Archive for the ‘Articles by Brenda Bernstein’ Category

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.

Do You Suffer from Computer Stress Syndrome? You’re Not Alone

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If I had to choose ONE thing that stresses me out me out more than anything else in my work life, it would be computer problems. It might not surprise you that I’m writing this blog because, on this very day, I am ready to tear my hair out due to multiple technical aggravators.There are thousands of articles and probably hundreds of books that talk about how to handle stress. But … do any of them talk specifically about how to handle the stress of heart-stopping technical issues? I couldn’t find any in my admittedly basic-level internet search.

I did however find a report entitled Combatting Computer Stress Syndrome that surveyed 1,000+ computer users, finding that two-thirds of them had experienced this phenomenon. Despite being self-proclaimed “savvy” users, people facing technical snafus had increased stress levels, in tandem with interrupted work or play time, loss of valuable data, dropped network or e-mail connections, and the inability to complete online purchases (that last one somehow did not garner my sympathies).

My particular technical snafus today included the inability to access my QuickBooks file, some disappearing and/or inaccessible emails, and problems getting my MacMail to retrieve my business email. At the same time, I am deciding whether or not to begin implementing a CRM system – a project that sends me into overwhelm after just about 2 minutes of thinking about it. Even as I write, my heart is racing and my head pounding. If only there were a yoga class I could escape to at 8pm on a Sunday night!

The article about Computer Stress Syndrome offered no solace, as it was focused on the quality of technical support – not on what to do when you are a business owner or other responsible professional facing time-sucking, aggravating and unexpected issues, or issues that you just have a hard time getting your mind around. Of course, decent tech support is essential to keeping stress levels from going through the roof. But needing to be on the phone with tech support at all is often the problem for me. I tend to postpone the inevitable for as long as possible.

And what about business-related projects like the CRM that I need to deal with and that I respond to just like I would a technical problem? I would love to hire someone to take care of it for me, but it seems that no matter whom I enroll, I need to make decisions and figure things out so they know how to proceed. In many areas, I have no problem directing people and being involved in decision-making processes. But when it comes to technology I sink.

The only thing I can figure out to lower my computer-induced stress levels is to take the time to solve the darned problem. In fact, I could not even complete the writing of this article until I spent an hour with Apple’s tech support team to make at least ONE of my technical issues go away. I think I have some limit, like I can handle it if there are 1-2 technical issues, but 3 or more and I’m toast.

I have no further wisdom to share on this topic and am writing to ask for yours. Does anyone out there have a coping mechanism to deal with the insidious Computer Stress Syndrome? If so, please do share. You might change a lot of people’s lives for the better.

CTL Brainstorming Day 2013

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On November 1, 2013, more than 150 career professionals from 6 countries met for the annual Career Thought Leaders’ Global Career Brainstorming Day to discuss best practices, innovations, trends, and other factors currently impacting global job search and career management. I am pleased to write about their findings, just as I have for the last 3 years!

Resumes are not dead! Even if you get your foot in the door with LinkedIn or an Executive Bio, your resume will still be a key part of your job search process. You absolutely must show a recruiter, in no uncertain terms, how you will solve their client companies’ problems. And you’ll need to make your great impression in not 15 or 20 seconds, but six (6)!!

Here are the top 10 takeaways I’d like to share for resumes in 2014:

  1. Focus on your most current position. Many people reading resumes do not even look past that first position, so capture their attention right away! Remember that many recruiters are reading resumes on their phones, so make them mobile-friendly (there are applications available to create mobile-friendly resumes).
  2. Go for succinctness and clarity of direction, especially in your personal branding. Less is more. That means no 5-6-line summary paragraphs!
  3. Include quotes/testimonials on your resume – these tidbits are even easier to collect now that LinkedIn recommendations are so commonly given.
  4. Create multiple versions of your resume – for email, mobile, social media profiles, and yes, one on paper for networking and interviews.
  5. In most cases, keep your resume to 1-2 pages. Of course there are exceptions to this rule.
  6. In Europe, you may still include a photo, birth date and information about your familial relationships on your resume (Do NOT do this in the U.S., the U.K. or Australia). Generally, the U.S.-style “multinational” resume is becoming the norm.
  7. Be sure to have an ATS-friendly resume available for on-line applications. You might want one resume that works for both humans and ATS systems, or you might choose a format that works for both.
  8. Consider creating an infographic resume, which is a rising trend. Twitter resumes, video clips and other multi-media presentations will also make you stand out from the competition.
  9. Snail mailing a resume can make a good impression! Do it in addition to emailing and submitting on line!
  10. Don’t be afraid to include hyperlinks on your resume. This is a great way to keep things concise while offering a portal into the depth of your experience. More and more, resumes are becoming an aggregation of social media, with less content in the resume itself.

Wondering about LinkedIn? LinkedIn profiles are a complement to your resume, not a carbon copy. LinkedIn provides an opportunity to be more personal and engaging. As recommended in my e-book, How to Write a KILLER LinkedIn Profile, create a robust LinkedIn profile complete with multimedia presentations, projects and videos. And use your LinkedIn Summary to project your “motivation, passion and individuality.”

For more detail about trends in a range of job search categories, please go to the full article, Findings of 2013 Global Career Brainstorming Day:  Trends for the Now, the New & the Next in Careers. For last year’s report, see my article, Are You Up on the Top Resume & Cover Letter Trends of 2012-2013?

Were you surprised by any of the findings?  What did you learn?  Please share in the comments below.

This January I Switched to Apple. What are You Tolerating in Your Life?

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I’d say it was a long time coming, given that I’ve had nothing but problems with my Dell PCs for the last … oh … 20 years?

For the most recent 3 or so of those 20, several of my friends and colleagues have been begging and pleading with me to convert to Apple.

Did I listen? No. Changing just seemed like way too much work.

Then, in January, I hit a limit. My 1-year-old Windows 8 computer, whose operating system I had just reinstalled, was not working any better than it was before I reinstalled it. My programs were constantly going to “Not Responding.” Tech support could not fix the problem and was telling me I needed a more powerful computer with more RAM. Sales was telling me the 8 GB of RAM on my current computer should be plenty.

I figured either sales was wrong or tech support was wrong, and Dell should either fix the problem or give me some amount of credit toward a new computer. They claimed to be unable to do either. It was decision time, and I was DONE with Dell.

Perhaps you are celebrating, along with many of my friends, colleagues and even distant acquaintances, that I waltzed into an Apple store and bought a MacBook Pro. In the end, this change happened in an instant.

It wasn’t easy getting up to speed on the MacBook. The delete button drives me crazy. The command button is located in the most inconvenient spot I can imagine. My files are all organized differently now. Outlook was downloading all my email repeatedly and I had to get tech support to get a duplicate deletion program. I needed a new way to access my accountant’s server so I could use my QuickBooks program. I had to call HP support to get my printer working wirelessly. I blew out two adaptors trying to connect the Mac to an external monitor. And there’s more.

This is why I did not want to switch to a Mac.

But get this: The computer doesn’t use battery power while it’s asleep. It wakes up immediately. I can leave my house carrying my laptop and no power cord and trust that the battery will last. The programs work and don’t slow down on me ever. And iCal integrates with Google Calendar without a 3rd party program!

Most of the issues I faced were ramping up issues and are all resolved. And I get all the good stuff. I’m starting to be a proud Mac user.

My question out of all of this is, “Why the heck did I wait so long?” You can ask any of my close friends and relatives and they will attest to the fact that I was spending hours upon hours with Dell tech support for years. I have never been happy with a Dell computer! And yet, I resisted change. Pure and simple. I kept choosing to upgrade to a “better” Dell, hoping it would solve my problems. It never did.

People do this. Look at how many people stay in relationships that require hours of conversation to try to make them work. Look at how many of these people move in together, or get married, thinking that the “upgrade” will help. Or they have children in order to fix their relationship. Now that’s an upgrade! We so often avoid the risk of starting over with someone else because it would require an unknown amount of work – even if we have a strong inkling that ultimately the benefits would justify the investment. We resist change even if all our friends are telling us to “switch to Apple.”

Many of us stay in jobs that are not a good fit. Even if we’re miserable, at least we’re dealing with a known quantity. I myself kept working for 10 years as a lawyer, because it was safe and provided a living wage, even though there was no amount of adjusting and mind talk that could make me enjoy that job. I even accepted a promotion (my “upgrade”) before reaching my breaking point and starting something new.

The February issue of LeaderMag featured an article by Bruce Hodes, Five Ogres and an Angel, about the resistance to change in organizations. I love this quote which he shares: “Change is hard because people overestimate the value of what they have – and underestimate the value of what they may gain by giving that up.” – James Belasco and Ralph Stayer, Flight of the Buffalo (1994).

Hodes asserts that two of the main elements blocking change are “comfort” and “drift.” Comfort is something we’re all familiar with. We humans like things to stay the same. We get attached to our routines like a warm blanket, even if they aren’t serving us. And drift, the pull of the current always in the same direction (toward the status quo), affects us whether in our homes or workplaces. Hodes’ advice: “Trust your intuition—be convinced that even in the face of resistance this is the way forward.”

The payoff according to Hodes is Performance Improvement. I certainly got that with my MacBook Pro. My question to you is: Where in your life are you resisting change, falling victim to comfort and drift, when you really know it’s time to make a move? Where is there room for performance improvement in your life? Maybe it’s time to stop “upgrading” what you already have and to start something new.

Holding High Standards… The Power of Disaffirming

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If you manage other people and you hold high standards for work product, you probably have encountered a situation or two where you have had to tell someone they did not do a good enough job. How do you feel when you face this type of situation? Do you feel bad about it afterward? Or do you feel empowered and like you made a positive difference in the world?

I grew up thinking that if I corrected someone or disaffirmed them, I was being mean and overly critical. I still did it, but I felt self-critical more than anything else and made myself wrong for hurting others.

I’ve been spending the better part of the last year becoming more comfortable with my opinions and with expressing them, even if I know someone might feel hurt. As the owner of a company who cares greatly about the quality of the work we put out, I have many opportunities to be honest with people about their writing. “Behind the scenes” at the Essay Expert, I work with a team of subcontractors and review their work before it goes out to a client. Sometimes the first drafts that come to me do not meet my standards. And The Essay Expert’s clients count on my high standards.

Last week, I faced two situations that inspired me to write about the power of disaffirmation in creating results and even cultivating relationships.

In one, I received a draft of a LinkedIn summary from one of my writers that I felt didn’t hit the mark. There was time for me to have a quick call with him and steer him in the right direction. I told him what didn’t work about what he wrote and gave him some different ideas of how to approach the project. The second draft was brilliant and here’s what the client, who lives in Switzerland, had to say: “Thank you so much for sending the draft. I cannot put my first reaction into words (not even in German) – in the very best meaning of the word!”

If I had been shy about issuing corrections, I would not have had such a happy client. Because I disaffirmed the writer, he learned about how to write for a new type of client and both of us got to feel great about the client’s response.

In another situation, an editor took 5 hours to edit a document that would have taken me 3. Not only that, but she sent it to me an hour late and failed to correct some glaring errors in the document. I spent 2 hours editing the document before sending it to the client—1 hour more than I would have spent if I had edited it myself.

Again, my disaffirming power sprang into action. I very directly told her about the problems I saw and what I was prepared to pay her for her work. We ultimately reached an agreement and parted amicably.
Sometimes when I work with someone on a project like a law school admissions essay, the applicant tells me not to hold back with my criticism. I laugh when they make this request – I have no problem telling it like I see it! But when it comes to critiquing in a managerial role, I’ve historically had a more difficult time.

The greatest part about these two recent experiences to me is that I felt strong and good about myself even though I had criticized people I am managing. I’ve been learning a lot about stepping into a managerial role in a powerful way. Sometimes disaffirmation can hurt both the recipient and me—but what hurts more is compromising on what I know is right, or on the quality of the work my business produces.

Ultimately I am somewhat of a mama bear, willing to growl a bit in order to provide a top product to my clients. I will take strong action, give direct feedback, and use the power of disaffirmation if that’s what it takes to run a successful and well-respected business.

If you are in a managerial position, how do you express your criticism? How do you handle it when someone fails to come through in the way you expect? Are you willing to talk straight to people? And how do you feel when you don’t? And what’s the bigger goal that inspires you to take the actions you take?

Overwhelmed? Here’s a Great Way to Take Control of Your Job Search

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I have a confession to make: I am not naturally an organized person. If left to my own devices, I generally do whatever comes into my head to do at the moment. I am easily sidetracked and have a tendency to think I can do everything without regard to priorities.

Sound familiar? If so, and if you are a job seeker, you might be experiencing some overwhelm as you conduct your search.

Thankfully, there are tools available that can help. To tackle my lack of focus, for example, I have chosen to participate in a business coaching group where I am forced to create priorities and follow them—at least to some extent! You might benefit from some prioritization tools as well.

Let’s say you decide to research companies you might want to work for. First, you’ll read my blog from last week, Top 5 Web Sites for Your Job Search Over the Holidays, and start listing companies that interest you.

What’s next?

The answer is not “Apply to all the jobs and accept the first one that will take me.” The answer isn’t even, “Do extensive research on the 50 companies on my list.”

Instead, take some time to prioritize. First, make a list of your top 20-30 companies based on your research. Then get clear about what’s important to you so you can gather further information on the companies that best meet your requirements.

Factors to consider:

  1. Job Function/Title
  2. Industry
  3. Commute
  4. Salary
  5. Benefits
  6. Opportunity for Growth
  7. Travel
  8. Company Reputation
  9. Size of Company
  10. Products I Resonate With

Pick 5-6 of these items that are most important to you and score each of the companies in your list from 1-5 (1 = bad/low, 5 = good/high) on how they match up on each factor.

You can make a simple chart to do this:

 

Factor #1

Factor #2

Factor #3

Factor #4

Factor #5

Factor #6

Total

Company #1
Company #2
Company #3
Company #4

Look at the total scores and rank the companies from highest to lowest. Then start your information gathering, such as finding contact people at the organizations, with the highest-scoring companies. Concentrate on finding the hiring managers at those top companies and start to discover what challenges the companies are facing and how you can add value.

Once you know your first choice, second choice, third choice, etc. you will be in a much stronger position as you approach the companies. You will know what you want so you can focus on that, rather than let the job market dictate your search. And you will reduce overwhelm by taking things one step at a time in a clear, organized way.

Do you have methods you use to stay focused in your job search? Please share in the comments!

Think Personal Development is Optional? Think Again

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Many of my blog articles are about topics that might fall under “personal development.” These articles are often my favorites to write, and yet there’s sometimes a voice in my head saying, “Brenda, your readers want to read about something practical! Don’t go overboard here or get too “woo-woo.”

An article I read today gave me encouragement to keep writing these “self-growth” or “personal development” articles. August Turak, author of Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks, wrote a piece for Forbes that spoke to me strongly. In it, he lamented that the business world and much of society compartmentalizes personal growth as if it’s something we do on the side to get somewhere or get business results—including becoming a better leader.

On the contrary! Turuk argues vehemently that the essence of leadership is to use every opportunity as a means for personal growth. Become a CEO to grow yourself rather than growing yourself so you can get that CEO position. Focus on your higher mission or spiritual development—and success in other aspects of life will be a natural by-product. He asserts, “The reason you were born is to become the best human being you can possibly be.” So make personal development your mission, rather than using it as a “means to a more limited end.”

Turak holds up the example of Fyodor Dostoevsky, who wrote some of the world’s most classic Russian novels. Said Dostoevsky, “Man is a mystery. If you spend your entire life trying to puzzle it out do not say that you’ve wasted your time. I occupy myself with this mystery because I want to be a man.”

I personally must cop to doing personal growth trainings in part so I will succeed in business, in relationships, in my health, and in every aspect of my life. I have also done what Turak advocates so strongly: taken on new ventures and new relationships with the intention of having those challenges contribute to my growth. Even within my personal development circles, such as my learning group with the Wright training I’m in right now, I take risks and stretch myself in every way I can. That is the fastest path to growth and to being a fully realized human being.

This journey is never over, and the puzzle will never be solved. That’s what makes it so worthwhile, regardless of whether I become as successful in business as the Trappist monks. I, for one, intend to keep exploring the mystery.

Being Brave: The Essay Expert’s New Year’s Ressaylutions

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Every year in January, I make New Year’s Resolutions and report them to you, my 1800 or so readers.

For anyone who’s serious about resolutions, making them is brave. First of all, we need to do some honest assessment of what’s working and not working in our lives and businesses. We need to consider where we want to head in the next year. Serious resolutions mean the year is going to be a challenge. Of course many of us make our resolutions and then promptly forget about them or give up on them. They are not real to us. But that’s not what I’m talking about here.

Making New Year’s Resolutions publicly holds me accountable! As some of you know, I report both my wins and my fails for the year in August and January. This transparency helps me get a lot of things done (though not everything I promise, as you will see below) and encourages me to continually assess and reassess my goals and progress. Here’s what happened in 2013:

My 2013 “Ressaylutions” and results were as follows:

  1. Publish a Spanish-language version of How to Write a KILLER LinkedIn Profile.
    Not done. After full consideration of the possibility, I decided it would be untenable to keep up with all the updates of content and images in a foreign-language version of the book as well as an English-language version! Project tabled indefinitely.
  2. Publish a 50 Resume Tips book.
    DONE! In fact, I published two: How to Write a WINNING Resume and How to Write a STELLAR Executive Resume. They have been selling fairly well on Amazon – and many resume writers and clients have told me they are very helpful. I have one job seeker who updated her resume based on the book and promptly got a job!
  3. Obtain my CMRW (Certified Master Resume Writer Certification, offered by CDI).
    DONE!
  4. Increase the college essay / personal statement portion of my business to 25% of total business.
    I’m still at 10%. However, realizing that I was not going to make this goal, I have already put some things into place for 2014, and I will be focusing even more on building this aspect of my business.
  5. Start a training for resume writers.
    This one got put on the back burner as I completed my e-books. Tabled for now but might come up again in 2014.

Ressaylutions for 2014:

  1. Increase college essay / personal statement portion of my business to 25% of business (carried over from last year for a second go).
    Some steps already taken in the right direction: Speaking at the NRWA Conference in Denver about how to write a standout college essay. Getting interviews for a widely circulated newspaper talking about college essays (publication still pending). And advertising a new summer program for rising high school seniors to work on their writing skills and personal statement topics (Let me know if you have a student who would like to participate).
  2. Roll out a new “responsive” (mobile-friendly) website.
    I have already hired web designers and they are hard at work!
  3. Choose a CRM and project management system.
    The Essay Expert and my assistant Jeanne Goodman do entirely too much record-keeping by hand. I will be investigating CRM and project management systems this year to determine whether there is one that will make our lives easier over here at The Essay Expert!
  4. Serve 250 clients.
    This year The Essay Expert worked with 200 clients to find new jobs, get into school, and achieve business results. I’m aiming to increase that number by 25%!
  5. Generate 214 success stories.
    I haven’t given up on collecting 200+ client success stories. This year we reached 122 (up from 109 in 2012). I’m planning to increase client numbers next year (see #4) so there will be a better chance of increasing the number of success stories. Please share yours if you haven’t already!

What are your New Year’s Resolutions and how will you hold yourself accountable? Please share!