep has earned your trust.

Inconsistencies Between Your Resume and LinkedIn

Kent Nolen

Your resume and LinkedIn are your core marketing assets when it comes to applying to a new position. Other than what you’ve shared in your cover letter and, if you’re lucky, what an internal advocate has said about you, your resume and LinkedIn represent all of the information a reader may know about you. So, it is incredibly important that these assets are top notch – compelling, achievement-focused, and consistent.

I understand that it is difficult to create compelling and achievement-focused resumes and LinkedIn profiles; it’s why I have a thriving business. But keeping your resume and LinkedIn in synch should be fairly easy. However, inconsistencies between the two show up every day in the work I do. Here is why that is such a bad thing:

To the above point, you presented a small amount of information by which a reader is to judge your fitness for a position. If the small amount of information you are presenting is inconsistent – job titles don’t match up, dates for the same position differ, degrees don’t align – that person is left to think that you are either lying or sloppy.

I believe that many professionals fill out their LinkedIn once and perhaps update it sporadically. Independent of those updates, they make adjustments to their resume. This leads to differing information between the two. Totally understandable and totally avoidable.

Here is a simple fix: when you update your resume, update your LinkedIn (and vice versa). That way you know the two will always be in alignment.

Remember your resume and LinkedIn don’t have to be exactly the same, but they have to be 100% consistent.

Resume Tips from a Fancy Restaurant Menu

Kent Nolen

Next time you head out for a nice meal, I want you to pay attention to the menu. Why? Because that menu is full of best practices for writing an effective resume. Check it out:

Length – How long is the menu? In many upscale restaurants, the menu is a single page that presents a list of items that have been a carefully curated with a specific kind of customer in mind. The menu outlines just a handful of choices, because diners want options, but they expect the expert chef to have whittled things down for them. Take Away: Curate your experience in the same way that a chef curates a menu. Consider your audience and present what you are most proud of and what you feel will be most appealing.

Descriptions – Notice how each dish has just a few items listed beneath? The menu isn’t outlining the recipe. It is not providing a detailed description of each component. Instead, it is just highlighting the most compelling ingredients. Maybe it’s showcasing the protein or a vegetable from a local farm. Perhaps it is mentioning the cooking method. Take Away: When creating your resume, provide a brief overview of each role. But just highlight the most compelling aspects of each role (people you led, size of your budget, etc.).

Strategic Placement – Do you see a few items around the menu that are highlighted? Maybe they have a box around them or are bolded. Those are intended to draw your attention for multiple reasons. They may be there to establish a price base (i.e., an expensive item that is intended to make other items feel like more of a value). They may also be there because that is what the chef would like you to order. Regardless, there is a strategy behind what is highlighted. Take Away: Be strategic with what you highlight. Frame out your compelling branding statement or bold some key phrases. Know what you want readers to focus on and why.

Federal and Private Sector Resume Best Practices

Kent Nolen

Many of my clients are surprised to learn that federal resumes and private sector resumes are very different beasts. Private sector resumes tend to be most effective when they are concise and laser focused on achievements. Federal resumes, on the other hand, are most effective when they are more comprehensive and clearly outline each position’s responsibilities.

I work with a lot of professionals who are transitioning from government roles and into the private sector. I also work with a lot of clients who are making the opposite move. In doing so, I have identified that, while federal and private sector resumes are very different, there are best practices from both sectors that can be broadly applied.

Strong Branding Elements – Private sector resumes need a strong open; a high impact introduction that captures readers’ attention and compels them to learn more. Federal resumes can benefit from the same strong opening. Remember, no matter the sector, a real-life, time strapped human being is going to ultimately evaluate your resume. Make it easy for them to understand the value you represent by providing a clear and compelling introduction.

Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSAs) – KSAs are a common element of both federal job requisitions and federal resumes. A KSAs section on your federal resume is a clear way to map your experience to the requisition, which makes it easy for readers (both human and automated) to identify your qualifications. It is for that very reason that a KSAs-like section makes a lot of sense for private sector resumes.

Achievements – Many of my clients who are transitioning out of government roles have dry resumes that read like job descriptions. This achievements-free approach is an absolute no-no when it comes to the private sector. But it is also not a great idea for federal resumes. Just because you need to outline your qualifications more explicitly – as opposed to allowing achievements to imply responsibilities – on a federal resume, that doesn’t mean that it is not smart to speak to specific, quantified achievements. Clear achievements are always a good idea. ALWAYS.

Regardless of sector, increase your likelihood of getting called in for an interview by leveraging best practices from across the entire job market.

Treat Yourself as Your Most Important Customer

Kent Nolen

I am constantly impressed by my clients – professionals who, based on the achievements we uncover during the resume writing process, have moved heaven and earth for their (internal and external) customers. So, it pains me when someone who has devoted an astounding amount of energy to the success of their organization or customers fails to even outline these successes on their resume.

I understand that there is never enough time. I understand that evaluating one’s own success is tough. I understand that resume writing is a skill that many professionals just have no need to develop (it is why I have a thriving business). I understand that success often means sacrifice.

But what if you treated yourself like you were your most valuable client? What if you approached updating your resume with your last big win with the same urgency you tackled a key client’s issue du jour? Would you be even more successful? I bet you would be.

In 2018, make a promise. Treat yourself like your best client.