Education Career Services

March 13, 2009

Paper equals perception, what message does your résumé portray?

Many years ago, while at graduate school, one of my professors stated “presentation is more important than the package.” Being young and naïve, I thought little of the lecture or the consequence of ignoring her words of wisdom. Flashing forward, the past ten years I have had the pleasure of developing faculty and instructing graduating students in career management.  Not sure what has proven to be more difficult, developing, teaching, or overseeing.


One ingredient remains a constant in all three roles; the manner in which a document is written determines believability.  More than ever, this concept of believability includes your employment portfolio, especially with unemployment closing in on 9%.


This, in turn guides me to what Jay Block (PRWA) makes clear: in terms of credibility, what we SEE accounts for 93% of believability and what we SAY accounts for 7% of believability. Hmm, take this one step further and introduce that concept into our career marketing material. After all, I can tell you anything but if words are all I have, what do I truly offer? Is this making sense yet? On the first day of class I typically introduce myself and inform the students I was a star basketball player in college and almost made it to the pros. At this time all but the extremely green students begin laughing at the absurdity (at my height and weight, I expect a chuckle or two).


If I say so, it must be true, I explain once student postures return to normal. When it comes to marketing, words truly are only words. So, how does one express value to an employer if it is not what is being said?


What I see must be the logical choice. In the world of perception, what does the element of sight “see” on the page?


Tell you what, as this is getting rather complicated, let’s take a breather for a day or so.  I will go on to the true meaning of this submission Monday.  In the meantime, think about the element of “sight” when it comes to pen and paper.  How does one instill upon a reader the qualities being offered? 


Danny Huffman, MA, CPRW, CPCC, CEIP

Education Career Services:

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March 5, 2009

Career Portfolio, YOUR Edge

I had numerous requests for topics come in this week and appreciate your suggestions.  The main categories mentioned are career portfolio related and how to overcome background challenges.  Next week you will find several submissions dealing with challenges; today will briefly discuss career portfolios.


To be specific, I was asked “What does an overview of an individual professional portfolio look like?”


  • Your portfolio design was developed through years of hands-on experience within the classroom and corporate setting.  The importance of possessing a professionally formatted portfolio can never be denied.  By “showing” value contributions, you are better prepared for the interview and ongoing promotional evaluations.
  • It is encouraged your portfolio remains active and updated on a regular schedule.  The reason is quite straightforward: hiring managers want to retain individuals who display continual growth.  If this growth happens to be by way of certifications, ongoing professional development/training, education, seminars, etc., you display a progressive work ethic. 
  • The manner of which your portfolio is presented is just as important as the content itself.  Know the vehicle is being judged—are you organized, error-free, relevant, to the point, and the right candidate?


No matter what your resume/career objective may be, portfolio’s offer insight beyond the rest of the crowd….and with the unemployment rate bloating, this may YOUR edge over the competition.


The use of professional portfolios has been around for many years and the value it brings should never be underappreciated.  As a writer for Career Services International, former college instructor, and author of “Your Personal Career Manual & Portfolio Essentials,” I have seen the good, the bad, and the not so pretty portfolio from students all the way to seasoned corporate executives.  Know the vast majority of “stack of cash” seekers do not present their value properly.  Do you?


If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask.  If you are a student, allow your Career Services Department to review and assist you in this endeavor.  If you are alumni, you have not been forgotten by your college or university.  Prove from your portfolio that you are a great candidate for the position.   


Danny Huffman, MA, CPRW, CPCC, CEIP

Education Career Services:

Career Services International:

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 16, 2009

(UN)Employment and Your Career Portfolio

Employment rates are heading in the wrong direction.  For those new to my writing style, I have a habit of not coloring words while laying the news on the table for all to see and oftentimes taste.  If you are interested in sugar-coated data, know this, I am on a diet—no sugar coating here.


News is not good.  Numbers released by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics is clear on one trend: unemployment figures for the month of December are up from the previous month in each of our 50 states.  With this news, how does the average person survive?


The first step is to accept the difficult situation we are all in.  Secondly, do not become overly frustrated, depressed, or stressed out…which is all but impossible not avoid.  Thirdly, represent to your advantage and stand out from sea of other job applicants.


On a brighter side, the lowest unemployment rates are found in Wyoming, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota, all with 4.0 percent or below.  On a dimmer note, states with a 9.0 percent or above rate of unemployment include California, Nevada, Oregon, and leading the pack was Michigan with 10.6 percent.  Combining the 50 states, the national rate for December was 7.2 percent.


Besides trying to keep a positive approach and an upbeat career marketing campaign, now is the time to make sure your job portfolio reflects your skills and accomplishments in a metric style.  Double check your career objective and career summary (refer to an earlier entry for additional insight).  If you are a student or alumni, contact your university career services department for possible information, including job postings.  For the seasoned professional, I recommend professional assistance from an accredited and reputable career management firm.  I review hundreds of resumes from executives and many from students on a monthly basis; take it from me, have someone review and evaluate—it is an investment with great ROI.


In other words, do not go solo, more than your career is at stake!


With the unemployment figures the way they are, it is hard to keep emotionally pumped; this is understandable as budget crunches affect everyone.  For today, we simply need to make sure we display the mot effective personal career marketing material available and that’s where double-checking and having assistance may be what it takes to lift you up.  Hold your head up and when you are called back for a job interview, nail each interview question perfectly.


Perhaps President Obama and the economic stimulus package will benefit the average person soon.  Though hopeful, I am not optimistic this will become reality.  If you have any specific questions or topics you would like covered, let me know…I will definitely tell you the way I see it—no sugar coating, just the facts.


Source: Career Management Alliance and


Danny Huffman, MA, CPRW, CPCC, CEIP

Education Career Services:

Career Services International:

February 10, 2009

Getting Creative… Not!

I reviewed a resume recently with a drawing of a warrior woman in leather and metal armor taking up the left side of the page from top to bottom.  And I applaud it’s inclusion.  The resume is for a costume designer/conceptual artist.  The colorful drawing was completely appropriate for it’s audience.

The same drawing on a graphic designer’s resume when applying for a job creating brochures for a mainstream company would be wildly inappropriate.  I say this because it appears (from the dozens of writer’s resumes I’ve recently reviewed) that creative professionals tend to blur their boundaries.dancerfairy

Everything on a resume should have a purpose, and that purpose is to show your benefit to the prospective employer.  Let me say that again; your resume is not about you, it’s about what you offer to fulfill your employer’s needs.  The fellow who sent me a six-page resume/essay on why he’s a writer, beginning with a lonely childhood and spritely imaginary friends and ending with the ability to paint the night sky with rainbow words of color does not demonstrate the ability to meet my professional needs.

Let’s look at another example.  Say Sears is looking for a web designer.  Should you include the web address for a personal website expressing your love for The Rocky Horror Picture Show?  Or the site you designed all about vampires and werewolves?  I’m going to go out on a limb here and say “no.”  Sears needs to know your ability to build professional e-commerce sites, so only include such site samples on your resume.

Returning to everything must have purpose, do not use clipart, webdings, or flourishes that satisfy your creative bent and have no other purpose.  If the prospective job DOES have a strongly creative element, match your creative additions to the needs of the company and be sure not to use copyrighted or trademarked material.  If Disney is looking for an artist to illustrate their children’s books, it will be very tempting to use Disney characters as border art on your resume.  While that is arguably fair use under copyright law, it’s better not to approach that line.  Use your own characters that coincide with the intended market.  Disney will not be responsive to bloody, child-snacking gnomes in the border of your resume.

In the same way, creative professionals should tailor their portfolio to be a targeted tool of display.  While your master portfolio should have examples of everything you ever produced, you should cull those samples for work relevant to your target company.

Employers do want creative people, but as Paul Newman put it in The Color of Money, they need to know if you can “flake off and on at will.”  In other words, creative individuals need to cultivate their professional muse as much as their fanciful muse, and know when to bring forth the right one at the right time.

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