Archive for the ‘Articles by Brenda Bernstein’ Category

When College Has a Negative ROI – Guest Post by David I. Block, EA

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college-fund

My accountant from NYC, David Block, sent this out to his list and I thought it brought up some important issues to consider for anyone considering going to (or sending a child to) an expensive yet low-ranked college. For some, at least on pure economic/financial grounds, it might make sense to go straight from high school into the working world.

Here’s what David has to report:

With graduation season pretty much behind us, there are a slew of high school graduates who are enjoying their last golden summer, before … well, before that time that many consider to be another golden four years.

[I fondly remember those halcyon days before the real world hits! Even in college, I remember thinking: Wow, am I ever BUSY! All of these social events to juggle!!! But alas, "real life" isn't quite so bubble-wrapped.]

But over the last couple decades, there has been a rising chorus of critics who point to skyrocketing tuitions, and the corresponding skyrocketing debt-loads, and are just wondering: is it ACTUALLY worth it?

Well, for some schools, the answer is a resounding: NO.

TaxMaster Financial’s “Real World” Personal Strategy Note
When College Has a Negative ROI

“What’s right isn’t always popular. What’s popular isn’t always right.” – Howard Cosell

As many have claimed (such as the US Census Bureau http://www.census.gov/prod/2002pubs/p23-210.pdf ), a typical college degree is worth up to a million bucks over a career — but that’s not true for every degree.

What’s becoming more and more apparent is that prospective college students need to do their homework beforehand, because some degrees simply aren’t worth the investment.

Of the 1312 colleges evaluated in the 2014 PayScale College ROI Report (found here: http://www.payscale.com/college-roi/full-list/financial-aid/yes ), graduates from 58 institutions are estimated to be worse off after 20 years compared with those who skipped college and went straight to work. These 58 lackluster institutions make up 4.42% of all the colleges surveyed. The lowest grade goes to Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina, where PayScale estimates that grads will be $121,000 worse off after 20 years for earning a degree.

To calculate this estimate, PayScale uses an opportunity cost measure they call return on investment (ROI). After factoring all the net college costs, the report compares 20 years of estimated income of a college graduate versus 24 years of income from a high school graduate who started working immediately and didn’t have to pay college expenses (or take loans).

Future college students (and their parents) must realize that not all colleges are equal.

The graduates from the lowest ranking schools report earning less income after graduation. The PayScale website is helpful because it allows you to see reported earnings of graduates from over a thousand colleges. I also assume that low-performing schools in this report tend to offer less financial assistance, which leaves their graduates with larger debt burdens.

However, the most highly endowed colleges can reduce their cost of attendance with grants and scholarships. For example, Stanford is one of the most expensive schools based on sticker price, but its financial assistance is typically generous. So the net cost is very competitive, and their ranking is number 4 based on the PayScale study.

The list, unfortunately, is not all inclusive. For example, my alma mater does not seem to be in the list at all. And, of course, there is a question about whether or not college is to be best utilized to create well-rounded, intelligent students, well-versed in liberal arts, or if college is now simply to be considered as vocational school. Nonetheless, the list has some value, as there are differences between schools and majors.Debt burdens are relative. A doctor’s salary can more quickly pay off a high-price education loan than can a teacher’s. A good rule of thumb is to avoid incurring college debts that will be more than half of your expected annual income. Limiting loans to no more than 50% of a future salary allows graduates to pay off their debts after five years, using 10% of their future salary.Some students begin to realize their faulty economics only after they have enrolled. Not surprisingly, those schools with the lowest ROI also have the highest dropout rates in the country. For example, we have Adam’s State, which has a 21% graduation rate and a 20-year net ROI of minus $20,143.

What should be clear from this data is the world of difference between the outcomes of graduates of highly-rated schools, and of those near the bottom of the barrel. Attending a college with a poor ROI is not necessarily a mistake, but the financial aid package had better be sweet. So, treat your college decision like any investment: you also need to do your homework before you commit your time and money to an unknown outcome.

I hope I am helping the college choice discussion for you, rather than hindering!

Warmly,
David  I. Block, EA
For Arnold, Tina and Dianne
TaxMaster Financial Service Corporation
(212) 247-9090

What do you think of David’s analysis of College ROI? Does it change your view of how you will approach the college choice process? Please share below.

What You Can Learn About Life, Communication and Death from Reality TV

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conversationI have a confession to make: I am a communication junkie. And it gets worse: I have been following the reality show The Bachelorette (with bachelorette Andi Dorfman), entranced by the ins and outs of communication between the show’s participants. I admit that I am susceptible to getting swept up in the drama of these shows, especially when something happens that strikes a chord in my own life. “Reality” TV, after all, is about real people. Real things happen on the show, as well as to people after they leave. Real communication happens constantly.

This season, about a month after Andi sent one of the men, adventurer Eric Hill, home, he was killed in a paragliding accident. Their last conversation, the one that drove him off the set permanently, was not exactly a positive one. I was frankly shocked by how it went. The following is excerpted from their conversation:

Eric: I feel like you’re not being “the” Andi with me. I’ve seen little glimpses of you. Like the real you… And that’s the Andi I like. When we were building the kite. When we were building the sand castle. When you were just gripping leather when we took off in the helicopter. I came on this to meet a person, not a TV actress.

Andi: You think I’m a TV actress?

Eric: I see two different sides of Andi.

Andi: What do you think you see every day though?

Eric: Poker face.

Andi: Really?

Eric: And I understand. You do need to be fair and diplomatic around the other guys. But this is our one-on-one time. This is where you can show me…

Andi: You’re sitting here looking me in the eye and telling me I have a poker face on.

Eric: Not now.

Andi: But before?

Eric: Yes. When we would talk, I was having such a hard time reading you.

Andi: I’ve asked everybody to be open and this is what this is about and you have every right to be open and I respect you being open, I really do, even though it hurts. But I’m very taken aback by that.

Eric: This is the real Andi I’m talking about… Do you feel like you’ve been comfortable and natural all the time?

Andi: … Not a chance. But do I work my ass off and stay up late so that everyone knows that I’m here for them? Yeah I do. You have no idea what it takes. You have no idea how exhausted I am. You have no clue how it is to look people in the face and send them home. You have no idea. So for you to sit here and tell me I have a poker face is so offensive to me…

Eric: Andi, I’ve seen you smile, and I know that when the cameras aren’t here, there’s been a different side of Andi.

Andi: You’re continuously calling me fake though… Do I not realize that there are cameras everywhere? Do I not realize there are guys there? YES I do. But you’re seriously still insulting me. What if I sat here and was insulting you?

Can I just be honest? This is so far past healthy, this is so far past what needs to be happening. I want you to have come here and have had a good experience… I…

Eric: You’re so upset with me… I’m sorry. I just, I want you to be totally comfortable with me.

Andi: I’m not gonna sit here and pretend to just be okay with that. But I think at this point you and I both know this is not gonna work… I cannot fight for somebody who doesn’t believe in me and I don’t think you do.

Eric: If you don’t think I believe in you it won’t ever work.

Andi: I don’t think you do.

Am I missing something here? Eric gave Andi some genuine feedback on how much he liked her when she was able to relax and be herself. He tried to tell her he wanted more of that. He tried to tell her, while she was expressing her anger and pain, that he was now seeing the true Andi, the one he wanted to see. Yet all she could hear were the negatives and “insults” that, in my opinion, were not even there. She latched on to “poker face” and “actress” and refused to let go.

If I had been Andi, I would have been more, not less, interested in Eric after this conversation. I want a relationship partner who challenges me to show my true self, whether playful or hurt or angry. And I wonder, if Andi had known that Eric would die shortly after their conversation, if perhaps she would have responded with a bit more receptivity. Perhaps she would have appreciated Eric for his honesty. Perhaps she would have taken his coaching. Perhaps she could have seen, instead of a man who was insulting her, a man who was 100% on her side and wanting to be with her most open and genuine self.

Instead, they left it like this:

Eric: I do think you’re reading the way I feel a little bit heavy. And I’m gonna be thinking about how it all ended.

Andi: Me too, me too.

Now the entire reality-TV-watching world is thinking about how it ended. I hope others, like me, are reflecting on what’s important in communication and in life.

The Magic LinkedIn® Formula

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My e-book, How to Write a KILLER LinkedIn® Profile, enumerates 18 “Mistakes to Avoid” as well as 7 “Bonus Tips.” That’s a total of 25 items that I think are important for every LinkedIn® user to understand and implement (actually more than 25, since many of the chapters have subpoints as well).dreambank

Nevertheless, on Wednesday I will be giving a presentation at American Family Insurance’s DreamBank on “Top Five LinkedIn® Mistakes.” Not 25, but 5.

It’s not easy to choose the top five, but I managed to do it. Not only that, but I even narrowed it down to three general categories. I call this my “Magic LinkedIn® Formula” and even if you’re unable to attend my presentation live on Wednesday, you can benefit from the formula.

Success on LinkedIn® comes down to what I have dubbed the “3 Ls” (not to be confused with the class of students in their third year of law school):

  1. Locatability
  2. Likeability
  3. ALiveness

1. Locatability

If no one finds you on LinkedIn®, there’s not much point in having a profile. Unless you are in a rare situation where you prefer not to appear in LinkedIn® searches, easy locatability means you will get in front of the people searching for someone like you. For job seekers and business owners, being found by a target audience is one big key to success.

Increasing your locatability entails two main actions: 1) putting the right keywords in the right places, and 2) growing your network aggressively and appropriately to at least 500 connections. A combination of well-placed keywords and a robust network is a winning LinkedIn® strategy.

2. Likeability

Just because someone finds you on LinkedIn® doesn’t mean that person will contact you. If your profile is sloppy, incomplete, unfocused, or off target, you will probably be skipped over for someone with a better presentation. If, however, people like what they see, they will be more likely to request a connection or conversation.

Likeability means sounding like a human being and not a robot; listing accomplishments without bragging; having an attractive photo and format; and putting your personality onto the page. The more you distinguish yourself as unique, the more you will encourage valuable interaction.

3. ALiveness

I like to say that having a LinkedIn® profile is like having a gym membership. You only get value from it if you do the work! Sitting on your butt will not get you 6-pack abs … or a new client or job through LinkedIn®.

Aliveness on LinkedIn® includes but is not limited to updating your profile, participating in groups, sharing valuable information, engaging in discussions, and taking relationships off line to the phone or even a coffee shop!

how-to-write-a-killer-linkedin-profileThat’s my Magic LinkedIn® Formula: Locatability, Likeability and ALiveness! Are you using it? If you already are doing everything listed above, great—you are a power LinkedIn® user. In that case, I recommend that you dive more deeply into How to Write a KILLER LinkedIn® Profile for the fine points that will bring your LinkedIn® success up even another level.

I’ll have time for Q&A at my DreamBank presentation on Wednesday, and you get to participate too. What burning questions can I answer about my Magic LinkedIn® Formula and your LinkedIn® profile challenges?

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I Write to Discover What I Know

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As a blogger, I see everything that happens in my life as a possible jumping off point for an article. There are writing topics surrounding me at every moment. And yet, I sit down most weeks not knowing what I’m going to write about. I face “writer’s block” on a regular basis.

How do I manage to think of something to say every week? I scroll through various topic sources such as:

  • articles I’ve read or that someone has sent to me over the past week
  • things I’ve learned at a conference or workshop
  • articles someone else has written that I might want to post as a guest post
  • client success stories and challenges, as well as business lessons from the past week

Topic ideas are a dime a dozen. But how do I land upon one that strikes a chord with my audience? Sometimes I start writing only to discover that it’s a dud; and so I start over.

Today’s article began when a friend sent me a link to a page of chalkboard art. I looked through the images through my default filter of “Is there a blog article in this?” When I saw a beautiful rendition of a quote by Flannery O’Connor, “I write to discover what I know,” I knew I had found a rich topic.

I-Write-to-Discover-What-I-Know

I started thinking about a class in law school, Alternative Dispute Resolution, where I first discovered the phenomenon of “discovering what I know” by putting pen to paper. Each week we were given a choice of 3 topics and had to write a page or two about one of them. Each week, I was sure I would have nothing to write about. But write I did. I got an A.

Writing doesn’t have to be academic to be a discovery process. Even writing a shopping list can help you uncover previously hidden information. So can writing a heartfelt letter to a friend. If you are someone who writes a journal, you understand that you discover surprises about yourself as you let your thoughts flow onto the page.

Often all it takes to “unblock” a writer is the spark of an idea; sometimes that idea must be accompanied by a detailed framework or outline of a full essay. If someone is having a hard time writing a resume, going through How to Write a WINNING Resume along with one of my resume questionnaires can do the trick. Clients often tell me that completing that questionnaire is one of the most valuable parts of working with me; they identify what they know about themselves as they start putting it into words.

I would like every person faced with a writing project to know that it’s okay to start out not knowing what you’re going to write. Even if you have no clue, try sitting down and writing, even if it doesn’t make sense or isn’t related to the topic. Stream of consciousness is just fine and is a great way to discover your own thoughts.

You might be someone who needs to talk through ideas with another human being and nail down an outline before writing. If so, call someone (perhaps The Essay Expert) to work with you. If, on the other hand, all you need is structure, I recommend reading “how to” books such as How to Write a WINNING Resume or How to Write a KILLER LinkedIn Profile. If you are stuck on your resume, try answering the questions in my resume questionnaires so that you have guidance as you start to put your ideas to paper (or to computer).

I am a frequent writer, and thus an evolving discoverer. I explore how seemingly unrelated topics connect with each other. I dive into my opinions, likes and dislikes. I find out more and more about who I am and who I am not. Flannery O’Connor was right on target, as I hope you too will learn as you embark on this path of discovery.

The #1 Way to Solve Business Disputes

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Stock image of person wearing business suit and boxing glovesAs a business owner, I want my relationships with both clients and vendors to run smoothly 100% of the time. In actuality, of course, business dealings sometimes involve conflict. Although I am not exactly a conflict avoider, I don’t enjoy it either (I left the legal profession almost 6 years ago for that reason and have never looked back)! Nevertheless, I strongly believe that when faced head-on and handled well, conflict can lead to greater trust and a foundation for long-term success.

Whether you are a client or a business owner, you might possibly have experienced conflict in a business relationship, or if not, then you might possibly experience it in the future. Below are some situations I have faced, and which have had different outcomes based on one predominant factor. This factor makes the difference between a happy customer and a dissatisfied one.

Commitment to Excellence at The Essay Expert

I have a team of writers at The Essay Expert who do top-level work, and 95% of our clients are satisfied with the first draft of their resume and LinkedIn profile. I am proud of that number; and I am even prouder that for the small number of clients who have issues with their first write-ups, we are able to create happy clients 99% of the time. The writers who work with me are fully committed to satisfying our clients and they go the extra mile to accommodate each person’s preferences. In the end, I believe that the most important value we offer is our commitment to doing the work required to satisfy every client. Clients leave feeling like we truly partnered with them to meet their needs.

Sometimes I face a situation where a client and writer are not a perfect match. In these cases, if the client speaks up right away (which I encourage them to do), I first determine whether we can resolve the situation with the current writer. If not, I assign the project to another, more senior writer or, in rare cases, step in myself. If any uncorrectable human errors have occurred, I will always offer a partial refund. I am always available for discussion and negotiation, and will do everything I can to reach an agreement and satisfactory resolution.

Sometimes the clients who become The Essay Expert’s biggest fans are those who were not satisfied initially, and with whom we worked tirelessly to remedy the situation. In fact, just this week, one such client referred a connection who hired us for a resume and LinkedIn package.

How to Handle – and Not Handle – Billing Disputes

I am a client to other companies as well as a business owner, and this week I experienced both excellent and poor customer service. In one situation, I raised issues about the service I was receiving and questioned the validity of some charges on their invoice. Despite the fact that I have been a client of this business for two years and have never questioned an invoice before, the owner refused to discuss the issue, instead telling me that the firm no longer would be working with me. I stated my desire to work things out and he still refused, though he did tell me to pay whatever I wanted and they would write off the rest. I was left with a negative impression and if anyone asks me about that business I will tell them how I was treated.

In contrast, with another firm, when we ran into an issue where a job they were doing for me went over budget, I agreed to their terms and requested something in return from them that I felt would be a good trade. They thanked me for my communication and agreed to give me what I asked for. I was left with a positive impression and will continue to refer business to that firm.

The #1 Factor: Customer Service (Plus…)

In each of these cases, what made the difference? Customer service. That’s the #1 factor to watch when addressing business conflict. Good customer service can turn conflict into good will. Bad customer service can create ongoing negativity.

customer-serviceAlso note that someone has to start the conversation about the issue at hand if anything is to be done about it. When my clients do not tell me they are dissatisfied, I am at a big disadvantage. I can’t resolve an issue I don’t know about. It’s therefore essential to ask clients about their experience consistently so that they have an opportunity to voice any concerns. Showing interest in the quality of their experience is a key piece to customer service.

Once an issue is aired, I have found that it’s very helpful to hold a strong vision for the relationship. Whichever party states a vision, the other party often aligns with it. This alignment sets the stage for a satisfactory resolution. In rare cases, one party might state a vision for an amicable ongoing relationship and the other does not join that vision; in this situation, the conflict will likely not be resolved.

Thankfully, most of us as human beings are wired to want to work well with other human beings. And most businesses have a strong commitment to good customer service. That commitment, when put into action, creates a foundation where almost any conflict can be resolved.

If you have stories of good customer service or more ideas of how to resolve business conflicts, please share below!

How to Write a KILLER LinkedIn® Profile – Don’t Miss these Updates in the 9th Edition!

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When I first undertook writing a book about LinkedIn®, I had no idea what I was getting in for. I did not know how much the platform would grow and evolve. I could not have fathomed the massive changes happening on LinkedIn® weekly if not daily, necessitating updates to the book every few months. How was I to know that the images that on a stroke of insight I added into the book would have to be changed regularly, requiring special formatting assistance every time?

It’s a good thing I didn’t know all that before I wrote the book, as it might have stopped me. As it turns out, however, I enjoy the challenge of continuing to author the #1 best-selling e-book about LinkedIn®. To maintain that status, I must constantly rethink and update the information I’m providing.

The 8th edition of How to Write a KILLER LinkedIn Profile was published in January 2014; now, just 4 months later, here’s what to look forward to in the 9th edition.

How to Write a KILLER LinkedIn Profile – 9th Edition Updates

  1. New organization of the book by section.
    Sections were a great way to organize information in my resume e-books How to Write a WINNING Resume and How to Write a STELLAR Executive Resume, so I carried over the idea here. Rather than just a list of 18 tips, the book now is divided into LinkedIn® Profile Nuts and Bolts, Writing and Presentation Tips, and Playing the LinkedIn® Game to Win. Plus there’s still an Introduction, Bonus Tip section and Appendices A-H. I think you’ll find the organization of the book to be helpful as you go through the tips!
  1. Hugely expanded chapter on crafting LinkedIn® Summary statements with examples, and more examples of Experience section entries.
    You asked and I answered. I’ve provided more substantive tips and real-life examples of LinkedIn® profiles that you can use as a model for yours!
  1. Introducing LinkedIn®‘s new blocking feature.
    LinkedIn® has finally responded to complaints that stalkers can’t be blocked on their site. I’m thrilled to report on this new feature!
  1. New tips on how to make connections, expand your network and keep in touch; and on LinkedIn® Skills and Endorsements.
    I receive many questions on these topics and have addressed many of them in the new edition. Plus, get the most up-to-date information on how these features work!
  1. Completely revised chapter on special sections, de-emphasizing outdated “partner applications” and updating new functionalities including SlideShare.
    LinkedIn®’s “partner applications” disappeared over a year ago, so I decided it was time to stop referencing them. The focus now is not on replacing the functionality of those apps, but on building a robust profile with the tools LinkedIn® provides now.
  1. More updates including the latest on LinkedIn® Jobs, the new face of LinkedIn® Groups, special export issues for Mac Users, and the latest overused buzzwords.
    All images and functionalities have been updated to match the new look and features of LinkedIn® as of May 2014!

How to Get the 9th Edition of How to Write a KILLER LinkedIn Profile

If you have purchased the PDF version of my book prior to this release, you will be receiving a link to the new book automatically. If you purchased the book on Amazon, you’ll want to log in to your Kindle dashboard and turn on “Automatic Book Update.” You should then receive a notice in a few weeks announcing that an updated version of the book is available, which you will be able access via your Manage Your Kindle page. If you do not receive this notice, contact Amazon directly.

So… If I had it to do all over again, would I do it? Yes! This book is like my baby. I would even include all the screen shots again (thankfully my amazing assistant Jeanne Goodman takes care of replacing those for me!).

If you’re a current owner of my book, I hope you enjoy the update. And if you haven’t gotten a copy yet, now’s the time to do it! I truly believe this edition is better than ever—making it even easier for you to create a KILLER LinkedIn® Profile.

How to Bring Your Personality into Your LinkedIn Profile!

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I received the following note on LinkedIn® this week from CEO and Creative Director Steve Klinetobe:

“I just finished reading your eBook. Thank you, thank you. Tonight I’m going to read it to the kids. Never too young to start building your network! :)”

This was probably the first LinkedIn® invitation I’ve ever received that made me laugh, and I was jumping up and down in my seat. How great when people can express themselves in their professional communications!

Humor is sorely missing from most people’s LinkedIn® profiles, and to be honest, it’s not always appropriate. But inserting your personality into your profile sure is. One of my clients, sales superstar Anna Wang, wrote in her self-authored profile, “When I’m not bludgeoning quotas with a baseball bat, I can be found rocking out with my band, or parked at a poker table.”

That’s a woman I would want on my sales team!

And Jess Hornyak, Marketing Director at KEVA Sports Center, crafted this paragraph as part of her LinkedIn® Summary:

When I was little, I wanted to drive a garbage truck. Then, I moved to Wisconsin and declared I would be the next Green Bay Packers QB once Brett Favre retired.?No one ever told me “No” (or that girls don’t play in the NFL), but soon after I found art and writing, and hopes of being the next big name in football were passed along to Aaron Rodgers.

Jess’s creativity shines through and would persuade me to consider her seriously for a sports marketing position.

Of course humor is not the only way to express your humanity on LinkedIn®. Take this example from one of The Essay Expert’s clients, a dedicated teacher with a background in HR, whose passion is teaching the “whole child”:

When it comes down to it, children *are* our human resources, and it is imperative to support them to reach their full potential. To that end, educational policy and program development are intensely interesting to me. I believe strongly in differentiation in the classroom, and I believe that this is what we should offer to all of our children.

If your career has taken an unconventional turn, revealing your personality might be particularly useful. Here’s an example from Nick D’Antonio, a law school graduate who decided to change paths (not that I would know anything about that…)

My career path veered off course when I realized I didn’t want to become an attorney (please hold the “How many attorneys” jokes). Of course, I graduated during one of the tougher periods for the employment of early careerists; many like me did what was required to remain independent and hopefully make in-roads into a career.

It wasn’t until recently when introspection led to the conclusion that what I’ve done all along has been to build a reputation for promoting customer satisfaction through exceptional service, and a steady flow of repeat business. Not multi-million dollar repeat business – yet – but garnering repeat business taught me the power of the personal business connection.

So…want to talk Sales and Marketing?

If I were looking for someone with an upfront personality who has what it takes to make it through law school and take the risk of following his passion, I might want to talk sales and marketing with this guy. He does not apologize for his background and makes a good argument for himself.

What’s your personality and your compelling story? What’s the best way to tell it? I encourage you to put as much of yourself forward on LinkedIn® as you are comfortable sharing, as appropriate for your background and industry. Perhaps you too can create a tale that’s worthy of reading to the kids at night.

How Networking Got Me a Podcast … and Can Get You a Job

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One of my new year’s “ressaylutions” was to investigate and choose a CRM (customer relationship management) system. This week I chose Infusionsoft; but this blog is not about CRM systems or new year’s resolutions. It’s about networking.

The sales rep at Infusionsoft connected me with Wes Schaefer, a.k.a. The Sales Whisperer. The first thing Wes did after learning about my business was ask me if I would do a podcast for him on the topic of writing LinkedIn profiles. I was very happy to oblige. I felt grateful for his support and didn’t think twice before giving him a free LinkedIn profile review.

Guess what? I now have a podcast that went out to Wes’ list and aired on April 22. It turns out I’m not even going to work with him for the project I initially contacted him about! But possibilities opened up for doing some business together and for me to present webinars to his 5,500-member list.

People want to connect with people,
and they want to help! It’s human nature.

It’s amazing what can come out of simply talking—and listening—to people, and then doing whatever you can that might be helpful for them. Here’s the thing: People want to connect with people, and they want to help! It’s human nature.

If you’re a job seeker, it’s important to remember these facts about people. You might be afraid to approach someone who could help you because you don’t want to bother them, you feel needy, or some other related reason. Remember: People want to connect with people, and they want to help.

That said, people also don’t want to feel used or bothered. So how do you approach the connections you have in a way that pushes their “I want to help” button? One way is to be indirect. It helped, for instance, that I did not call Wes looking for an opportunity to present a webinar. HE saw the opportunity. And he did not ask me for a free LinkedIn profile review; I saw that opening to help him.

In job searching, the “indirect” approach works as well. You are not likely to get a warm welcome with the question, “Can you give me a job?” Rather, take a research-oriented approach—much like I was researching CRM implementation providers when I called Wes.

I know I love connecting people with others who can help them, and I also love sharing my specialized knowledge with people who really need it. It makes me feel special! The following ideas are based on the premise that most people feel the same way I do. Here are…

4 Ways to Use Your Networks to Get a Job … Without Turning Anyone Off

  1. Ask for a meeting and say something like this: “I’m considering a career change and I have done quite a bit of initial research, including x, y and z. My colleague John suggested that you might be a great resource to find out more about this industry. Would you be available to meet for lunch?”
  2. Write a letter advising your networking contact that you are doing research about an industry or list of companies (note someone does not have to work at a particular company to be in the know). You can provide the list of companies and ask if they know contact information for key players, current trends, organizational culture, major projects pending, organizational/staffing changes and opportunities, and/or problems the company is facing.
  3. Ask your close connections to do some research for you! If your husband is a golfer, he can mention your job search on the course and find out who might be a valuable resource for you. Or if your cousin is in construction and you are exploring the possibility of working in that field, ask your cousin to talk to her contacts who might be willing to meet with you and tell you what it’s like to work at her company.
  4.  Join an association, or even a networking group in an area where perhaps you haven’t interacted before. Introduce yourself and what you’re up to. These groups are eager to provide resources and to connect you with people who can help.

Many times, these types of researching questions will lead to information about an open position. The trick is to honestly approach people with the expectation that they will give you information—not a job!

Of course, it’s a good idea to learn more about the person you’re contacting as well. It’s likely you’ll be inspired to do something for them, just as they were inspired to support you.

If you have used any of these techniques in the past, please share your experience. And if you try one of them after reading this blog, please report back on your results!

The Power of Mission and Vision … What’s Yours?

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Why Have a Mission and Vision Anyway? And What Does It All Mean?

Creating a mission and vision statement can be a formidable task. Large companies spend weeks and months on the process. When used to full advantage, a mission and vision truly underlie a company’s business model and become what employees and clients/customers align to. If someone is not excited about the company’s mission and vision, that person is not a good fit for the organization.

ActionCOACH, my business coaching company, defines vision as strategic intent—why the entity exists; it is a statement against which all decisions can be measured. Mission, by comparison, is a practical description of how the ultimate vision will be achieved.

Of course you can have a mission and vision whether you are a job seeker or a business owner. As you read the story of The Essay Expert’s mission and vision, I invite you to consider what your mission and vision would be. If you create one you like, please share it in the comments.

The Essay Expert’s Mission and Vision Journey

The Essay Expert did not have a mission statement for probably its first year. When I created one, it sounded right and it stuck (it also was a relatively easy process given that I was the only person who had to approve of it!). Here it is:

The Essay Expert works intensively and personally with job seekers, college applicants and companies, to create powerfully written job search and marketing content. Our clients achieve unprecedented success in moving their careers, education and businesses to the next level.

That mission statement does state how my company will achieve its ultimate goal. But without a vision statement, that ultimate goal was not defined. Then, last year in a business coaching meeting, Susan Thomson encouraged me to craft a vision statement to complement the mission. The vision I created was this:

To empower people and companies to be confident and unstoppable in reaching their goals.

This seemed like a statement with a higher purpose and goal that I believe in. And I have been using it. Each time I have considered bringing in a new writer, I have read this mission to them and ask for their thoughts on it, introducing them to the culture of my company.

Inevitably, the writers I have chosen for my team have been very committed to contributing to the success of The Essay Expert’s clients. They have been truly aligned with my mission and vision, and I have never had a problem with a writer not being fully committed to The Essay Expert’s clients.

Be Careful What You Vision For…

However, I have also encountered some issues when I have demanded more time and corrections from my writers than some other resume writing companies they have worked with. Why was this happening? Why were my writers feeling frustrated with my commitment to excellence?

Two weeks ago, I discovered through a brief coaching session with Dr. Bob Wright that my company’s mission and vision were part of the problem. They were all about our company’s clients, and not about our team! This was a blind spot for me up until Bob pointed it out, and it was quite a revelation.

I now realize that my company’s mission and vision must be not just about the work we do, but about who we are as a company and as human beings working together. To that end, my new vision and mission are “in progress” and will include something like this:

We bring out the best in our clients and each other as a team of writers. We are committed to excellence. We strive to write more effectively, communicate more effectively, and showcase the brilliance in ourselves and in everyone we touch.

Can you imagine a company where everyone is aligned with this philosophy? Where we are all working together toward excellence, becoming our best selves while supporting our clients to do the same?

That’s a company I would want to work for!

What is your mission and vision for yourself or your company? Please share below.

2014’s Best and Worst Words to put on Your Resume

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Last week, as reported by Forbes in The Best and Worst Words To Use On Your Resume, CareerBuilder came out with a list of both recommended and ill-advised resume words and phrases for 2014. The list was generated through interviews with 2,200 hiring managers and human resources staffers.

One surprising result from this survey, says Forbes, is a possible change in the length of time hiring managers spend looking at a resume: 17% said they spend 30 seconds or less, but 68% said they can read for up to two full minutes before moving on! That’s fairly good news for any job seeker – but it means you need to avoid turning off the reader with distasteful words and phrases so that they will be more likely to read further.

I believe an even bigger trick would be to leave out these “worst” words while also including the keywords from the job description your resume is targeting. No problem right?

For instance, one of the no-nos on the list is “self-motivated.” But what if the job description asks for someone who is self-motivated and you know your resume will be going through an ATS (Applicant Tracking System) for screening? What if, by some stroke of misfortune, the job description contains the words “results-driven,” “team player” or “detail-oriented” – phrases I have banished from my resumes since day 1?

I think that would be my worst nightmare.

My point is: Do avoid these words, but do not do so at all costs. Sometimes exceptions need to be made.

By the same token, just because a word is on the “best resume words” list doesn’t mean you should overuse it. Of course hiring managers want to see words like “improved” and “increased/decreased.” But these words can get very old very fast. Repeated usage of the same verbs can put your readers to sleep; so consider varying your language to keep them on their toes! Consider synonyms like “heightened,” “boosted,” “multiplied,” “accelerated,” “cut,” “shrank,” and other power verbs. I for one will use more colorful words until a report comes out with those words on the “worst” list.

For a robust list of power resume verbs, check out my e-books, How to Write a WINNING Resume and How to Write a STELLAR Executive Resume.

OK I won’t keep you in suspense any longer. Here’s CareerBuilder’s list of the worst words to use on your resume:

  1. Best of breed
  2. Go-getter
  3. Think outside of the box
  4. Synergy
  5. Go-to person
  6. Thought leadership
  7. Value add
  8. Results-driven
  9. Team player
  10. Bottom-line
  11. Hard worker
  12. Strategic thinker
  13. Dynamic
  14. Self-motivate
  15. Detail-oriented
  16. Proactively
  17. Track record

And the words hiring managers want to see:

  1. Achieved
  2. Improved
  3. Trained/mentored
  4. Managed
  5. Created
  6. Resolved
  7. Volunteered
  8. Influenced
  9. Increased/decreased
  10. Ideas
  11. Negotiated
  12. Launched
  13. Revenue/profits
  14. Under budget
  15. Won

The real lesson here is that hiring managers want to see results, not descriptions of your greatest characteristics, nor broad claims of greatness. The more you can convey the facts and numbers of your achievements, the better.

Now do this: Check your resume. How many of the “worst resume words” are on it? Can you transform your resume into one that will keep a hiring manager reading for an entire … two … minutes? If so, you might be able to list “Won resume game” as one of your most impressive credentials.