Bring a Book

My travel schedule has calmed down quite a bit, but I was thinking about something odd: why is it so weird to eat alone at a restaurant, but it’s not weird to get coffee by yourself?

I got funny, mostly sympathetic, looks while dining alone during a business trip. I got knowing looks while dining alone at a tradeshow. I get no looks while consuming coffee alone at Starbucks. Why? I think it’s partly because there’s nothing to “do” during the longer wait period at a restaurant. You are seated, and you wait. You order, and you wait. You hand your credit card to the waiter, and you wait. During this waiting, you have nothing to do but awkwardly glance around the restaurant, occasionally catching someone’s eye, and quickly looking away. I think this is less problematic at a coffee house, because the time between ordering and drinking (ie: doing something!) is so much shorter. And, at tradeshows, you’re probably flipping through marketing collateral or glued to your Blackberry, and the lunch is only about 5 minutes to scarf down stale pizza, so there’s much less time between actions.

Hence, the reason people advise you to bring a book if you’re dining alone. Except, I never just sit quietly. Have you ever forced yourself to just sit quietly with your own thoughts? Maybe it’s just me, but this can be unnerving! You’re just sitting there…. quietly…. thinking the thoughts that come into your head! As business people, we’re always working out the next deal, hustling to the next meeting, or trying to answer email while talking and walking. Maybe it’s weird to go to a restaurant alone because no one just sits quietly alone. We always need something to entertain us, someone to talk to, some purpose other than reflection. Don’t get me wrong, I love to read, and I think bringing a book is a viable solution to avoid the funny looks from people in the restaurant. But, for those who rarely find themselves alone, I might suggest leaving the book at home, and absorbing the quiet time between sitting, ordering, and paying.

How do you make dining alone feel a little less awkward?

I Was THAT Intern

Alright, readers, time for another professional secret post! I recently read through a thread on Corporette about a lawyer that was frustrated with her summer associate because she didn’t take notes at a hearing. There are several arguments that, “she should know better”, a few arguments for, “notes are stupid if you don’t need them”, and a few others for, “just tell her she needs to take notes next time, no need to freak out!” Many of these personal preferences were stated as plain and simple facts, so you can see how it might be confusing for the summer associate. This thread made me think back to my days as an intern, and one particularly stupid thing I did.

We were running a contest that involved posting videos from contestants and having people vote on the videos. The scores were calculated using a combination of daily posts + vote tally. The contestants could post unlimited videos each day, but we didn’t want duplicate videos on the site for people to vote on. At the time, our software wasn’t smart enough to recognize duplicate videos, so we needed a human to delete the duplicates. Guess who got that all-important job? That’s right, the intern, aka me! I was also tasked with deleting inappropriate content. Add the fact that the system would randomly freeze every hour or so, and you’ve got one mindless, tedious task!

So, I’d been checking the boxes on duplicate videos for about a week for several hours per day. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click…. click. Delete. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click…. click. Delete. Bored yet? Yeah, try doing that for 3 hours a day, 5 days a week, and you’ll probably understand why I did what I did. My life was pretty crazy at the time, so I decided to call my mom for some advice. I was sitting in a cube, clicking away at those videos, talking to my mom about my crazy life. Sure, everyone takes a quick personal call once every so often during the work day, but nope, not me… I stayed on the phone with her for a full hour and a half. In my mind, I was still working, clicking away at those darn duplicate videos!

A couple of days later, my supervisor mentioned that if I needed to take a personal call, I could do so in the lobby downstairs. At that point, I realized that I was THAT intern. The one that supervisors write stories about on websites and lament the fact that my college professors and career center hadn’t taught me better, and how could that intern not know that taking a phone call in a cubical in the middle of the day was a poor choice? This is further compounded by the fact that I thought I was a star intern, super professional and prepared!

Here’s the thing: interns make mistakes. Heck, bosses with 20 years of experience make mistakes! We’re human, and we can’t play by the rules perfectly all the time. Particularly in an internship, you’re there to learn, and get most of those stupid “you should know better” mistakes out of the way, before you enter the real world! So, I have to say to the supervisors, please cut your interns a little slack. Let them know that their behavior isn’t professional, but don’t embarrass or berate them if it’s a first offense or clearly a one-time mistake. And, I have to say to the interns, think about your actions before you perform them! I had the thought that chatting with my mom was probably not the smartest choice, but I didn’t listen to my own thoughts. If you think something might be stupid or unprofessional, either ask, or don’t do it! By the time you land an internship, you should at least know enough about the corporate environment to ask if something is acceptable before jumping right in.

I’m pretty professional these days, but it wasn’t so long ago that I was THAT intern! Did you ever make a stupid choice during an internship?

Dimensions of a Brand Re-Visited

Today’s discussion is about dimensions of a brand, which I’ve discussed before. In particular, we’re going to talk about dimensions of my personal brand. Well, technically it’s the “personal” brand that I have at the office, but it’s really, “Who is business Ashley?”

I feel like I portray a brand that balances an efficient, serious, ambitious person with that of an adventurous, creative, energetic person. I think all of these elements are crucial to my success at the office and my sanity as a human, but a recent conversation had me wondering if I really do show all the facets of my brand in the office. A co-worker asked about my plans for July 4th, and I mentioned that my husband and I would be heading to the lake to grill, swim, and watch the fireworks. My co-worker looked a little surprised, and said, “Oh, you’re going to swim in the lake?” I of course, looked confused as to why I WOULDN’T swim in the lake, which elicited a reply, “Wow, so you’re not one of those girls! That’s cool!” Apparently, I don’t seem like the outdoorsy type, and I must be afraid of the dirty, murky lake water! This, of course, couldn’t be further from the truth, and I’m not sure how this aspect of my life as has escaped the knowledge of my co-worker. I backpack and drink out of streams, for cryin’ out loud (and I think this post showcases the many facets of my brand as it relates to being outdoors and being a corporate marketer)! I feel like I make the aspects of my brand known to all, but clearly, I’ve missed the mark.

This happens to individual and corporate brands all the time, and it’s worth looking at. How do you convey all the properties of your brand, without looking like you’re trying to be everything to everyone? How do you make sure your message is heard, without obnoxiously blaring out the message in bold print? I think you have to bring it up in casual conversation, and occasionally do something unexpected. Corporate brands do this with billboards and commercials, and then occasionally form an odd partnership to showcase a new aspect of their brand. Are you showing all the depth of your personal brand, or just sticking to a predictable message? What are you “known” for, and is that what you WANT to be known for?

DIY or Hire a Consultant?

I went to an event for Salesforce yesterday to do some research on implementing it as our CRM solution, and I met a consulting company that works on integration and implementation of the Salesforce platform. The rep mentioned a blog post on the Clear Task blog about “self-implementationitis”. The author gave the symptoms and solutions for curing the ills that come with self-implementation of a system.

We’ve been dealing with our CRM for nearly a year, and from what I understand, the aviation industry as a whole is plagued with CRM failure and stalling. Our biggest need is the ability to “fly the fleet”, which effectively uses a combination of logic and algebra to spit out an alert to contact the customer just prior to their timeframe for making a purchase. The problem is, it’s really hard to get accurate information to plug into the logic and algebra formulas! So, the first DIY vs. consultant question: Do we hire someone to make phone calls and download lists to get this information, or do we hire a consulting company in the industry that claims to already have this data? Do we try to build our own database of this information, or pay to upgrade an industry database that supposedly has all of this kept up-to-date?

In addition to the information problem, we’ve also got a resource problem. We simply don’t have enough programmers to support our open-source CRM. We’ve done a lot of customization already, but the CRM is still glitchy, which means that it’s difficult for us to run reports and update accounts. The consulting company at the Salesforce event says that since they’ve implemented hundreds of systems, they can streamline our implementation, and help us with the customization. Essentially, they can take a few months to make our system a well-oiled machine. So, the second DIY vs. consulting question: Do we block out time for our current IT resources to dedicate to the CRM? Hire someone to come in and support the CRM long-term? Or, do we hire a consulting company for an up-front investment in implementation? Do we put a consulting company on a yearly maintenance contract?

Finally, we’ve got a tech savvy problem! I was nerding out at the marketing implications of the latest product releases for Salesforce (that will probably turn into a topic for next week!), but at the end of the day, I’m not going to be the main user of the system. Our less-than-tech-savvy sales and management team will be the main users! And, the aviation industry is slow to come around to newer technology, particularly the social aspect of today’s platforms (remember those issues with a privacy threshold?). Thus, we can have a system with tons of bells and whistles, data overload, and tons of screens and fields. We’ve added fields to the current CRM system, which means you have to scroll for quite a while to get to the green “save” button at the bottom. You either have to go to a different screen, or scroll forever to add new engines and aircraft into the system, which makes it difficult for parse quickly. So, the last DIY vs. consulting question: Do we go back to the drawing board internally to figure out more specific requirements, or hire a consulting company that knows the aviation industry to tell us what our requirements should be? Do we fiddle with the system until we happen on a great UI, or bring in a professional that understands the human-computer interaction from a few decades back?

I thought the Clear Task article was very helpful, but it made me question our current course of action. What do you think? DIY or hire a consultant?

Posting at The Daily Muse

I have another article on The Daily Muse today, “What to Know About Networking with Family Members”. I’ve posted at The Daily Muse several times, and you can view my other articles here.

The Daily Muse is an excellent site aimed at young professional women  (there’s some great articles for men, too!) They’ve assembled a  wonderful team of talented writers, so make sure you browse through the  rest of the site!

Managing Well

My husband and I did a bridal photo shoot for our future sister-in-law last weekend. My husband is more technically proficient on the camera, so I was directing our model for most of the shoot, which sparked a lot of thoughts on managing well. I believe a manager’s job is to get the best work out of their people, not just delegate or revel in their power. If an employee is performing below average, I would first take a look at their manager. Sure, there are mitigating circumstances, but I’m willing to bet the sub-par adequacy can largely be traced to poor management. So, what did the photo shoot teach me about managing well?

Have a plan, and share it with your employees. We’re new to shooting with more than just each other, so having a plan was crucial! We went on a recon mission to map out locations, figure out the lighting, and generally know what we were getting ourselves into prior to the shoot. Once we arrived, I told my future SIL where we planned to shoot and the general flow of the afternoon, which made the shoot much more smoothly. Sometimes managers have no idea where they’re heading. Other times, they have a long-term plan, but they just keep that information to themselves. No wonder their employees can’t effectively prioritize their projects or integrate ideas into the big picture!

Preempt the pitfalls. We knew our model would sweat her make-up off, that the sun would go down, and that it was a little muddy in some places, so we used our plan to preempt the pitfalls. While my husband was shooting, I was walking around looking for the next pose, making sure the hair, dress, and veil stayed perfect, and generally making sure things were going well, so that he could focus on getting the shot. Managers should do the same thing for their employees. Is trouble brewing among the top executives? Managers should curtail the effects on their subordinates so that their employees can focus on delivering great work. Is a huge project coming down the pipeline? Managers should start re-arranging the project assignments to ensure the right people are available for each task. Good managers will think a move or two ahead, and work to create an environment that is free of undue stress or unproductive drama.

Be enthusiastic. It’s summer in Texas, which means it’s stinkin’ hot outside, even at 6 pm. Add to that the insane mosquitoes that graced our shoot, and things could get real annoying, real quick. So, what did I do? I did a jig. I did spirit fingers (don’t judge, you know what those are if you’ve watched Donnie Darko!). I gave a sassy hip pop, I laid down on the ground or scampered up a ladder, and I got all up in my model’s space. All of my excitement rubbed off on her, kept her in good spirits, and ultimately, we got the shots that we needed. These over-the-top strategies work in management as well. Think about it: do you want to work with a depressing, boring person who mopes about when you have to stay late to meet a deadline? Or, do you want to work with someone that makes you feel a rush of adrenaline and pride at a job well done? Employees mirror their manager’s attitude, and your enthusiasm is infectious. So do a little jazz square every now and again, climb on a desk if you’re so inclined, and give a joyful yell every so often… you might just make work fun!

I loved working on this shoot with my husband, and I think we learned a lot about managing a shoot and directing a model, and I love translating the lessons from the shoot to the office environment. What are your tips for managing well?

The True Cost

My company uses a lot of open-source software, including the CRM system and email system. We use this software because it’s cheap. Except, it’s not really cheap when you consider all the man hours and system crashes we endure on a near-daily basis. What’s the true cost of this “free” software? Let’s take a look at a few unfortunate costs, shall we?

First, the IT costs. In theory, these costs are fixed overhead, since the IT team is on salary. But how long do you think you can keep their salary at the same level when they’re at the office on nights and weekends fixing a system that’s constantly broken? How many revenue-generating or cost-cutting programs can’t be implemented because the IT team is too busy wrestling with the open-source software that’s “saving us money”? It’s not just about the direct expense of the IT team’s time, but about the opportunity costs of having them focused on something that should be a given in a business environment.

Next, there’s the productivity issues. The CPAs in our Accounting department are required to complete a certain number of class hours every year. They are allowed to do this on company time via online webinars. Again, great in theory, costs nothing in theory. Except that 3 out of 4 of their webinars have crashed 45 minutes into the presentation, which means that they don’t get credit for that webinar. They’ve now wasted 45 minutes and will have to re-take the webinar and hope that the system doesn’t crash, again wasting 45 minutes and resulting in re-taking the webinar. That’s just one example. I’ve had my internet and network go down for an entire day. Sure, I could work on some designs… but I can’t email them to anyone for feedback or tweaking. Sure, I could just print the mock-ups for feedback… except that the printers are on the network, so no internet and network access means no printing. There’s other people that can’t even work on designs, so if the network is down, they are literally sitting at their desk twiddling their thumbs! But hey, it’s FREE!

Finally, there’s the cost of information and time. One time, the system went down, and we had lawyers sitting on the phone, waiting for a document to come through. These guys charge several hundred dollars per hour, and we were on a deadline with a bank, whose lawyers were also charging hundreds of dollars per hour. We had them on hold while we tried to fax (yes, this is in 2012!) a document because just as we sent the document via email, the system crashed. The CRM system still has bugs that don’t allow us to glean all the information we need out of it, so management is still flying a little blind. They didn’t want to pay for a CRM because they thought the sales reps wouldn’t use it. Now we’ve proved that the sales reps will use the system, but the system is still broken, so their motivation is waning! They spend time trying to input data, I spend time trying to pull out the data, and IT would spend time fixing the bugs… if they weren’t so busy fixing the email system that crashed. AGAIN!

In short, our free or cheap software is actually costing us a lot of time, headache, and ultimately money. Before you start claiming that your inexpensive solution is great, make sure you calculate the true cost. You might find that you’re paying more for less!

Business Meals for Dummies

I’d like to welcome Joe Kiszka back for a guest post today! You may remember him from the “My Corporate Life” series. Joe runs his own food blog, “Dine at Joe’s” , where he takes pictures of all of the meals he eats out. He can be reached by e-mail at jkiszka@gmail.com.

 

In some way, shape, or form, we are all salespeople. However, while my “Business Development Manager” title at my job sounds like a “salesman,” I don’t really see myself as a “salesman.” In fact, I don’t really look at my job at all like a salesman. I’m more of a support guy. As a support guy, my job is to act as kind of an internal resource for my customers. This requires me to build lasting, consultative relationships at my customers. Therefore, we’re ultimately “selling.”

There’s multiple ways this is achieved amongst different types of business, some more clever than others. Golf is one of the most popular. Depending on your type of customer, succeeding here may consist of a better score, or how many cigars you can smoke and Bloody Marys you can drink while driving the golf cart. I’ll do this, but I’m more of a comedy golfer. (“Comedy” in that it’s awful funny when I tally up my golf score and I end up with the high score every time. This is why you should look for scramble tournaments, fellow comedy golfers!)

Of course, I’ve hosted other events to help build relationships with customers. This has included regional training seminars with continuing education credits attached to them, movies, fantasy football leagues, and heck—we’ve even done Whirlyball. All these are great. However, in my opinion, the best one is “eating out.”

Today, I’m going to explain to you how to be good at eating out while selling yourself. How does this article apply to you, no matter who you are? At some point, you’re going to need to sell yourself to someone else. Whether it’s dating a potential future spouse or closing a big business deal, one of the easiest ways in our culture to gain rapport, interest, and build any relationship, is to eat out.

There are two sets of rules here that I can offer when dining out. There’s the extremely serious “business dining guidelines” and the seemingly less serious list from my father: “Dad’s rules of life for eating out.” (Both lists—dining guidelines and rules of life—actually were taught to me by my father.) I’m going to outline them all, starting with the business dining guidelines, as you should certainly master them before doing anything else. The guidelines will “get you to the table”, and the rules of life will help you master the art.

Before I delve into these guidelines, I offer one important caveat: These guidelines assume that you are in the United States and are within our local culture. Some of the things on this list would NOT apply in other cultures.

BASIC BUSINESS DINING GUIDELINES:

Prior to arriving to their office, do your homework. Have a few restaurants in mind where you can hear your customer speak, you won’t have to wait an hour for a table, you won’t offend anyone, and of course, the food is awesome. If it’s a steakhouse or something very nice (especially for dinner), confirm the number attending with your customer, and make a reservation. Err on the side of caution—if you think the venue might make your customer uncomfortable, don’t bring them there. I recommend looking up restaurants on Yelp prior to going to them to ensure a positive experience.

Arrive early, and always take the seat facing the door. This will allow you (hopefully) to view the door while waiting for your customer. If you can’t see the door, ask to be seated (if possible) at a table where you can see the door, or give the customer’s first name to the host or hostess. When you see your customer walk in (if you know them), you’ll be able to see them and wave at them.

If you’ve never met them before, call to confirm your appointment and then let them know what you will be wearing. This makes for less “are you here” awkward cell phone calls.

Shake hands APPROPRIATELY. When shaking their hand, don’t try to squeeze their hand as hard as you can. However, don’t go for the cold fish handshake as well. Find a happy median. And, of course, it should be common sense to know that you ALWAYS shake with your RIGHT hand.

Don’t order alcohol until your customer does. Try your best not to order your drink or meal first. Let them order alcoholic beverages first, and then follow suit accordingly. If you absolutely must go first, order a non-alcoholic beverage, and if they order one, then follow suit by saying “On second thought, go ahead and give me an (INSERT ALCHOLIC DRINK NAME HERE) instead.” You can’t un-order a beer without looking like a moron. Don’t forget—not everyone believes in drinking. Ordering alcohol can make them feel uncomfortable.

The company party is NOT really a party. This isn’t a frat party. Keep it under control. Don’t drink to excess.

Don’t order the most expensive thing on the menu. This isn’t such a huge deal, but you don’t want to look wasteful or too excessive. Keep this under control. If you really want the most expensive thing on the menu, order it, but don’t be excessive about it.

Be nice to your server. If the server hasn’t been around for a while, don’t be a jerk about it. Also, if your food didn’t come exactly as you ordered it, don’t send it back. This makes you look like a jerk in front of your customer and makes them uncomfortable. Also (unless there’s some extremely compelling reason not to), leave AT LEAST 20% when dining on an expense account. Not doing this could make you look cheap.

Know some basic information about wines. Know what you like, know what you don’t like, know how to pronounce the different types of wines. (Wikipedia can help with this.) Know that a red wine glass is bigger than a white wine glass. Know that when drinking red wine, you generally hold the glass by the cup, whereas when drinking white wine, you hold the glass by the stem. Most importantly, know how to DRINK wine. The smell is important. The taste is important. (We’re not doing shots here. Think “art meets food.”) Don’t be ashamed to ask about pairings (“Will the Merlot go with my ____?”). Google this as well—there’s many pages about this topic around the internet.

Use good table manners. Also, know which utensil is the correct utensil. (Generally speaking, you start with the silverware farthest away from your plate and work your way in.) Cut a chunk of butter off and put it on your butter plate—use this as your master. When eating bread, after buttering it, tear it apart into bite size chunks. Don’t take a bite out of it. (Don’t take huge bites, as this can be awkward to finish the bite of food in your mouth when a customer asks you a question.) As you finish a bowl of soup, tilt the bowl away from you while you scoop to get to the last of the soup. Enough said—there’s entire books, websites, YouTube videos, and other forms of media dedicated to this subject. For manners, the onus is on YOU.

Don’t season your food before you try it. Think about it—pouring salt / pepper / whatever your condiment of choice all over your meal before trying it can show that you don’t have an open mind or are not easily satisfied. (I’ve worked for an employer before where if an applicant did this, they were eliminated from contention for the job.) Kind of silly, I know, but be careful.

Ask for the next meeting. More specifically, if it went well, you’re talking to the right folks, and it’s a relationship worth maintaining, make sure to ask for the next meeting. Don’t be pushy about this. “Let’s do this again! How about we get you on the calendar for _____?”

Skip the doggie bag. When you get done with your meal, if you haven’t finished, DO NOT get a doggie bag. This makes you look extraordinarily tacky and cheap.

Now that we’ve got the basics, here’s the fun part…

DAD’S RULES OF LIFE FOR EATING OUT:

When I was a child, my father instilled upon my sister and I these basic rules of life for eating out. Some are funny, some are graphic. They are all true. Sure, exceptions exist—but generally speaking, these should all be heeded. (Example: If you look at Rule #2, I’m sure there’s very good steakhouses in Boston. However, if you’re visiting, you’d likely have better experiences ordering seafood—like lobster, shrimp, etc—as it is appropriate to the region.)

I’m not going to explain these, as I find them rather self-explanatory. If I need to be more specific, feel free to e-mail me.

Rule #1 – Never ask a skinny person where to eat.

Rule #2 – Don’t eat at regionally inappropriate restaurants. (i.e. – Don’t eat at a Taco Bell in San Antonio. Or–don’t go to Boston and order beef.)

Rule #3 – Never eat seafood at a place that has an inflatable crab on the roof.

Rule #4 -Don’t order cuisine-inappropriate dishes. (i.e. – don’t go to a Mexican restaurant and order a cheeseburger.)

Rule #5 – Don’t ever go to a restaurant on Valentine’s Day. Rule #6 – Don’t ever eat hot peppers (like habaneros), and then go to the restroom. Rule #7 – Life is too short to drink cheap beer.

Rule #8 – Don’t ever eat Kimchee prior to boarding an airplane.

Rule #8.5 – Better yet, don’t ever eat Kimchee period.

Rule #9 – Don’t ever eat at a restaurant called “Mom’s”, or anywhere that advertises “just like home”, or “home-cooked”.

Rule #10 – Only eat sushi if the sushi chef is Japanese. Rule #11 – Never eat sushi or raw seafood in a country where you cannot drink the water. Rule #12 – Only eat in Mexican restaurants that display a crucifix and a likeness of “our Lady of Guadalupe”. Rule #13 – Only eat in BBQ restaurants where the silverware does not match. Rule #14 – Never eat sushi in a restaurant that advertises Korean, Chinese, or Thai cuisine in addition to sushi.

Rule #15 – Generally speaking, the larger a pepper grinder used in a restaurant, the worse the food.

Rule #16 – The price of a meal is directly proportional to how high the restaurant’s location is with relation to the ground.

Rule #17 – The quality of a meal is inversely proportional to how high the restaurant’s location is with relation to the ground.

Rule #18 – Don’t eat at restaurants that rotate.

Rule #19 – Don’t ever eat at a restaurant that also sells bait.

 

If you keep this advice in mind when eating out, your customers will appreciate it, and a better experience will be had by all… good luck out there. Until next time, fellow business diners—Ciao!

 

Real-World Resume Review

I’d like to welcome a new person to the blog in today’s guest post! Angela has nearly 10 years of human resources and non-profit administration.  She has guided organizations in establishing policies that promote healthy and effective workplaces, which has included policy and by-laws writing, facilitating organizational mergers, and assisting with some start-up nonprofits.  To back it all up, she has been a certified Professional in Human Resources (PHR) since 2008.  A seasoned recruiter, she has led and served on several executive-level search committees and advises college students on job searching techniques.  You can find her writing at A Working Evolution, DailyMuse.com, and Forbes.com.  In her spare time, she dreams of running away to Paris to study pastry-making.

 

Click on the picture to see Angela's final version of my resume.

Sometimes, no matter how many blogs you read or how much thought you put into it, you still need a tangible example to really get a sense for something. With that in mind, Ashley let me use her resume as a guinea pig. We are hoping to use this as an opportunity to give you some insight into how a recruiter looks at a resume and what impressions are left.

 

My initial reaction from the resume was that Ashley is a professional. The resume was simple, clean and organized, and that in itself speaks volumes. The body of her resume used bullet points to highlight her accomplishments, as opposed to writing a paragraph. This makes it easier to read, easier to process and looks cleaner.

To break down my thoughts a bit more specifically:

Formatting. Because of Ashley’s extensive experience, I found the formatting to be a bit too simple. Some of her accomplishments were getting lost in a world of text. So I highlighted her most impressive accomplishments by drawing them out on their own.

Summary Statement. My problem with summary statements is that they are relied upon too often to convey skills that belong within the body of your resume. It’s not as bad as a functional resume, but the end result is the same: a vague set of skills without context. In Ashley’s case, there is also redundancy – she refers to public speaking, presentations, brand management and several other things in her summary statement, and they are also sprinkled throughout the body of the resume. I’d rather see these things strongly conveyed within the resume as opposed to skimmed over in a summary statement.

Employment. As I said above, this section confused me. It felt redundant and unnecessary. Ashley has already listed where she worked, and when she worked for them, so there is no use to having this all listed again.

Education. I love that Ashley included her current education on the resume, even though she hasn’t received her MBA yet. However, she highlighted the name of the school as more important than her degree by listing it first and making it bold. Where someone attended school is rarely of concern to me; what degree they received and what honors they earned while attending is always important, so make that stand out.

Activities. This is where I may differ from some of my colleagues. I know that some people will recommend that you include an “Activities” or “Interests” section on your resume, because it will give it a personal touch. I’m not one of them. When I’m looking at a resume, it’s completely business. The personal part comes in when you’re sitting in my office for an interview. A good alternative is to have a section called “Skills” or “Professional Accomplishments,” which I did in Ashley’s case.

Content. The actual body and substance of the resume was strong. Ashley used clear and compelling language. For the most part, she used strong action verbs to describe her experience and accomplishments. This is a great example of highlighting your accomplishments, as opposed to merely rehashing your job description. Instead of saying “Responsible for growing affiliate partnership,” Ashley wrote “Grew affiliate partnerships from 2 to over 50 within 8 months.” This tells the employer not only what Ashley was responsible for, but also that she was successful at it in a relatively short period of time.

Overall, Ashley’s resume was quite strong, and well-executed. Despite that, however, there were still things that I found that could be enhanced. I want to be clear that these are my opinions only – obviously I don’t speak for all recruiters and hiring managers, and my recommendations for resumes may differ from what others will think.

And that’s completely ok. The goal is to get you to start the conversation and look at your resume in a new light. You might conclude that your current resume is what works for you. But give it some thought, have someone else take a look at it, and make sure that it’s the best it can be.

Bias Called Out

I wrote a post on “Perpetuating the In Group”, and a classmate of mine picked up on a particular line that highlighted my bias. I stated in the post that I have more in common with young professionals than I do with stay-at-home-moms, and she noted that she has several SAHM acquaintances with MBAs from fancy schools, or former VPs of Fortune 500 companies. However, these women have left the workforce to care for their kids.

This is interesting, because there’s a lot of articles that talk about the cost of childcare vs. a salary, and women making a choice to stay home. My gut reaction to my classmate’s anecdote is that it’s a perfect example of how perpetuating the in group can cause you to miss out on knowledge, perspective, and connections. Upon further reflection, my reaction was that we don’t have much in common, because I would never leave the workforce. But, peeling back another layer, I can’t say how I would react to having children, since I don’t have any children at the moment. How do I know I would never leave the workforce? How do I know that just because these women left formal, paid positions at large companies, they aren’t keeping their skills sharp by volunteering, freelancing, or working on higher degrees? The answer is, I don’t. I don’t know their motivation for leaving the workforce… maybe that was their plan all along. And if that was their plan, maybe we’re more similar than I thought. I’m a planner, and I’ve taken strategic steps to set my life on a certain path. Just because that path doesn’t lead to the same destination as these women doesn’t mean that we’re all that different in terms of intelligence, ambition, and earning power.

It’s really interesting to dig into what you personally think makes someone “like you”. But, once you realize that you’ve still got a lot of underlying assumptions, you’ve got to figure out a way to overcome the bias. I’d say a few probing questions would be a great first step… you might realize you have more in common than you think!