It Is Not Enough to Say What You Do, You Have to Say Why You Do It

It Is Not Enough to Say What You Do, You Have to Say Why You Do It

Everyone has heard of the infamous “elevator pitch” in which you are supposed to justify your importance to the organization in the time it takes you and the Big Boss/ Important Client to ride the elevator. There are many guides for how to put together this short but powerful message and how you need to prepare, memorize, and practice it. Essentially, these all offer some variation on how to state, who you are, what you do, and why it is of value in 30 seconds or less. In addition to your short pitch, you will probably want to prepare a longer version, between 3 to 5 minutes, in case you are asked that question at a social gathering and have a little longer to introduce yourself.

Let’s go back to that 30 second pitch and the last part of it; specifically, let’s discuss the part that is least likely to be remembered by you, but the most important to that career influencer in the elevator: why. Why do you do what you do? It is a statement of value. Why do you get paid? What does the organization really get from you that counts? If you can answer that question, then you have justification for being part of the team. If the answer is purely procedural and administrative, then try again. Here are some examples:

I help customers by (insert action).
I increase profits by (insert action).
I control costs by (insert action).
I help with customer retention by (insert action).


I answer calls from customers.
I manage product margins.
I search out waste.
I try to talk customers into not leaving.

Take note of the first set, they are all starting with a short but very business value-oriented statement. The second set is really just the action you take, although several could be a little more carefully worded. The action alone is not enough; you need to explain the value too, but do not assume it is obvious. On an elevator, with other things on their mind, the career influencer with whom you converse may also be thinking, “Do you know why you matter?”

One (very important) simple task everyone is forgetting this January

One (very important) simple task everyone is forgetting this January

January is full of goals, resolutions, clearing out, planning…but no one ever thinks to do this one simple task that will repay you tenfold down the road!


Think back on the past year and make detailed note of your accomplishments, the details of your large projects (scope, measurable results, etc), and any training you’ve taken. Keep the full details in your notes and add the highlights to your resume now, before you forget the details! Numbers fade from our memory quickly but they are incredibly valuable when telling the story of the impact you’ve made, so make sure you jot down all those relevant figures like budgets, team size, cost savings, ROI, growth, etc.

We’re also right around the time that annual reviews are wrapping. Most people dread this process, but this information can be extremely valuable for you during a job search. Use the feedback from your manager as a way to “prove” your unquantifiable accomplishments on your resume (Not sure how to do that? Stay tuned – a post on that is coming in the future!). Always keep a copy of your performance review at home in your personal files.

Another good idea is just to read through your resume and give it a little spruce. Are there any points in it that are a little vague or confusing and could use some clarification? Is there any jargon that needs to be updated? Do you see any responsibilities that you forgot to turn into accomplishments?

An annual 10-15 min check and update when you don’t need the resume can save you hours of headache when you urgently need a world-class resume. Go ahead and put a recurring reminder on your calendar for every January to make sure you take a few minutes to update your resume and save your review!

Important Tips for Rebranding

Important Tips for Rebranding

Rebranding is a short word for “changing the perception of some population”. Brand can be about a product, a person, an organization, or even a philosophy. We sometimes call branding: spin. No matter what is being rebranded, keeping a few short tips in mind will make the chance of success a lot higher:

1. It is easier to make an airplane than to modify a ship into an airplane- Which means if you already have a well-established brand, it would probably be simpler to create a separate, even competing, brand and just retain ownership of both.

2. The public is not actually stupid- While claiming new and improved may work for a short time, if there is no actual change for the customers’ value, then the overall brand loses.

3. Do not confuse lack of choice with loyalty to a brand- Many have been the regulated monopolies that thought they were doing well until they were allowed a competitor. So, before you start declaring a new product from a brand they can trust, ensure they actually trust the brand. Otherwise, see tip 1.

4. Emphasize with the customer- If you do not know exactly why customers see value in the existing brand, changing to another name/logo will not have the desired effect. If it is escape from an image of the current brand that is desired, know what drives the negative perception or you will probably replicate it. See tip 2.

New Year, New You

New Year, New You?

The transition to a new year always brings reflection on our lives, who we are, where we are, and what our next steps will be. Many make resolutions or decide on a word or theme for the new year. While most resolutions center around healthier lifestyles and better money management, it might be wise to consider focusing on personal and/or professional growth through learning a new skill.

Put some thought into what skills or knowledge would improve your professional life by making it easier, or what skills would open new doors to areas you are passionate about.

Would a new language allow you to take a traveling position where you get to explore countries you’ve always dreamed of visiting? Would a creative writing course enable you to create more compelling sales documents? Would a programming/coding course help you automate a lot of work that you do tediously by hand? Would a networking course open untold doors for your career?

We all need to be continuously learning and adopting new skillsets, so commit to picking a skillset that can change your life and replace a little Netflix binging with learning.

The Three Year Rule

The Three Year Rule

There are several three-year rules in society: there is section 2035 of the U.S. tax code which is known by, and only interesting to, serious accountants, there is the guideline that dating people more than three years older or younger than you is socially unacceptable until after you reach the age of twenty five, and there is the one where people who leave a job before three years may be seen as job hoppers or have some unseen character flaw. Let us talk about that last one.

Historically, Americans joined a company, or a profession, and worked at it for most of their lives; they would receive a nice watch, a pension, and a cake at retirement. There were exceptions, but most people signed on for the long haul with the knowledge that their efforts would be rewarded and their loyalty would be appreciated. Even the hyper-ambitious would stick around for years before leaving for a greener pasture. Some boomers actually remember this social construct of employment, but times changed, and the social construct changed too.

After the savings and loan crisis and recession of 1990 rules were changed and companies could no longer afford the old pension model, 401 k’s were introduced. This allowed employees to take their pension with them as they changed jobs; they no longer had to work at a single company for x number of years to be able to retire. The internet boom of the 90’s changed the nature of the workforce to more information and soft-skilled workers. The resulting .com bust changed the nature of the employer/employee relationship. Traditional manufacturing jobs disappeared in the “e-conomy” of the new millennium. Workers had no choice but to take back the total responsibility for their own career and they had the rules and tools to do so. The life-long employee concept had disappeared, but one of the social constructs of that time period remained.

It is expensive to hire and on-board an employee. Depending on the situation, it can take a year or two for productivity to be sufficient to break even on those training costs. This is one reason employers call it “investing in a new hire”; the company really does not start showing a return on their decision until that two-year mark and can really take a hit when the employee leaves early. Similarly, a new hire is not truly acclimated to the work until that time has passed and should not make career decisions until maturity in the role and organizational culture is achieved. Of course, if the fit is terrible, it should be obvious quickly and that would result in a significantly shorter than three-year stay, most likely only a few months. In general, the company and the worker should count on an informal three-year commitment as being in place, so that each party can judge the real merits and challenges of the relationship. If the employee is released or leaves before that time, it is a flag to future employers that something is wrong. It may be with the company or with the worker, but either way, it should be researched before a new company/worker relationship begins. The exception is a contract employee who is brought on with the upfront knowledge and agreement to a specific term, and employees on that type of arrangement should call this out from the beginning so the recruiter knows and does not worry about something lurking

Who knew a tomato would help you manage your time?

Who knew a tomato would help you manage your time

Okay, not a real tomato. The Pomodoro Technique, named after the cute little tomato-shaped kitchen timers, is an amazing tool for maintaining focus, managing your time, and giving your brain the necessary breaks for your best performance.

Created in the 1980s by Francesco Cirillo, the Pomodoro Technique focuses on working for a set chunk of time, and scheduling in small and large breaks. The biggest part for me is that you set a timer, which forces you to take breaks even when you’re absorbed.

Traditionally, the flow would go: 25 min work, 5 min break, 25 min work, 5 min break, 25 min work, 5 min break, 25 min work, 15-30 min break…rinse and repeat.

The beauty of this system is that it is completely customizable. If you know you work better in longer chunks, you can adjust the time as needed. Have a LOT to get done today? Keep some (not all) of your breaks productive by using that time to do simple things like checking and responding to easy emails.

Note that I did say you can replace some of your breaks with easy productive work, but not all. Even on your busiest days - perhaps most importantly on your busiest days -  your brain and body both need a break from staring at a computer screen, pushing buttons, or making phone calls all day. A quick 5-minute break to stretch, walk around, drink some water, and clear your desk (and head) will go along way toward keeping you productive and effective.

Getting Back in the Workforce: How to Readjust After Taking Time Off

Getting Back in the Workforce: How to Readjust After Taking Time Off

So, you are heading back into the work world! This can be a bit daunting for anyone no matter how long you have taken time off. While there will be several items that are common to everyone in the workforce, you have to reacclimatize yourself to deal with them. The routine of arriving on time and handling whatever personal tasks you have without impacting your work time are two situations that initially spring to mind.

Those are the easy ones; there is also the relationship aspect that must be handled. You cannot just avoid other people. You will have to deal with coworkers who may not click with you in the work environment and customers who may be less than gracious. So, the hardest part of reentering a work life is becoming used to being a “friendly acquaintance” again. An example which explains this in-between relationship status is that you would go have drinks after work with them, but only in a group. You would tell them about your kids, but not go into any detail about the challenges of parenting. Fitting into the office/factory social culture is a major factor in how well you will adjust to work life. In the work world, getting along in a team situation is a critical skill. Some managers even ask questions in the hiring process about your participation in sports simply to determine if you are a team player. This skill is not natural for many people. We must put aside personal ambition and replace it with team ambition to function well. Even if you are one of those people whose dream job is to sit quietly in a dark office/cubicle interacting only with a computer, you will still need to be friendly and warm to your coworkers in the breakroom. If you have time before starting, a way to practice this is to join some volunteer or civic organization. Intentionally try to be a friend to all, but close to none. Even though many people meet close friends through work, let it take time.

It can also be hard rearranging the things you used to do around your new work schedule. Allow yourself a period of adjustment as you test different ways to be a worker while handling your personal needs or the needs of others. There is also the issue of having to dust off some of your old skills in order to complete your work. Take the time to review any past experience you may have and evaluate what you need to work on; it may take a little while to get back to your previous skill level, but like riding a bike the muscle memory will quickly reveal itself. Also, do not hesitate to ask your new coworkers or boss what skills they find most helpful for your position so you can know what is expected. Do not be afraid to reenter the workforce because once you nail your routine, dust off your old skills, develop a working relationship with your coworkers, and just settle back into the work routine you will be on your way to acting like a normal and well-adjusted employee. Treat this as a chance to restart and enjoy the excitement you felt when you initially began your career: take chances, work hard, and give it your all!

How to Support Your Coworkers

How to Support Your Coworkers

We have all been in situations where we are overloaded, or feel that way, with an impossible deadline that demands all of our attention. These always seem to occur when another competing priority has its own timer ticking away too. We have also seen our coworkers in a similar pickle. Here are a few things you can do to help your comrades; some are trivial in effort, but HUGE in impact:

1. Be aware of any external events which may be causing the stress- Working late is not always bad, but on your spouse’s or child’s birthday, etc., it sure might be. Sometimes offering to pick up the cake, get a card, or just do a short task is most appreciated.

2. Offer to help- This may not always be possible, but the offer itself says you notice their situation.

3. When their crunch is over, give them a little compliment for the effort- Only the boss/customer knows if they did a “good” job, but you know they did a hard job. Say so!

4. Bring them a cup of coffee or soda- It is not the refreshment, but the noticing of their effort which you are doing. It is always appreciated even if they turn down the drink.

The Importance of Periodic Self-Evaluations

The Importance of Periodic Self-Evaluations

You and everyone already knows the importance of employers conducting periodic evaluations on their employees, but they are not the only ones who should be checking on your work. Take the time every few months or when you switch projects to take a step back and look at yourself. Are you at the top of your game? There are a few important questions that you need to ask in order to ensure you are working at your fullest capacity and being an asset to the company.

First, take a look at the projects you are working on. Have you been consistently meeting deadlines? If not, why? Are you not being productive or is this an issue outside of your control?

The next thing to look at is your attitude. What is your expression when you walk into work every morning? How well are you interacting with your coworkers? Are you approaching your work with positivity or with dread?

These questions lead to: how is your attitude affecting your work? Are you putting your focus into work or are you distracted by something else? How is your life going outside of the office? Is there anything preventing you from working at 100%?

The questions are not hard, but it is important that you are completely honest with yourself. It can be hard to admit that you might not be doing your best work, but the sooner you confront this issue the sooner it can be fixed. This is why periodic self-evaluations are so important; you do not want to wait until your manager notices that something is wrong with your work because at that point it might be too late to fix it. Take the time to check in with yourself and see what you are doing well and what can be improved. This will affect your attitude, productivity, workmanship, and overall status as a valuable employee.

Crafting a Diversified Resume

Crafting a Diversified Resume

One of the biggest traps that people fall into is thinking they have to craft the perfect resume and that will get them the job. This is wrong for one reason: no one resume fits the needs of every company. When applying for positions, it is important to recognize that every company, position, and recruiter is looking for something different. That is why it does not matter how perfect your resume is if you only send out the same resume for every job you apply for. Here are a few things you can do to diversify your resume to appeal to a variety of companies:

1. Look for keywords in the job application- The wording used in job applications is a great way to understand what the employer is looking for in candidates for that position. Once you have identified what these qualities are, try and work them into your resume. If the company wants someone who is good with finances, then it would be best to mention the previous work you did with accounting. If a company values someone who is a leader, then write down the experience you had managing a team at your last job.

2. Do your best to tailor your work experience on the resume to the things that the company is actually looking for- I am sure you have countless different jobs, projects, or internships that you have been involved with and all of them are incredibly impressive, but the people reading your resume do not care about anything outside of their sphere of work. Do yourself a favor and cut out all of the extra unrelated work. The fastest way to have your resume thrown out is if it is five pages long and includes everything you have ever worked on since college.

3. Make sure you have a variety of experiences to draw from- Each company will be looking for something different and it helps if you have actual experience you can write down. Jump on different opportunities at each chance you get, you want to be able to appeal to as many employers as possible and have experience in a wide variety of roles. You never know when you are looking for a new job what skills you can bring to the company.

The most important thing to remember is that you should almost never be able to use the same resume on more than one application. Diversify your resume and tailor it for every position you apply for and you will get more responses than ever before.