Writing Accomplishment Statements

The most effective way to make your resume stand out is through the effective use of accomplishment statements.  These statements or “success stories” demonstrate successful results from your past work experience.  They can also be drawn from volunteer activities, community involvement, military experience and education.  They are critical in demonstrating what is unique about you and the value you can bring to a prospective employer.

To create effective accomplishment statements, identify the STAR for each experience:

  • ST – Situation or Task
  • A – Action
  • R – Result

Transform your accomplishments into STAR statements to include as a bullet on your resume. Quantifiable results are especially important but if it can’t be measured, describe it in qualitative terms.  Begin each statement with an action verb.

Think about how your efforts may have resulted in the following:

  • Made or saved money for the organization
  • Improved productivity or operations
  • Saved time for the organization
  • Increased sales
  • Increased the organization’s market share
  • Designed a new process, program or product
  • Developed and implemented a new procedure, program or product
  • Completed a project on time or before the deadline
  • Identified new markets for the organization
  • Demonstrated outstanding leadership skills

Employers do not want to read a list of your responsibilities on your resume. That reads more like a job description.  They want to see what you contributed to the organization by being there in that role.  Use your accomplishment statements to highlight your experiences.

Ten Tips for a Successful Networking Meeting

Networking is the most critical thing you can to in your job search.  It is important to maximize the benefit of each networking meeting.  Here are some tips for success.

  • Be prepared.  Prior to the meeting research the company and the contact.  Have insightful questions prepared prior to your meeting.  Preparation demonstrates interest as well as your work ethic.
  • Confirm.  The day before your meeting call to confirm the time and location of the meeting.  Ensure that you know exactly where you are going and allow adequate time to arrive about ten minutes prior to your appointment.
  • Networking Profile.  Bring a couple copies of your networking profile.  This can make it easy for your contact to identify opportunities to assist you in your search.  Do not bring resumes.  You can always send one as follow-up if it is requested.
  • Business Attire.  Dress as if the meeting was an interview.  Demonstrate that you are a business professional and that you are taking this opportunity seriously.
  • Anticipate Logistics.  Be sure you have a photo ID available in case it is required by building security.  Have your business cards accessible.  Bring a small notebook or padfolio with pen so you can take notes.  You can also have your questions noted in advance.
  • Listen More Than You Talk.  While it important for the contact to get to know you, be sure to ask open-ended questions and listen carefully to what the contact is willing to share.  You can gain significant insight on the company, the industry and the role based on your questions to the contact.
  • Open with Small Talk.  Demonstrate your interest in your contact.  Break the ice and build a connection.  You may ask about something displayed in their office.  If referred by a common connection, you could start by talking about how you both know that person.  If the contact shares only professional information, do not start talking about outside activities.  Mirror the contact’s energy level.  Do not spend more than five minutes breaking the ice.
  • Be Prepared to Run the Meeting.  Some contacts will take the lead but others will sit back and wait for you to drive the meeting since you were the one to request this time together.  Have your questions prepared and take notes on their responses.
  • Say Thank You.  Be respectful of the contact’s time and bring the meeting to a close in the agreed-upon time.  Thank the contact for their time and insights.  Show genuine appreciation and interest.  If follow-up is appropriate, ask permission to follow-up.  Exchange business cards.  Within 24 hours of your meeting, send a handwritten thank you note.  It is a simple but highly effective way to differentiate yourself and be remembered.
  • Ask for Additional Contacts.  Now that the contact knows a bit more about you, ask who they suggest you speak with and ask if they would be willing to introduce you.   A referral from a trusted colleague can open critical doors for you.

A special situation is the meeting with a contact who was referred to you by another contact.  In that instance, you should also send a thank you note to the contact who recommended the new contact or made the introduction for you.  Show them that you appreciate their support.  They may have other valuable connections for you as well.

Following these steps will help you maximize the value of your networking meetings and will help you identify further contacts.

Protect Your Personal Career Brand

In business, branding is the backbone of any successful enterprise.  It conveys the heart and soul of the company, its products, reputation and values.  Throughout your career, you must be conscious that you are an enterprise with a brand.  You must craft your brand carefully, control it diligently, and protect it fiercely.

Your brand is the sum total of your personal and professional reputations, your competencies, and your relationships.   To help discern your personal brand, ask yourself these questions:

  • What are your lifespan goals?
  • What is your mission?
  • Whom/what do you wish to serve?
  • What is your self-impression?
  • What niche can/do you occupy – personally and professionally—that no one else can claim?

When you are conducting a job search, your personal brand is critical to your success.  Consider the following to prepare yourself to succeed:

  • Email – Make it easy for people to find and remember you.  If you want to highlight your technical skills or creativity you might want to consider your own domain name.  First name and last name is professional and appropriate.  Avoid cute nicknames or other personal emails.    Do not use your employer’s email account.  That sends a negative message to potential new employers.
  • Professional Biography – You should craft a one page documents that clearly conveys the who, what, when, where and how of you, your values, passion, experience, expertise, credentials and career objectives.  Include a personal fun fact such as a favorite hobby or volunteer activity in which you are involved.  This could be used as your profile on Linked In.
  • Resume – The goal of a resume is to get you an interview.  Think about it from the perspective of the hiring manager.  How you can focus on their needs and provide a solution to their business needs.  Use the language from the job description where possible.  Be sure you have no typos or grammatical errors.
  • Portfolio – Do you have samples of your work that you can share to demonstrate your talents?  Be sure you respect employer privacy.  Providing samples is particularly important for writing samples and creative work you may have created in a previous role.  Typically you want to show your samples but do not leave them behind.  You may need them again.
  • Social Media – This is an increasingly important part of your personal career brand.  As a minimum you should have a complete and professional Linked In profile.  If you use Facebook or Twitter be sure there is nothing you wouldn’t want an employer to see.  If you have a blog and it is appropriate, be sure to mention it in your collateral.
  • Appearance – To be taken seriously in your job search, you should have a professional appearance.  No matter how talented, smart and experienced you may be, appearance matters.  Pay attention to hairstyles, makeup, clothing, accessories, briefcases and portfolios.  When in doubt always opt for more conservative dress.
  • Communication – Create a communications plan and monitor your efforts as you communicate your brand.  Be open to feedback and make changes as needed.

In the job search process, you are the product.  Be sure to present the best you possible at every opportunity.

Ten Tips for Successful Career Management

While successful professions often refer to themselves as lucky and say they were just in the” right place at the right time,” this luck is typically the result of careful career planning and management.  Luck happens to those who are well-prepared.

Ten important tips for successful career management:

  1. Take responsibility for managing your career.  There are many people happy to help you but you must clearly identify your values, interests, strengths, development areas and goals, and determine the industries and companies of interest to you.  You must actively identify and seek   opportunities and connections.  You must also do your homework to be well-prepared.
  2. Develop and update a detailed career plan.  You need to know where you are going.  Think of it as your career GPS.
  3.  Carefully prepare your career marketing collateral (e.g., your resume, cover letters, branding statements, etc.) to distinquish yourself from others.  It is important that you invest time and pay careful attention to details in preparing your materials.  They represent you in the job market.
  4. Keep track of your professional accomplishments.  This information will be very helpful in updating your resume and throughout the interviewing process.  Focus on what you accomplished.  Ask yourself how the company was better off because you were there.  Don’t build a laundry list of responsibilities.  Accomplishments are much more powerful.
  5. Build and maintain meaningful professional relationships.  Most jobs are filled through networking.  Request and conduct information interviews and stay in touch with your contacts, helping them whenever you can and keeping them informed about your career.  This is not about building the longest list of LinkedIn connections but about forming meaningful relationships.
  6. When looking for full-time work, set aside time each day to focus on your job search.  Spend most of this time meeting with others to learn about companies , roles, and industries of interest to you.  Spend much more time meeting with people than searching job boards.
  7. Join and actively participate in professional associations.  This will help others connect you to your career of choice and will give you valuable leadership experience.  It also helps you develop important professional relationships outside your current organization.  Most associations also have their own job postings for members.
  8. Identify a mentor and nurture that relationship.  Mentors should have more experience that you have so you can benefit from their insights.  Look for opportunities to give back and add value for your mentor.  Be open to at least consider the advice they offer.
  9. Do not wait until you have an offer pending to identify and contact your references.  Be sure to ask their permission in advance, brief them on the position and update them on your career accomplishments since they worked with you.  Keep your references posted on your progress in your search.
  10. Treat everyone you encounter in this career journey with respect and courtesy.  Listen carefully and demonstrate sincere interest and caring.  You never know who will be asked for input in the decision making process.

Many people spend more time planning their vacations than they do planning their careers.  Vacations are all too brief but we participate in our careers for years.  Invest your time and energy in management your career to ensure your success.

 

Should I Include Interests on My Resume?

If you have space, including interests provides an opportunities for employers to see you as a well-rounded individual with activities and interests outside of school or your professional life.  Include interests and activities such as athletics, community service or the arts.

Some general considerations when including interests:

  • Do not include interests if it causes your resume to run to another page
  • Do not list all your activities and interests.  Focus on recent and relevant.
  • Be prepared to discuss it if it is on your resume.  If you list reading, be prepared to talk about the most recent book your read.  If you identify following the stock market, be sure you can address a particular stock that you follow.
  • Avoid listing activities or interests that could be seen as controversial to the employer.  Often it is safe to avoid politics and religion unless you know the hiring manager well.
  • Be prepared to share accomplishments in your volunteer activities.
  • Avoid the generic.  You want to demonstrate your individuality.  Rather than listing spending time with family and friends, focus on your interest in sailing which you often do with family and friends.  Most people like to spend time with family and friends but not everyone sails.
  • Identifying interests and activities gives the employer an opportunity to connect with you on a more personal level.  This is often a critical moment in the interview process.

Utilize your interests and activities to differentiate yourself positively and professionally from other candidates.

Networking for Introverts

Networking may come naturally to some extroverts who are at ease talking to new people all the time but for an introvert, the thought of networking can bring significant discomfort and distress.  It is a critical aspect of a successful job search and even introverts need to grow comfortable with the process.

Start with the Low Hanging Fruit.  Reaching out to a stranger can be very intimidating.  Review your target list companies and identify friends, family members, neighbors, and former colleagues who work there.  Start your networking with people you know and build your confidence with the process.

Leverage Your Alumni Network.  Review your alumni network for contacts in your target companies.  Most alumni are willing to share a few minutes with a fellow alum.  Most alumni networks are a challenge to maintain so look for alumni on LinkedIn.  Use your shared connection to your alma mater to establish a connection.

 More Listening Than Talking.  Be well prepared with thoughtful, insightful questions to keep your contact talking so you can spend most of the meeting listening and taking notes.  Being well prepared based on your research, makes the meeting much easier and demonstrates your interest.

Reframe Your Thinking.  Do not think of networking as asking for a job or selling yourself – it is not.  Focus on gathering information about industries, companies and roles that interest you. 

Be Prepared to Share Information About Yourself.    Anticipate that you will be asked a bit about yourself and be prepared.  Decide in advance what you are comfortable sharing.  Practice your value proposition.

Take Deep Breaths.  A few deep breaths will help you relax.  It is ok to breathe as you prepare to ask the next question.

Be Yourself.  You do not have to pretend to be extroverted in your networking meetings to succeed.  Be yourself but strive to be a well-prepared self.  Preparation helps to increase your confidence. 

Celebrate Your Success.  After your meeting, review your notes and consider what you have learned.  Congratulate yourself on the information you gathered and the connection you established. Approach your networking one meeting at a time.  Don’t paralyze yourself with a long list of contacts.  Plan one meeting a time to keep the process manageable and to build your confidence. 

 

Don’t be surprised if you come to enjoy the process.  It can be so interesting to learn about industries, companies and roles that you start to worry less about the process.  You may find yourself energized by the interesting people you meet.  

Customized Cover Letter

You see the perfect job posted online and you can’t wait to attach your resume and hit send.  Resist the urge.  Take the time to create a customized cover letter and it will increase the odds of the hiring manager reviewing your resume.  A resume is a historical look at what you have done in the past.  The cover letter is an opportunity to focus on the specific position of interest while highlighting your historical and transferable skills to meet their needs.  Do not assume that the hiring manager will take the time to “connect the dots” between your experience and their needs.  Writing a customized cover letter does that for them.

Focus on Their Needs – the hiring manager has a business need to meet so focus on how you can meet their specific needs.  They really don’t care about what you need and want.  Be very specific in addressing their needs outlined in the job description and show them how you can address their specific needs.

Highlight Transferable Skills – You may not meet every requirement in the job description but you bring valuable transferable skills to the position.  Focus on what you bring and the value it has to them.  Maybe you never worked in that industry before but if you have successfully transitioned to a new industry before, leverage that.  If you never used the particular software they use but have learned new systems quickly in the past, highlight that.

Be Careful with the use of “I” – The cover is letter is about meeting their needs so be very careful not to overuse “I”.  Do not start every paragraph or multiple sentences with “I”.  Think about different ways to get your message across.  Keep it focused on them.

Do not use a generic letter – Most recruiters and hiring managers can easily recognize a template cover letter.  It typically does not relate to the specific job or even the specific  company.  Don’t waste the hiring managers’ time by sending generic letters.  Worse still, avoid the cut and paste errors of referencing the wrong company or position.  That is a guaranteed trip to the “no” pile.

Attention to Detail Matters – Be sure your letter has been proofread for spelling and grammar.  Most employers will consider it a sample of your business writing.  Worse still, don’t cite your attention to detail as an attribute and then have glaring spelling or grammatical errors in the letter.  That is a quick route to the “no “ pile.

A successful job search is the result of strategic effort.  It is not about how many positions you can apply to online.  A successful candidate is one who identifies the right positions and then submits a flawless resume and customized cover letter.  Further success comes to those who have also networked at the company in advance.  Don’t let the lack of a cover letter or a poorly written cover letter prevent you from advancing in the process.  If the job is worth applying to, it is worth the time to create a customized cover letter.