Education Career Services

June 1, 2009

(In)visible anger

The last few months I have seen (and felt) so much anger in just about all sectors of the market.  No doubt there is cause for so many ill-feelings as unemployment, foreclosures, higher gas prices, and on and on are no hitting harder each day.  As a professional resume writer and career coach, I hear heartfelt stories all the time.  Who’s safe from economic devastation?  Not to spoil anyone’s breakfast but no one appears to be safe.

Since, in my opinion, no one is “protected” from crisis way, becoming prepared is the only sound practice in this crazy world!  So you’re asking how does one protect him/herself; good question.  Without any hesitation, I believe the first step is to recognize there are more people than available job positions.  Okay, what does this do?  Another good question.  Recognizing you are not the only contestant in a competitive market brings reality to a new level.  Since there are more people than job positions, you must develop a plan to increase your value, your worth, and your immediate contribution. 

What determines value?  On a company perspective, what can the job applicant do right now—not next week or even next month?  Recent graduates, you offer theory and perhaps a capstone, intern, extern, or a bit of experience to go with it.  Is this enough?  For some yes, for some no.  For experienced executives, knowing is not always enough either—you must be the top performer as well.

Let’s make a connection to American Idol for a moment.

Paula and Simon decreased hundreds of thousands of wanna-be’s to a baker’s dozen.  In most cases it was clear that the vast majority of applicants were pretenders; only a hand full truly belonged.  After months of hard work, the top ten dwindled to only a few.  Here’s where you come in….for the pretenders, lack of true talent (or value) will create a schism between the ones who can.  In career management, this schism is created and reinforced within 15 seconds of reviewing your cover letter and/or resume.  Leaving you with one approach: you must prove quickly that YOU offer value….and still no guarantee (this is where so much (in)visible anger comes into play).

Getting back on track, your cover letter MUST accompany your resume in EVERY situation.  Your cover letter MUST be tailored to EVERY job posting.  In other words, do not submit a blanket cover letter—incorporate words from the posting and from research about the job and/or company (if known).

Don’t submit a response to a posting without doing your homework.  How many contestants on American Idol blew their one chance by not knowing the words (and many still became angry at Simon for eliminating them due to lack of homework)?  In addition to creating a tailored cover letter to fit each job posting, so should your resume be constructed.  Do not submit a blanket resume under any situation.  If you do, don’t become angry at your invisibility!  Place key terms, your connection to the job, and what you can do for the company immediately. 

There’s no easy way to become “visible” but there are ways to shed light on your work and value.  These are tough times but that does not mean anger is the answer. 

Complete your homework, get involved in your career campaign, and never forget the words.

Danny Huffman, MA, CPRW, CPCC, CEIP
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February 19, 2009

Professional Portfolio and Career Persona

For the past two evenings, 12 American Idol contestants sang to the world and, on a dime, the world turned ugly for 9. 


Several submissions ago we juxtaposed the show with career marketing; the similarities keep on coming.  Simon mentioned to one hopeful that he just did not look like an Idol; true enough (after further review) the contestant had the voice but there was no connection…hmmm, how many times have you heard that in an interview setting?


Resume development, career summaries/objectives, cover letters, and the way you present yourself beyond paper defines who you are and makes your career persona come to life.  Like it or not, you are who the person sitting across the table believes you to be.  The tricky part is getting Simon, Paula, or a hiring executive to see you as the “right” candidate.


I did not want to rush into any decision so I waited a lofty ten seconds before making up my mind as to who I liked (and this was before a single tone departed singing lips).  What does this mean to you, the student looking for a job or the executive seeking advancement or a career transition?  Pure and simple, it means you MUST impress instantly—even before any handshaking.  Be aware that the ways to lose the first round is to present sloppy material, dress inappropriately, or display a shaky character (never forget the words of a song and NEVER forget YOUR VALUE).


Value is what the hiring executive is looking for.  Value is what you bring to the company.  For the seasoned executive, value is hitting the pavement running, reducing costs, increasing production, developing processes, penetrating new markets, etc.  For the student, value is the foundation of knowledge and skills acquired in college or a university as well as the strength to complete projects.


Value believability is weighed by quantifiable accomplishments; in other words, the past predicts the future.  According to the Professional Resume Writers Association, 7% of people believe what they are told while 93% of people believes what they are shown.  When applicable, show the reader what you completed with facts, figures, and metrics.  As your career progresses, keep a journal of metric accomplishments and bring the total package to the stage for the judges to perceive. 


Much like American Idol, a successful career portfolio is not just what you bring to the table; it’s also the image presented and the ability to convince others you are the right choice.  One more thing, make sure you sing the right song by supporting the right objective on your resume.


Danny Huffman, MA, CPRW, CPCC, CEIP

Education Career Services:

Career Services International:

February 5, 2009

Paula’s Interview Techniques on American Idol

What can I say, I’m caught once again watching American Idol and was surprised at the interview techniques used by Paula (Simon’s was expected).  Her stance, stare, and tone were sharp, to the point, and confrontational.  In this capacity, the viewer received a front row seat of corporate interview practices.


During interview sessions, hiring managers seek individuals with an ability to stand up, take what is given to them without complaint, and accept culpability.  Paula trounced on individuals showing signs (some subtle and some loud) of weakness; apparently, the belief that if the potential Idol could not handle the four judges, they would be crushed in later rounds by a much fiercer level of expectations.


For the candidate unable to show value and contribution, the results seem to be consistent.  With this precept, the following must be part of your application/interview strategy in any setting:


  • Be yourself
  • Accept and desensitize possible obstacles
  • Have your value and contributions at hand
  • Do not beg, whine, or lose your objectivity
  • Be prepared and ready to perform immediately


The adage, “the past predicts the future,” comes into play at this point.  If a potential singer (or professional in the corporate arena) is unable to put on an impressive first (and second) impression, they most likely will be sent packing.  Simon said it best at the beginning by warning each Idol in the audience that forgetting the lyrics will bring about an automatic rejection.  Think about it, is that mindset any different when interviewing?  Obviously, it’s all about value and contribution.


Paula and Simon put their corporate face on last night for our benefit.  I’m just wondering what interviewing lessons next week has in store…


Danny Huffman

February 4, 2009

American Idol and Career Management

Okay, I’ll admit it, I watched American Idol last night (along with 28 million other viewers).


Being a career management professional, I began paralleling the show with current career management techniques.  Oddly enough, similar philosophical and practical approaches surfaced in a matter of seconds.  Before you begin shaking your head in disbelief, give me a moment to explain.


Breaking it down, American Idol and Career Management carry the following characteristics:


  1. Candidates are asked a few introductory questions and then (within seconds) are required to “show” what they have to offer
  2. A panel of judges decide instantly to sever their relationship or allow a second interview/audition
  3. External and non-relative variables are introduced in the mix and used to support decisions (yes, even in “objective” interviews, this happens)
  4. Additional filtering rounds become increasingly difficult
  5. Candidates often leave the process not knowing exactly what the judges (or company) is looking for
  6. The arena is extremely emotional and often those not going to the next round tear or lash out
  7. There is a stereotypical good guy/bad guy setting (need I detail where Simon and Paula fit in this category, I’m not so sure about the other guy and the new girl)
  8. Candidates are judged not only on their skill, but on their added value, ie marketability
  9. While there is an appearance the judges (or interviewers) appear to be concerned about the individual, truth be known, it’s all about the bottom-line
  10. And finally, there is only one winner; one candidate will be offered the position or one person will be the next Clay or Kelly

As for me, tonight I will be watching round two.  Not so much for the singing, but perhaps Simon will accidently offer insightful interview and networking tips.


For those looking for career transitions or for students looking to gain access to the employment market, get your pen and paper out and prepare yourself for career management 101 by way of Fox and American Idol. 


Let me know what you find out,


Danny Huffman

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