Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Abundance Mentality for Leaders

I wrote about establishing an abundance culture in an organization, emphasizing that the leader sets the tone and establishes the standard. The leader must be committed to and conscious about her or his own mentality, and is responsible for guiding the team toward developing their own abundance mentality.

The question might arise "how do I do that? How do I develop my abundance mentality?"

I just happened on a website that provides really terrific information for leaders who want to develop the abundance mentality. Visit accessabundance.com for some free information that will get you on the path.

I'll be writing much more about how a leader's abundance mentality can form the core of creating a healthy, abundant organizational culture. Stay tuned!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Abundance-based Organizational Culture

What kind of culture does your organization have? Is it built on a sense of scarcity or abundance? Is there a feeling of love and generosity, or of withholding and punishment? Do people compete or cooperate? Can you learn from mistakes or do you fear doing something wrong?

It's very disempowering to work in a place that operates with the scarcity consciousness. Even saying "consciousness" is oxymoronic, for "scarcity" usually applies also to one's level of awareness of how people work best.

While it's true that fear and punishment motivate people to produce results, it only works for a short period of time. Everyone I know who is seeking new work is fleeing a fear-based, dictatorial, secretive, and unforgiving workplace.

And everyone seeks a place where they are respected, informed, allowed to participate and collaborate, and able to think and act somewhat independently. I call this a culture of "abundance." In such a culture, there is enough for everyone, and there will be more when people work together openly, generously and kindly.

Literally every single person I talk to wants the same thing. Sadly, almost every single person doubts that such a place exists.

One person wrote so eloquently about her current workplace, from which she longs to escape:

I am noticing here that there is an undercurrent of hunger here.
Many smart people all looking to prove themselves. Everyone
wants to comment on everything. Folks seeking attention,
acknowledgment and to prove how smart and capable they are.
At the same time as people are somewhat protective of their
own turf - it is a weird and draining mix.

Clearly, the "scarcity model" is operating in this workplace. When people perceive that there is a limited pie, they think they need to hang on to what they have; otherwise they won't be able to get any more. For that matter, it makes sense that one might denigrate others - "let me get some of their pie!"

The environment wounds everyone in some way. Obviously, it harms those who are criticized and denigrated, excluded and not respected. Those doing the denigrating also are harmed if only because they are operating from fear - fear that they will lose what they have. Also, on some level they fear the same thing happening to them. How difficult it is to maintain the defenses needed to protect oneself from possible attack! It drains one's energy from other endeavors.

If everyone is hungry and operating within scarcity, then it's so much more difficult for any one person to own her own abilities and power - especially someone who is naturally generous. It's far easier to recognize other people's abilities than one's own - feels like taking away from another person. "If I get a slice of pie, someone else won't get any."

"Abundance" cultures do exist, and perhaps are becoming more common as leaders grow in awareness of how to get the best out of their people.

I created and maintained such a culture, to the best of my ability, while at City Harvest. By definition, I did not do it alone. Everyone at the organization had to buy into the culture and do their best to support it. And it was a challenge.

For example, there was constant pressure to protect information or "package" it so it "protected" employees who "couldn't handle it." Rather than cave in to the fear that motivated such urging, I chose to welcome the input and then use the information as part of an open discussion process with my leadership team. We became more thoughtful and aware of the impact information has on people.

In the end, we shared more information in order to provide context and reasons for certain decisions. The culture of openness and abundance was partly built by exposing fear and then working with it constructively.

Fundamentally, that culture depended largely on my willingness to recognize my own fear-based behavior and use it as a sign that more openness was needed. From there, I could find information and tools to help me create a team that would help develop the abundance culture we all sought. If a leader does not want to create an abundance culture, it will not happen.

For someone working in such a place, it's difficult to escape. When seeking another job, you have to be confident in your own abilities and goals. Yet in the scarcity culture, it's extremely difficult to develop and maintain such confidence. Perhaps the way out of the conundrum is to step outside the construct, either literally (a vacation, any new job) or conceptually (recognizing the behavior of "scarcity" and ceasing to behave that way).

As Gandhi said, "be the change you wish to see." If I want to work someplace that is open, generous, fun, and abundant, I need to be those things to the best of my ability. Once I have left behind the old behavior, new opportunities will appear to me.

Is it easy to maintain "abundant" behavior and attitudes in a "scarcity" environment? No. But it is doable. Do the opportunities appear instantly. No. But they do appear.

I know, because I experienced it. It took me two years of misery at the NYC Department of Employment before I got my dream job of Executive Director at City Harvest. During those two years, I was the "boss of choice" for many people, because I no longer operated with fear as manifested by unreasonable demands on, impatience with, and criticism, disgust, and contempt for my staff.

Overnight, I had shifted my behavior after my secretary had an asthma attack that put her in a coma and eventually killed her. I came to realize that what really mattered was the quality of my relationships with other people, not getting things done. Things would get done - and done very well - if I had great relationships. The focus needed to be on people, not the work. My focus shifted to supporting people working together to get things done.

The change was so substantial that word got around that I was great to work for, and people applied. Not just any people, but the best people. This made me very unpopular with my peers. As I once heard, "the knives came out and I have the scars to prove it."

Many a night I cried wondering why this was happening and despairing of ever getting a different job. For I was looking. Nothing came to fruition.

I see now that it was part of my learning process, for me to learn how to maintain my attitude and behavior under stress and duress. That muscle had to be strong for me to succeed at City Harvest.

So while I cried at night, I focused on doing great work and having fun during the day. I learned how to withstand outside pressure, maintain my integrity, treat my staff well and protect them from attack and unreasonable demands. I became the buffer between them and the surrounding organization. When I was strong enough, the City Harvest job came along - and I was ready for it.

Building that internal strength can be done in any environment. And I know positively that when one adopts and then lives the "abundance" model, you will attract abundance-based opportunities.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Setting Up a National Membership Organization

I recently did some research on how to set up a membership organization that is national in scope, specifically whether it's very different than setting up a local non-profit.

What I found is that there's not a lot of difference. Every non-profit is a corporation, and is incorporated in a specific state - just as for-profits are incorporated in a particular state even though they operate in many locations. So the incorporation process is the same as for local non-profits. The incorporation purpose will have to include reference to national activities so you have the legal ability to work on that level, just as the application for tax-exempt status will have to state clearly what the association will do and its scope.

Obviously, the IRS has a lot of information especially in its section about professional/trade associations, which is the kind of entity you want to establish under Section 501(c)(6) of the Tax Code.

Where the national vs. local issue comes in is when you get to fundraising. Any non-profit that raises funds has to register with the state's attorney general's office or whatever other entity oversees non-profit activities - most often it is the attorney general that has a Charities Registration Bureau. Registering across state lines is advisable for any non-profit that is national in scope - but only if you intend to raise money. There is a cost associated with registering that varies state by state, but usually is in the $100 to $500 range.

Here are sites that provide useful information:

* Www.associationexecs.com has information and resources about creating an association.

* The American Society of Association Executives appears to be most useful; check out the Knowledge Center.

* GuideStar has various articles on legal issues, as well as other topics of interest on non-profits.

* The Alliance for Nonprofit Management has information on financial management and many other topics.

* Charity Channel has lots of terrific resources, including this article on legal issues.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Life Lessons at Work

I always thought my teachers in life would be loving and generous. "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear." I thought I'd have gurus at whose feet I could sit, soaking up wisdom and knowledge of the universe, becoming enlightened myself.

After enough rough times, however, I realized that my teachers didn't wear flowing orange or white robes and sit in the lotus position. My teachers were bad bosses, difficult work environments, and disappointments.

Sometimes bosses and work environments started out great and turned a little sour over time. The lesson there? Usually, I had changed and grown. In learning new skills and developing new maturity, I outgrew my current situation. Unfortunately, I was so deeply immersed in the change, I had little if any awareness of how much I had changed. All I knew was that my boss and some co-workers became incredibly frustrating. Did they just become stupid?

It's clear now that my expectations for my boss and co-workers had shifted, often becoming higher. That makes sense, when I realize that I was playing a bigger game with better skills. I naturally wanted to play with others who had similar skills. My frustration stemmed from two sources:

1) there were people who couldn't play the bigger game because they really didn't have the skill; and

2) there were people who had the skills, I just couldn't recognize them. Consequently, I assumed they didn't have them.

My arrogance conveyed itself to others, who then didn't really want to play with me, either. Caught up as I was in my own circumstances, I rarely spared a thought for how others were doing or what situations they were coping with well beyond my ken or awareness.

That was an important lesson for me. I needed to stop assuming I had all the answers and all the information. I discovered the power of questions - asking people about themselves and the challenges they face. I also started to look at how people, especially bosses, handled situations and thought about how I might do it differently. They were my "negative powers of example" - the "how not to do it" teachers.

Those lessons helped me own my own abilities and also understand why someone might do what they do. I learned to respect our differences and developed some compassion for people differently and perhaps less able than me. This made it possible for me to consciously choose how to handle a situation. It made me ready to lead others.

Keep the Faith!

Sometimes it seems as if you'll never reach your goal of finding the "right fit" job or work. And sometimes it's hard to see the path ahead. Am I really headed in the right direction? How do I know I'm taking the right actions?

While frustrating and perhaps even depressing, this state is a magical one. This state of "not knowing" leaves you open to new information. When you lose your sense of certainty, new possibilities can emerge and you may even recognize them as opportunities to get closer to your goal.

In fact, at this point in your search process, you're not supposed to "know" - you don't have enough information yet. Information-gathering is the key to moving ahead. Information is everywhere around you and it's within your reach. All you have to do is pay attention and ask questions.

I'm reminded of an image from the Carol Burnett Show (some of you may be old enough to remember it). At the end, she always appeared as a cleaning lady with her mop. Just a spotlight was on her, illuminating only her and her immediate surrounding space. There was only enough light to take one step at a time. She couldn't see where she was going so she trusted that spotlight would take her where she needed to go. She "kept the faith" and kept walking toward her goal while surrounded by darkness. Because there was enough light for her to confidently take the next step.

As long as we have enough light to take that next step on our path, we'll get where we want to go and reach our desired goals. Be in the now, with that spotlight. That's where faith comes in. When you started on this path, you stated your intention and began to take actions. Have faith that you are still on the path even if you can't see how you'll get to your goal from where you are now. The way may not be clear or even visible. It is there, however. Simply put one foot in front of the other, do the next thing that appears, take the next step.

Maybe there's someone you've been meaning to contact. So make that call or send that e-mail asking for 20 minutes of their time to talk about your next move.

Perhaps a job posting struck your interest. Apply for it.

Possibly someone invites you to a social gathering. RSVP "yes" and then actually go.

Maybe you always wanted to learn about a particular field, or develop a skill. Do a little research. Ask someone if they know anything about it, or if they know someone who does.

Do the next thing that occurs to you. That's where the light is shining. That's what you know.

You don't have to worry about the step after that. There will be enough light shining then for you to see what to do and where to go.

And before you know it, step by step, you'll reach your goal.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Changing Jobs and Clothes : Color

What to wear for the interview?

It's important, because clothes definitely send a big message to people observing and meeting us. From the color of our clothes, people form impressions of us before we even speak.

Choose your clothing colors to convey an unspoken message, one that supports whatever verbal message you are delivering. By matching your visual and verbal messages, you are more likely to achieve your desired goal from whatever interaction you have with other people.

For job interviews, this is especially important. What do you want the employer to think of you?

I first was introduced to the idea that color could influence work by a book called The Mystic Executive (now out of print). In it, I learned that

* wearing blue is a great idea when I wanted people to know that I was listening to them, and to promote better communication.

* orange should only be worn as an accent color

* pastels make one appear weak and soft

* red is to be worn when one wants to command attention and appear authoritative.

* black and white to be "nothing" colors that conveyed no message at all and in a sense allow the other person to see in you their own self-image. That's a little dangerous if you ask me. I mean, what if they hate themselves?

Here's what Mary Giuseffi, an image consultant (Marygiuseffi.com) said in an interview with Steve Harrison (MillionDollarAuthorClub.com). It correlates nicely.

* Navy suit conveys team player, trustworthiness
* Red tie conveys power, enthusiasm, control
* Blue tie conveys clarity, teamwork, trustworthiness
* Yellow is a mentally clear color that helps you deliver a concise message. It also is a happy and entertaining color.

As for me, I stuck with a navy blue suit with a cream-colored top. And I wore the same outfit for every interview, so I would be familiar to those interviewing me. The suit was season-appropriate and somewhat stylish - not overboard with fashion-edginess, but looking current. I wore pumps and nude stockings. And I wore a simple pearl necklace, makeup, and my hair down and styled. It was a pretty classic outfit, that worked. I did get the jobs I really wanted.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Networking and Information Interviews, part 2

Networking is natural and easy when you start with people you know really well (your natural network) AND when you have a script!

Once you identify someone to contact, decide whether to contact them by e-mail or phone. E-mail is easiest, especially for busy people. A phone call is better for someone you know really well.

It's important that you have a clear intention that you can explain to the person. Here's a format that works:

I am looking for a job that allows me to play this role and use x skills, and where my work will contribute to this goal and impact.

When approaching someone you know fairly well, you can simply say "I'm exploring career options and wondered if you'd have 20 minutes to sit with me and give me some feedback and suggestions."

Often, the person will start the conversation right there with the question "so what are you looking for?" At that point you can say something along the lines of your intention - or shorter! Follow that by saying "I can tell you more when we meet."

If you're lucky, your first few contacts may actually know of jobs! It doesn't matter if they do, however.

Your goal should be to get referred to at least one person who might be able to help you. Ask "is there anyone you can think of who might be able to help me?" If they have to think about it, make sure you ask them about it in a follow up e-mail or letter.

The follow-up communication should thank them for taking the time to talk to you and say that their feedback [suggestions, referrals, etc.] was really valuable and you appreciate their help and support.

Here is a script for contacting the next person along the line:

“So and so recommended that I contact you regarding my job search. S/he thought you might have some great insight and advice to offer. Would it be possible for me to get 20 minutes of your time? I’m exploring the possibilities in the ________field, and would appreciate any advice and suggestions you might have. You can reach me by e-mail or at ###-###-####. I’ll contact you if I don’t hear from you. Thank you in advance! I look forward to meeting you.”

If you want to make the initial contact by phone, use the same script.

I suggest practicing the conversation before you make the call. It is incredibly helpful to rehearse so you get comfortable with what you are asking. Ask a friend to go through it with you two or three times so you role play your part and experience what it feels like to make the request.

It is rare for people to refuse to give you 20 minutes in person, and even rarer for them to refuse to give you 20 minutes over the phone. If they do refuse, it’s either because they have no time or they believe they have no advice to offer. In both cases, it’s about them – it’s definitely NOT about you. So thank them for their consideration and say good-bye. No burning of bridges is necessary. Who knows? You might run into them again in another context, and it can then be a pleasant introduction: “oh, I’m so glad to meet you! So and so has said such nice things about you.” And you might gain a new friend or colleague.

The Value of Networking

Networking for job search, business development, or career growth is valuable for a few reasons.

1) You have to get clear about what you want to do and why you want help. Writing down your intention or goal is the biggest step toward actually realizing it. And asking someone else for help both forces and guides you to get very clear about your intention.

2) You'll make the connections that will lead to a job or work or customers. The vast majority of jobs are filled through referrals and networking, most consultants build their businesses through referrals from happy clients, and businesses rely on "word of mouth" to generate sales and build their brand.

3) The very act of talking about your goal will help you reach it that much faster. When you are out there talking about your intention, the universe can step up to support you.

Remember, while you are preparing to get your "right fit" job or embark on your "right fit" career, that job or career is preparing to meet you. Employers are writing job descriptions, businesses are developing consultant specifications, people are beginning to understand that they can't do something by themselves and need to hire someone.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Networking and Information Interviews, Part 1

Networking can sound intimidating. Yet you do it every day without thinking about it. Every time you ask someone to recommend a plumber, you’re networking. Every time you send your friend to another friend for advice about something, you’re networking. Every time you meet someone at a party and end up calling that person later, you’re networking.

In this phase, networking is solely for the purposes of gathering more information about the various options. Using your statement of intent, you let your “natural network” know that you want to learn more about your areas of interest and ask for their help. Your “natural network” is family, friends, neighbors, trusted colleagues and former colleagues – people with whom you feel comfortable. Ask them if they know anyone who works in your area(s) of interest to whom they’d introduce you. All you want is 20 minutes of that person’s time to learn more about what s/he does and the field in which s/he works.

It’s best if you have some idea of what you think you could do in the area of interest, so people have enough detail to grab onto. If your intention is too broad (“I want to learn more about TV”), it’s hard for people to think of people you could interview. A better statement of intent is “I want to learn more about TV production, especially what goes into making a reality show or a talk show.” This gives your contact enough information to think of people who work in TV production, on reality shows, talk shows, and even cooking, travel or home design shows.

Finding Your "Right Fit" Work

Fantasy is useful to guide us toward our “right fit.” Don’t worry so much about whether something is achievable or not. Notice what you are interested in, drawn to. What magazines do you subscribe to? When you open a newspaper, what articles do you read almost or all the way through? If you decide to take a class, what are you drawn to? Even if you decide not to take it and instead take something “practical,” what sparked your interest? And actually, pay close attention to classes you “wish” you could take but it really isn’t practical or realistic or useful or something you should spend any time on. That may be the biggest clue to what your potential passion is, to your future “right fit.” In the noticing, you can start to identify things that are meaningful to you and in which you want to invest time and energy.

In the exploring process, it’s helpful to put aside judgment. This is merely the exploration phase, the time when you get to know a little more about the topic or issue or field that sparked your interest. There’s no lifetime commitment called for, simply information gathering. When you start to explore a new field, by definition you know very little about it. In gathering more information, you will start to be affected by the new information – it may resonate with you and spur you on to learn more, or you will shy away from further exploration. A gut reaction is a fantastic guide during your “information gathering.” Scientists have found that we actually have a second brain in our stomachs.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Important Things

I have so much to do, I can't seem to make time for anything new - even if it's to follow my dreams and vision! I know it's important but I just can't get to everything.

I hear this all the time from friends and colleagues when I suggest that they set a goal for themselves, and make a plan to achieve it. "Sure," they say, "it's easy for you to say...but days just seem to go by filled with so much little stuff that I can't find the time to start my project/plan/vision."

I've said the same things to my coach and friends. Here's what worked for me to disentangle myself from the tangled web of everyday chores and obligations.

First, I give myself permission to do just a little bit - hopefully every day. If not every day, then a few times a week. If not a few times a week, then once or twice a week. The frequency doesn't matter! What matters is just doing something toward my vision.

Second, I allow myself to spend just 10 minutes on the vision. I didn't have to devote an hour, two hours, half a day - not even a half-hour. Just 10 minutes. Period. That gives me such a feeling of satisfaction, I want that feeling again. I am motivated to spend another 10 minutes another day.

Third, I accept that achieving my vision will take time AND that I will get there if I am patient with myself. Guaranteed! Gradually, I find more of my actions and attention directed toward my vision. It just takes time to refocus, and much of the refocusing happens subconsciously.

Fourth, I tell myself lots of stories to help me understand what is happening.

For example, I plant seeds and it takes a while for them to germinate. Under the soil, a lot is going on that is invisible - until one day, a shoot pops up and the plant is growing in plain sight. For it to flourish, I continue to water it and give it sunlight.

Similarly, I get an idea and commit to it. Then I stop taking action. I used to feel terrible about it. However, I now know that there is a lot going on subconsciously. One day, I find myself returning to my project with much clearer ideas of how to proceed. I continue to spend time and energy on my project so it will thrive and blossom.

Another story I like is the one about the rocks. Take a large wide-mouthed glass jar and fill it with big stones. Is it full? Well, now pour in a load of pebbles. So is it full? OK, let's pour in sand up to the top. Shake it around. Is it full now? Most people would say yes at step two or three. But...take water and fill the jar. At last it is full.

The moral of this story is to first take care of the big rocks (vision, dreams, family - your top priorities). There always will be room for the smaller ones ("have-tos").

I like to turn that around a bit. If your life is filled with water and sand and pebbles, it's going to be impossible to add some big rocks without making a mess. Yet if you are shifting priorities, you will have some big stones to add to the jar that is your life. That will mean displacing some small things.

Just as water and sand and pebbles have to spill out of the jar to make room for a big rock or two, so too may you have to let go of doing some laundry or cleaning some rooms or baking or cooking. If it doesn't get done when you don't do it, so be it. Once you've got the big rocks in place, you can add back some of the little stuff. Unless, of course, you realize that you'd rather spend that time on having fun!

I hope this piece helps you make room for the things that make you happy and fulfilled.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Compensation Negotiations

Take the employer’s viewpoint when negotiating your compensation.

You have a "live with" number for your compensation (salary, bonus and benefits) as well as your "want to have" number. "Live with" is the amount you need to make to meet your basic expenses and feel good about yourself. "Want to have" is what you really would like to make. Your "live with" number depends on your expenses, living situation, and reason for changing jobs. If you are starting in a new field, your "live with" number may be lower than if you are continuing in the same line of work.

Similarly, most employers have a "want to pay" figure and a "stretch" number. Just as you don't want to go below your "live with" number, so too do employers not want to go above their "stretch" number. Perhaps you can negotiate fewer hours for the same pay. This strategy won't succeed, however, if it significantly changes the scope of the job.

It's a set up for failure to get an employer to negotiate away or give up on something. You may get your way temporarily but there will be resentment on the employer’s side and eventually pressure to do the very thing that was negotiated away.

Likewise, if you accept pay below your "live with" number, you will eventually resent the employer and your work load. It's far better to turn down the job, knowing that the right one will eventually come along.

Obviously, take the job if you need one NOW and the only one you can find pays you less than your "live with" number. Just go in with your eyes wide open, knowing that you made the choice to take less than you are worth and therefore there is no good reason for you to be resentful. Do a great job in order to feel good about yourself and perhaps impress the employer. Plus, be willing to keep looking.

Remember, too, that employers will know on some level that they struck a bad bargain by giving you less than you wanted. They may expect you to leave soon, they may end up letting you go so as not to have a "bad apple" in the mix, or they may try to find more money for you if you're really a good employee. What happens is largely up to you and your attitude.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Resumes that Rock: Part 2


Your resume is a marketing document. Its job is to position you to get your "right fit" work. Thus, its content is crucial. It must convey to potential employers exactly what you have to offer them, as well as the results you are likely to produce for them based on your past record of accomplishments. Here's how to do that.

To begin, I advocate putting a profile at the very start of the resume, just under your name and contact information. A profile is not an objective (of course you want a job), nor is it a litany of your skills (boring!). It's a succinct description of who you are in the workplace.

Your profile presents your unique value proposition – what you love to do and are good at doing, the skills you want to use in the future, and the attributes you want to highlight. Your profile also will capture your personality through a judicious use of adjectives. In sum, your profile conveys the substance and flavor of who you are in the workplace.

In some ways, the process of creating the profile is more important than the final product. Developing it gives you the chance to think carefully about your "unique value proposition." In fact, the reader will usually catch the first five or six words of the profile and then move on to Experience. They might come back to it but even if they don't, the profile will make an impression. It says that you've thought about and know who you are.

Everything you say in your profile must be backed up by your accomplishments, which are listed under each employer and job. Essentially, the profile is the thesis that you then go on to prove with concrete examples. It also is useful as a way to ensure that your resume is internally consistent in terms of the message you intend to convey.


The first thing read by a prospective employer is the name of the company for which you worked. Then they usually will glance at the title and years worked - some will read title first while others read years worked first.

Here's the order of information that I recommend for the basic information:

* Employer's name first, in bold, followed by its location, not in bold. Use the city in which employer is/was located. Only include the state if the city is not immediately recognizable e.g. Wareham, MA, or is easily confused with something else, e.g. Springfield, MO vs. Springfield, IL vs. Springfield, MA. Otherwise, New York or Boston or Chicago or Los Angeles is sufficient.

* Dates of employment, not in bold, on the same text line as the employer's name and location. The dates should be tabbed over so they are on the far right of the page, preferably lined up with the right side of your address block.

If you worked at the company in more than one position, put the complete block of time over the far right. Next to each position title you can put in parentheses the dates you held that position. For example, Vice President, Sales (3/02 to 7/05).

Job titles can either be grouped together if your job responsibilities were substantially the same with the most recent encompassing the previous responsibilities plus more. If the jobs were substantially different, I treat each one as a separate job under the same employer.

* Title of your position, in bold and italics, directly underneath the employer name and location.

My experience is that most readers go through the entire resume once just glancing at employer, years and title. If all seems to be complete and consistent, then they glance at education to see if you have any degrees. So make sure you have no holes in time, and no major typos!

Only after that first quick read will they go back to look at individual jobs, starting with your most recent one first. After rereading your employer's name and title, usually readers will move to the body of the entry. Here's what it should contain:

* a brief paragraph describing your job
* bullet points that highlight your accomplishments


In a four to six line paragraph that starts on the line directly underneath the title of your position, briefly describe the company you work for and your job responsibilities. Say "Led all communications and marketing efforts for Fortune 1000 technology firm (STOCK SYMBOL)" or "Oversaw day to day operations for 45 year old non-profit teaching literacy to adult New Yorkers" or "Managed entire recruiting and on-boarding process for 300 person homeless services agency."

Use as many numbers as possible to give readers a good idea of the scope and depth of your responsibilities. For example, say "oversaw $3.5 million advertising budget" or "supervised team of 12, with four direct reports."

Readers' eyes are drawn first to numbers, then to CAPS, then to bold. Italics are rarely an eye-catcher, so use them only to indicate the title of an article or project, not for anything substantive.


Bullets are for accomplishments. I recommend limiting yourself to 5-7 bullets for your most recent job, 4-5 for your next most recent, maximum 2 for the next most recent and none for the oldest ones. Quantifying these bullets is important. Those are the things that will get you the interview. The interview allows you to fill in more detail and also to talk about accomplishments that weren't listed.

Here are my tips for great accomplishment bullets:

* Lead with the results and impact of your work, when writing accomplishments. Use active, directionally positive words like "increased," "improved," "advanced," "optimized," "enhanced" and "expanded."

* Use numbers as much as possible, especially with dollar signs and percentage signs; they are real eye-catchers and speak to many employers' focus on the bottom line.

* Split the accomplishment into "what" and "how": the impact or result, and how you achieved that result. For example, "Increased revenue year over year by 80%, through redeploying sales team."

* Ask “so what” to get to the impact of whatever activity you want to include. If you want to include it, it’s probably important but only if you can somehow tie it to an impact that is somehow measurable – as in “increased” and “improved” and “enhanced” and “expanded” – or gives clear evidence of major responsibility, as in “directed,” “led,” “managed,” “launched,” and “created.”

* Brevity is best. Limit each bullet to one, maximum two lines.

* Give leading information to cause the reader to ask a follow up question. Remember, the point of a resume is to get you an interview. The interview is where the reader can ask you to explain how you redeployed the sales team and why that resulted in 80% revenue increase.

* Only include things you really want to do again – similar or greater scope of responsibility, the type of work or project, specific skills you really want to use again, or attributes you want people to notice.

The next post will address the remaining parts of a resume: Education, Affiliations, Recognition, and other sections that might be relevant to you.