Career Focus

How To Stop Procrastinating, Worrying or Getting Stalled

By Susan Whitcomb | No Comments »

Is there something you need done, but can’t do yourself? Maybe you could use:

  • Tech support to fix a frustrating computer issue or program your shopping cart, or
  • Wisdom in marketing to get more leads into your pipeline, or
  • Legal advice about how to handle an unhappy customer or financial business issue

The things we can’t do ourselves often cause us to procrastinate, worry, or get stalled. Sometimes we don’t even realize we’re procrastinating, worrying, or getting stalled, but those three things spell wasted time and lost revenue, which can put us into an emotional tailspin.

Here’s the back story on my insight about ASKING for help. I’m getting ready to sell a 15-year-old car. The radio hasn’t worked for months (no one is going to buy a car without a working radio!), it’s got a nasty ding in the front fender (a “gift” from some anonymous person in a parking lot), and the floor mats are soiled beyond shampooing. Granted, these are not huge needs, but getting those things fixed has been weighing on me, making me feel loaded down . . . and so my list feels like a “loaded” list. (I bet you have your own “loaded” lists that may be weighing on you!)

But, within the course of just a few hours, my list was all taken care of. I tackled it by setting aside a little time and a little more focus. I stopped by a car stereo place, was dismayed to learn the cost to replace the radio, and then asked for a referral to a repair service . . . that individual ended up fixing it the same morning at a third of the price that I’d been quoted for a new one. Yes!

Next, the ding. I had seen a car with the sign “The Ding King” on it two weeks ago, so I tracked them down, and got an appointment to fix it the next day—it will take just one hour. Ding done-check.

Then, I hunted around on the Internet for new floor mats. Confused by the many options (is sand or beige the right color?, would the 2005-model mats fit my 1997 model?, etc.), I called my mechanic, who clarified the best option and provided accurate information. Floor mats ordered-check.

These things may sound simple, but it brought such a relief to have found competent people to help with things I couldn’t do myself. My “loaded” list became my “lightened” list. And all I had to do was ask!

So, next time you see yourself procrastinating, worried, or stalled, ask yourself:

  • What kind of help do I need?
  • Who can help me?

And, if you aren’t sure who can help you, reach out and ask for referrals and ideas!

Don’t let shyness, embarrassment, fear, or lack of resources keep you from reaching out. The act of taking action dislodges the obstacles and open up pathways you wouldn’t have imagined!

What kind of help are you going to find today? And what difference will it make to your success?!


Is Your Job Search in Thermometer or Thermostat Mode?

By admin | 5 Comments »

We’re bracing for 105 degree temperatures this week, like much of the country. And with those temps, we’re praying that air conditioners hold out and black outs don’t happen … which got me to thinking.
Thermometers tell the temperature. Thermostats set the temperature. In the first situation, we adapt to our situation. In the second, we control our surroundings. Too often in the Fresno summer heat, I begin getting uncomfortable and forget that I have the power to turn down my thermostat.
There are times when it’s useful to adapt (blessed are the flexible, for they will not break!). And yet, all too often we forget that we have the ability to reset the thermostat.
If you’re in career transition, start by controlling the basics:
·      being able to clearly articulate your value and return-on-investment to employers
·      choosing industries that are experiencing an uptick
·      moving to a region with low unemployment
·      proactively selecting good-fit target companies…learning about their culture &       
·      upping the number of hours you spend on personal marketing and networking
·      asking for help from people who will give you honest feedback
·      getting an accountability partner in place—you’re 7 times more likely to succeed
       with someone holding you accountable!
·      upping the number of face-to-face or voice-to-voice meetings you have
       each week … and making sure the meetings are with people who have some
       influence in the hiring decision
·      participating in professional associations to increase your visibility
·      doing some volunteer work for people less fortunate than you to keep perspective
·      considering a part-time position to make ends meet or accepting a
       less-than-dream-job temporary position, recognizing that many of these positions
       lead to more when you demonstrate your value over time.
And don’t forget to control the basics in your personal life:
·      the amount of exercise, rest, and nutrition you give yourself
·      the amount of news media you allow yourself to consume, especially if
       discouraging news is discouraging you
·      the people you surround yourself with, whether positive and uplifting or negative
       and dispiriting.

Next time you feel the heat turning up, control your thermostat!


7 Things I’ve Learned About Resume Writing in the Past Two Years

By Susan Whitcomb | 5 Comments »

I recently had the opportunity to renew my certification as a Master Resume Writer (MRW), a designation offered through Career Management Alliance ( As part of the process, I submitted a few points on “what I’ve learned in the past two years” about resumes. Here are my insights:


1. Succinct | Bite-Sized | Tweet-Like succinct-ideas-logo

Social media and the bombardment of info-overload have caused many people to have the attention span of a lit match. Keeping this in mind, I am shifting my writing toward a more tweet-like style. Indeed, in coauthoring The Twitter Job Search Guide with Chandlee Bryan and Deb Dib, Deb took the lead on two chapters that, I believe, will change the rules of resume writing and cover letters forever. She describes processes for writing a 10-tweet cover letter, a 6-tweet resume profile, and turbocharging your resume with tweets—her ideas are brilliantly simple.

Where possible, I am much more aware of writing one-line accomplishment statements, separated by 6 pts or more of white space, to make it more inviting for readers to want to read, as well as digest the information. The length of my resume paragraphs is also something I’m focusing on shortening. Several years ago, I wouldn’t think too much about a 6-line paragraph. Now, I try to keep them to 3 lines.

Although I’ve been using bulleted paragraphs in cover letters for years, I am now fanatical about making sure cover letters contain them.

2. Integrated Resumes

Twitter cofounder Biz Stone noted, “Twitter is the new resume.” His comment implies that what we write on Twitter, or anywhere online, becomes a piece of our resume. I am advising clients that they need to be aware of this and to strategize an orchestrated plan to integrate their resume with their online identity, making sure that resumes are aligned with data appearing on a LinkedIn profile or other site.

Recruiters can, in some cases, find old versions of a client’s resume online, which may not sync with the current version a client is putting out there. That may impact a writer’s decision about whether to eliminate a problematic or short-term work entry.

In addition, I am adding LinkedIn, Twitter, online portfolio, or other appropriate links into traditional resumes, whether 1) as part of the header, 2) as a “see more information on this project at,” or 3) as a footer at the bottom of the last page of the resume. I avoid shortened URLs, however, because in some cases they will go away over time.

3. Brandingpersonal-branding-stamp

Branding has made its way into resumes, whether obscurely with brand attributes woven into the summary, or obviously with resume headings such as “Brand Attributes” or “Brand Bio” as part of the resume. Although not every resume submitted in my client samples reflects this, I am much more aware of trying to convey both “hard” and “soft” elements of the client’s brand in the summary section, and in some cases including a brand tagline and colors that match the client’s brand. For example, one of my resume samples submitted used brown type with blue horizontal accent lines, matching the colors the client had used on her Web site.

Relating to branding, I’ve shifted in my choice of fonts, leaning toward sans serif fonts. A few favorites these days are Calibri and Century Gothic.

4. Shorter, in General, with Add-On Pieces

Although I still write 3-page resumes, they are the exception to the rule. When possible, for an executive or senior candidate, I shoot for 2 pages and then include a supplemental piece (or pieces) with a separate title, such as Project Highlights, Technology Initiatives, etc.

5. Mixed Messages, No Hard-n-Fast Rules

In some instances, recruiters are writing that “ugly resumes are the best,” meaning resumes void of formatting have a better chance of being “read” well in databases. While I can see this point, we also know from personal experience, conversations with our colleagues, and discussions with hiring managers and recruiters that a drop-dead gorgeous resume with plenty of visual appeal makes a lasting first impression. That also goes for ASCII resumes. One of my clients reported back that, when walking into an interview, the first thing out of the hiring manager’s mouth was “how’d you get your ASCII resume to look so good . . . I’ve never seen one this clean.”

Resume writers need to be flexible and learn how their clients plan to use their resumes before pronouncing definitive how-tos. In general, I advocate to a) get the resume into a target company’s database; b) have it hand-delivered by internal contacts in the target company to the hiring manager (not HR); and c) send it as a follow-up after meeting with networking contacts.

6. Cover Letters

The submission requirements for renewal of the Master Resume Writer require five cover letters. It was harder for me to readily come up with five resumes that met the submission requires and also included a cover letter! I realized that this is because few of my clients are requesting cover letters these days. My observations as to why include:

  • There doesn’t appear to be a standardized process for receiving cover letters on corporate Web sites (some sites have space to upload or paste in a cover letter, others do not).
  • Clients are less likely to write a “formal” cover letter when emailing their resumes to others. A simple note (“Looking forward to speaking more about [xyz]. My resume is attached.”) is not uncommon.
  • The clients I work with are using their resume as a “leave-behind” rather than a “lead-in.” In other words, they are networking with others to learn about their needs first and, as a follow-up to the networking, sending their resumes.

resume7. Resumes Are Not Going Away

Articles prophesying the death of the resume seem to surface once every year (and have now for the past five-plus years). I don’t claim to have a crystal ball, but I believe resumes are here to stay. Not too many people get hired these days without having to turn in a resume. They may not be the centerpiece of the job search like they used to be years and years ago (although many job seekers tend to cling to them, hyper-focusing on them as the magic bullet that will allow them to escape the necessity of networking), but resumes continue to remain a vital element in job search. That’s good news for us writers who love our calling!


10 Career Intentions for 2010

By Susan Whitcomb | 2 Comments »

I love serendipity and allowing room for “Life” to intersect with best-laid plans. But sometimes I sway too far on the side of serendipity and don’t focus enough on clarifying the things I would like to create and achieve.

With a new year around the corner, I sat down to think about my intentions for 2010 and wrote up my personal list. Then I got to thinking about what a savvy careerist would need to be intentional about to create a career that is radically rewarding . . . here is a suggested list of “Career Intentions for 2010” you might want to adopt or adapt:

1.     Be Intentional: That’s right. #1 on the list requires that you focus on being intentional. It all starts with awareness. What do you need to do to stay focused on your goals and not let the busyness and distractions of life take you off course?

2.     Make Space for Career Management: Like exercise, it won’t happen unless you make space for it. Set aside time, at a minimum once a month, to evaluate where you are with your career plans and what adjustments you might need to make.

3.     Find Out What Your Boss (or Boss To Be) Wants: It’s impossible to experience career success without intersecting your desires with what your employer needs. When is the last time you asked your boss “How can I help you be wildly successful?”

4.     Share with Your Boss What You Want: Frame it in the context of company goals. For example, “Mr. Boss, I’m committed to helping XYZ Company continue on its course of success. Down the road, I see myself _____ [fill in the blank – for example, “contributing in a director role and coordinating new product launches that will allow us to be first-to-market in Web-based widget solutions.”] Then ask, “What would it take to make that happen?”

5.     Leverage & Collaborate with Your Career Community: These days, it takes the cooperation and collaboration of teams to make real progress. Who are the key members of your career community—the people who can help you get where you want in your career? Who needs to be added to that community? How can you reach out to them, learn what they need, and deepen connections?

6.     Know Your Value: Can you identify how you deliver a return-on-investment to your employer? If not, start thinking about how you can make them more money, save them money, solve important problems. This will allow you to become the “hunted” and not a “hunter” of new opportunities.

7.     Know Your Values: Are you honoring your values in your current work? Do you know what your values are? Whether it be the ability to make a significant contribution, work with integrity, take risks, etc., knowing your values and living by them is the one thing you can always control during the day.

8.     Don’t Give Away Your Power: If you’re in a difficult situation, don’t resign yourself to thinking, “I’m stuck. There are no options. This is the way it’s always going to be.” Instead, remember the saying “If it’s going to be, it’s up to me.” There are always options you can take action on, even if it’s only reframing your perspective.

9.     FAIL Forward: A wise soul once said that FAIL stands for “From All I Learn.” Make 2010 a year of learning, even in those places of unmet expectations and disappointments. Ask yourself, “What do I want to learn in this situation that will benefit my career long-term?” Likewise, identify what new skills, competencies, or credentials you want to add to your toolbelt in 2010.

10. Be an S.O.S. Worker: S.O.S. stands for Serve Others Selflessly. I’m not advocating being a doormat or a candidate for abuse. I am advocating that you “find the need and fill it,” without an agenda or expectation of a payback. Trust that it will come to you. Those who persevere, prosper.

Here’s to a year of prosperity!


Resume Keyword Research

By Susan Whitcomb | No Comments »

Every résumé, whether in electronic or paper format, should contain keywords that signal employers you have the skills, talents, and experience to match their job requirements. Because keywords are so critical to résumés—especially résumés that are stored in databases that will eventually be searched for keywords—it’s important to know what they are and how to use them.

Before I do, let me offer some data that might alleviate your concerns about finding some magical combination of keywords for your resume. In a survey of recruiters and hiring managers conducted for my book, Resume Magic 4th Edition, you’ll discover secrets of how few keywords are actually searched:

  • 70% indicated that they search for just three to four keywords
  • 23% said five to six keywords
  • Only 3% searched for seven to 10 keywords
  • 3% searched for just one to two keywords
  • No respondents searched for 11 or more keywords

The most common keywords recruiters searched for, in order of importance, include (respondents were able to select all that applied, thus percentages do not add up to 100%):

  • Position title (80%)
  • Nouns or noun phrases common to the position (71%)
  • Location (city, region, zip code) (55%)
  • Employer names (55%)
  • Degrees (35%)
  • Certifications (16%)
  • Soft skills (communication/interpersonal skills) (9%)
  • Prestigious universities or training organizations (6%)

In my next post, I’ll share more about how to unearth keywords for your specific industry.


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