CV

3 Rookie CV Errors that Undermine Executive Women

As women with career aspirations we're in the box seat. Not only is there a day for us - International Women's Day (#BeBoldForChange - happy #IWD2017 everyone!) but it would appear (according to the 2016 Future of Jobs Report)  we have the traits and characteristics that will be highly sought after in 2020.  

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We're one year on from the Future of Jobs Report: World Economic Forum that did the rounds at Davos in 2016. There was a handy table that itemised and contrasted the critical skills that a range of experts ranked as highly desirable for each of 2015 and 2020.

Notice how even in 2015 the top five skills tend to be more complex, nuanced and require relatively sophisticated human brain power. 

The 2020 top five are even more so with creativity making it into the top five, and emotional intelligence and service orientation moving up the list. Once again, these are nuanced, relatively complicated and subjective type skills and traits.

Selling yourself on your CV

If the future of leadership follows the future of jobs, then it's a no brainer really that you should be talking up and highlighting the complex problems you solve, the critical decisions you make and your abilities to create collaborative pathways.

Yet when I read CVs many of us are still making rookie errors - relying on outdated CV templates, stereotyped notions of leadership from the movies and a language legacy from high school.

Define success on your own terms, achieve it by your own rules, and build a life you’re proud to live.
— Anne Sweeney

So to help you develop a brand that's known for the benefits of your higher level expertise, and to land roles where you get to make a bigger difference (i.e. leadership) here are three big things to avoid.

1. Imagining that people will actually read your CV

I have it on good authority that if your CV actually gets read, you get about a 4 second scan. If the reader is interested then that extends by another 10 seconds approximately. If the reader is then interested you are sorted into the pile for a more thorough read. So you definitely need to make sure that you have the important things up front in an easy to read and interpret format, on the first page. Yes, you could list your education and experience upfront, but you might be better off demonstrating and providing evidence of how you apply both your education and experience in solving real world complex problems, and what results you deliver as a result.

My suggestion? BLUF it up. Get your Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF) on the front page including real world, tangible practical applications, achievements and results of your expertise on the front page. Make it easy to help you and hard to ignore.

2. Including everything but the kitchen sink

Does this come from a fear that if you don't write it on your CV then people might imagine you haven't actually done it?  Once again, if you focus on your results, highlights and achievements then it will be assumed that you have the higher level expertise required to deliver big picture results, and that you can either do or delegate those lower level tasks that were part and parcel of delivering the bigger overall project. Old/early roles are the worst.  It's as though we have a blind spot on old roles. - meaning we don't even see those lower level early career type responsibilities still listed.

My suggestion? Roll it up.  Make it easy for people to help this newer more leaderly version of yourself. And do a substantive audit of old roles that still list lower level responsibilities. Roll them up into a couple of achievements with a focus on the big picture and your future instead.

3. Using hard working, loyal and conscientious as descriptors

I work with some seriously smart and talented women (and even a few men) who all have bright futures in front of them.  In some of the CVs of women in particular there are some troubling choices of language that we use to describe ourselves.  Words like efficient, hardworking, conscientious and loyal to name a few.

Harding working = a workhorse
Loyal = a Labrador
Conscientious = always colours inside the lines
Efficient = a piece of software
— Avril Henry (paraphrased)

Many of you will know Avril Henry. She is a pretty inspirational speaker who has been focused on, and speaking about, gender equity for many years.  One of the most confronting talks she gives is her language talk. She invites members of the audience (men and women) to describe themselves or their brand in four or five words.

While the men tend to use language like results oriented, driven, strong, dynamic or authoritative, the women more likely use words such as efficient, hard working, loyal and conscientious.

Why is this a problem? If businesses need leaders who can solve complex problems, are critical thinkers, adaptive, consultative, creative and able to make sound judgments in the face of ambiguity or adversity then why are we still describing ourselves as workers from the 80's? We are seriously underselling ourselves and the advantages that our leadership style brings, in a big way.

My advice?  Big it up! Audit your CV immediately and remove references to hard work, loyalty, conscientiousness and efficiency and instead focus on real life examples of the work you did and the results of said work. Efficient is one thing, but effective is far better! Borrow from some of those masculine qualitative labels such as strong, driven, results oriented and remember also to include qualities from the 2020 Future of Work report. Be bold.

Who are you to play small?

When you downplay it's not just you who misses out. It's the others in your remit and beyond as well. We need to be prepared to step up and play our big (sometimes tough) game despite old notions and old ways. Because when we play small, change is really slow. When we play big we are far more likely to make a far bigger difference. 

We've been working hard on gender equality for years. it's time we worked far smarter!  Let's be bold together.

#BeBoldForChange #IWD2017

Your thoughts? Would love to hear from you. Get in touch and let me know how you might embrace bold this year.


Feel like your leadership journey has stalled? Email ablesing@amandablesing.com to set up a 30 min one on one to learn more. Helping clients shift from feeling invisible to becoming invincible in just 12 months

Three Signs your LinkedIn Profile Sucks

Okay, lets be honest, the quality of your LinkedIn profile is pretty subjective. Some people like to provide broad brush strokes, others go into detail.  Some write in the first person, others in the third – although in my (subjective) opinion that’s just a teeny bit creepy and states out loud that you may not have written your bio yourself, or perhaps you haven’t really stepped into your own authority  i.e. “owning that shit”. The upper rungs of The Ambition Revolution program help women to step up, speak out and take charge. Writing in the first person, owning your own opinions and taking responsibility for your expertise is an important component. 

Your LinkedIn profile is an increasingly powerful tool in your career advancement tool kit for both professionals and entrepreneurs.  Back in 2011 industry pundits were predicting that in just 10 years you wouldn’t be asked to send in our CV anymore when applying for work – but instead relying on online tools such as LinkedIn.  

And while there are some valid arguments about lack of privacy, personalisation and ownership – I’m pretty sure that agile and progressive online platforms will work their way around those sorts of issues in the future, perhaps providing degrees of privacy that enable you to upload more sensitive data and send that more private link when applying for work.

In terms of personalisation and colour – if you use a recruiter then any personalisation is all stripped out anyway whether you like it or not.  Plus with moves in the diversity space for recruitment processes to eliminate our natural human propensity for unconscious bias (and that wonderful blind audition orchestra case study used as leverage)  I suspect this concern is old school thinking as we move to level out the playing field anyway.  

Loser

So here are three signs your profile is working against you, not for you, and a bunch of tips to get you thinking about how to amend.

1. Somehow, randomly, a recruiter finds you the good old fashioned way i.e. personal referral – and in the course of their conversation with you says,

“based on your profile you’re obviously not in the market for a job”(!!)

WHOOPS!  Even if you’re not actively looking for work, LinkedIn is a perfect positioning tool you can leverage to enhance your credibility within your current organisation. If done right your profile has the power to position you as an expert and gain you industry credibility - almost instantly.

2. You invite people you know to connect and they “ignore” your invitation – even when you send a 2nd and 3rd reminder.  Okay so that might be a bit of a dramatic interpretation – but if your profile is scaring people off, then you need to do something about it.  I’ve written previously about the 6 Signs That you need to Take your Personal LinkedIn Strategy Far More Seriously – well the same principles apply here.  Get a professional headshot done, update your profile with your expertise, get recommendations, gain endorsements and get connected. Too few connections might feel safe and secure to you, but in this hyper connected world it spells “loser” and you didn’t even know it.

3. You appear on page 2 of the LinkedIn search results amongst your connections – even when it’s your area of expertise!

Where’s the best place to hide a dead body?
Page 2 of Google (LinkedIn) results.

Yet the irony is, if your profile is actively working against you, it might be better if you feature on page 2 or 3 of the LinkedIn rankings. The principle of that old Google joke applies in LinkedIn.  If, when you do a LinkedIn search for the key things that you are good and you don’t appear anywhere near the top, you definitely need to take a moment to reflect.   Are you trying to bury yourself on page 2?  Or are you ready to “shine” and be listed on page 1?  If it’s the latter, simply do some SEO work on your profile and you can remedy that in a few minutes. 

So if you are reading this article and feeling at all uncomfortable about any of the points listed, its time to get busy. A LinkedIn facelift might be time consuming but it’s definitely worth it in the long run. A good profile can put you in the running of career opportunities that you might not find yourself and get you positioned as an expert in your field - all with minimal outlay by you.

Vive la révolution! #ambitionrevolution

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  • I am the creator of The Ambition Revolution – the science and  art of amping smart and savvy. 

  • I mentor ambitious professionals to ensure they remain strategic, agile and focused on the bigger game. 

  • I also work with organisations who are trying to increase the profile of women in leadership, but struggling to do so.


Feel like your leadership journey has stalled? Email ablesing@amandablesing.com to set up a 30 min one on one to learn more. Helping clients shift from feeling invisible to becoming invincible in just 12 months

6 Signs That you need to Take your Personal LinkedIn Strategy Far More Seriously

Be aware of what your LinkedIn profile says about you without you even knowing

Did you know that women dominate every social media platform except one? Guess which one. Yes you are right - LinkedIn.

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Did you also know that some organisations are making decisions about whether or not to interview you based solely on your LinkedIn profile?   I heard this interesting (and rather scary) fact as I met with clients from a major corporate in the Melbourne CBD.  And while I was a little taken aback at the supposed “unfairness” i.e. you didn’t even know you were in the running for the role and you were passed over without being able to stun them with your amazing new CV or wow them with your polished interview techniques, I’m actually not surprised.  

So if recruiters and others are able to make assessments about your suitability for a role based solely on your LinkedIn profile - perhaps it's time that you got your house in order and your profile into professional gear.  Here are the big 6 signs that you need to do some work.

1.     No photo 

This says straight up front that you are uncomfortable in a modern social media environment and don't really want to be recognised.   Gone are the days when not having a photo was simply a holdover from not wanting to be identified on RSVP (that "old" dating site - is it still around?).  Basically, if you don’t have a professional photo on your profile it looks like you are timid or trying to hide something.  

There is the exception to the rule – social media stalkers are real. For those in roles where protecting your identity is an issue then please disregard my suggestion re a photo.  However, if its purely because you are shy or nervous around social media – then its probably time to take a teaspoon full of cement and get with the program.

2.     Photo looks like a laptop selfie or that you’d rather be anywhere else but at work

With a few exceptions such as creative types, outdoor types and entertainers (where a creative photo actually sells "brand you") then remember that the following types of images are better suited to Facebook:

  • the home job selfie,
  • the pic of you holding a fish you just caught on holidays, or maybe
  • the glamour shot you had taken for your hubby last year.

  Think of this as your professional CV summary. Your photo should represent you - professionally.

3.     Too few contacts

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Many sources say that the magic number for contacts on LinkedIn is 500+. I suspect this is purely for mechanical reasons (LinkedIn doesn’t publish the specific number once you bypass 500) and it means you are perceived as "well connected"

For those selling services and utilising LinkedIn as a leverage point commercially I’ve heard that the “magic number” is 3000+

Whatever the actual sweet spot is,  if you’re in a regular role that’s not about sales, my best guess is it needs to be more than 400 but less than 2000 – especially if you have been in business for 10 years or so.  

Contacts correlates with your ability to network in a social online environment. In this modern era with information and connection as valued currencies, then your number of contacts says a lot about you.   But unless you are selling stuff to people then you don’t want it to look like you spend all day on LinkedIn either.  It's actually pretty easy to load your email contacts these days. Just be sure to personalise your contact note (unless you know someone really well) and you'll be fine.

4.     Too few endorsements

If you want to connect with me and send me an invitation - imagine for a moment that I can’t remember exactly when I met you so I open your profile to check you out and jog my memory. Your credibility drops to zilch if you have no endorsements.  How do you grow endorsements? Networking of course. And making sure that your settings allow endorsements. If you are connected with someone on LinkedIn and you know they do good work around Stakeholder Management –why not endorse them?  And it's highly likely they’ll return the favour and endorse you for something you've got listed in your endorsement settings.

5.      No current recommendations  

Now this might be because you are busy, but when you remember that your profile is in someway the modern shop-front, public version of your resume, then keep it up to date. As soon as you finish a big project or significant piece of work, ask for a recommendation. Don’t wait til you are changing roles when you want to update your CV. Get it done while the quality of your work is front of mind.  That way when you do get to update your CV you are on the front foot with remembering what it was that was a significant achievement in the past year.  By the way – quarterly or half yearly updates of your CV are highly recommended in any case.

6.     Not active

Remember, social networking is social. It's just on a different platform.  You need to be active to be ranked by LinkedIn and "float" to the top of search criteria. LinkedIn even provide rankings for you to see how you are doing in terms of activity.  

Share, like, comment, connect and email away  - and here is a basic plan to get you started.

  • Work out what it is you stand for professionally - great customer service, strategy, leadership, wellness and/or success,
  • Like what others in your network share - as a way of connecting socially or as a way to enhance what you stand for,
  • Share links to articles  that inspire you professionally (with your own summary for time poor colleagues) once or twice a week,
  • Get involved in a discussion once a week - so comment and acknowledge you value wha't others have shared, add your insights,
  • Build your network - once a week get online and actively look for others in your network to connect with, 
  •  Don’t be shy. You won’t break the internet if you make a mistake.  Go on! You know you want to.

There are many more things you can do but this LinkedIn top tidy will stand you in good stead and keep you on the front foot.    LinkedIn is simply a tool in your professional tool kit that you will want to keep up to date. Given it dovetails really nicely in with your CV development and professional connection keeping, it won’t be a waste of time, especially when you do change roles.

One proviso – cat photos or videos or pics of friends and family are not really suited for this forum just yet. I’m sure the lines will be blurred one day, but right now, LinkedIn represents a platform you can professionally leverage and position yourself.  Don’t mix the personal and professional too much, too soon.

But most importantly, have fun. I call it the LinkedIn game. What about you?

Vive la révolution! 

  • I am the creator of The Ambition Revolution – the science and  art of amping smart and savvy. 

  • I mentor ambitious professionals to ensure they remain strategic, agile and focused on the bigger game. 

  • I also work with organisations who are trying to increase the profile of women in leadership, but struggling to do so.

 

Feel like your leadership journey has stalled? Email ablesing@amandablesing.com to set up a 30 min one on one to learn more. Helping clients shift from feeling invisible to becoming invincible in just 12 months

5 Common Mistakes that Women Make During Job Interviews

Over the years I've worked in industries heavily dominated by women - education, events management and the association sector. This, along with recent discussions with professional recruiters around the different ways that men and women play the recruitment game has fuelled my interest. Additionally, with so much research available now about the differences between male and female brain biology and socialisation, there are plenty of inferences to be made about why sometimes, even though a woman might have been the best person for the job, she might miss out at interview stage - particularly if the interview panel is predominantly male. Here are some of the errors  I've learned about to help you avoid making the same mistakes.

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1. Not getting to the point: I admire Naomi Simson immensely, in particular an article she wrote in 2012 providing career advice for her daughters.  She mentions women "using 10 words when one will do" and that really resonates for me. Sometimes as women we are used to using lots of words when hanging out with our girlfriends and lots of words are valued. We forget that this is not a great strategy in an interview.  Too many words can camouflage clear communication about capabilities, strategy and leadership potential. 

The fix? Given the direct link with great leadership and communication, in preparation rehearse your interview out loud with a trusted friend or mentor. Think of it like preparing to present in front of an audience. Verbally (not mentally) rehearse answers on key themes that you guess might be important based on the job advertisement and your CV. Be clear, remember the rule of three and don't believe for a minute that a pause or silence is negative. 

2. Using "we" instead of "I": Possibly because women have been socialised to be community/family oriented and trained from birth not to big note ourselves, we frequently make the mistake of referring to work that we did as a collaborative effort. This not only diffuses responsibility but also makes you appear less capable. As we move higher up the "food chain" in our careers, we need to learn to be able to clearly articulate our part in any of the work we did including:

  • The team I led,
  • The organisation I headed up,
  • The projects I managed.

The fix? Once again, interview preparation is important and your CV is a great starting place. Rehearse out loud answers to possible questions based on your CV and practice articulating the contribution you personally made. Also clearly define the overall business benefit that came about as a result of the work you did. Plus, if you were the project lead, the manager or head of department, it's perfectly okay to own the body of work as long as you only take credit for the leadership or management strategies rather than the work itself. Great leadership, is exactly that - great leadership. It's actually a given that you didn't necessarily get down in the trenches to personally do everything. 

3. Over interpreting emotional intelligence cues:  Women are said to have higher emotional intelligence (EI) than men. The upside is that 90% of leadership success is attributed to a high EI.  However, the downside is that women can sometimes over interpret these perceived EI cues when feeling pressured - such as in an interview.  I've heard from clients how in interviews perhaps one of the (male) interview panel members sat there unemotionally with arm folded, "allegedly" giving off signals of "not being impressed" - and then of subsequent pressure to perform win this person over.

The fix? Ignore these signals and get on with the job at hand. Don't try to over impress one particular panel member.  Possibly your awareness is heightened due to interview nerves making you hyper sensitive to these "perceived" cues.  They may be real but they may not actually matter. Frequently and ironically, I've had clients describe this situation and "catastrophise" that there is no way they were ever going to get the role, only to be offered the role anyway.

4. Being too intense and serious: I've written about this before but its worth mentioning again that sometimes, as women, we don't understand the "rules of the career advancement game" and the importance of perceived or real confidence. As a result, we run the risk of being so keen to prove our worthiness that we are perceived as too ernest, intense and serious. That's probably okay if your interview panel is the same, but it's highly likely they won't be. And given that people hire people they like - being too intense won't necessarily help.

The fix? Treat the interview with a lighter touch. It doesn't need to be a comedy routine but remember the interview panel are probably trying to work out if they'd like to work in the same office as you. Given that nerves and anxiety are going to magnify your intensity, why not try an Amy Cuddy Power Pose before the interview?  Guaranteed to bring down cortisol and boost other hormones that enhance performance.  

5. Not asking the big questions:  Sometimes women don't ask questions in the interview around salary, bonus structures, salary review periods and career development opportunities - and yet, according to my sources, male candidates are far more likely.  Is it the way women and men are socialised differently with women being more risk averse, less likely to want to rock the boat, or worried about appearing too hard nosed? Unconscious bias is unfortunately still alive and well in instances where men and women judge a woman negatively if she negotiates too hard according to multiple sources including Sheryl Sandberg of "Lean In" fame and Geena Davis for McKinsey (February 2015).

The fix?  There is no easy fix for this one because the sting in the tail can be considerable. However, simply knowing that males are far more likely to ask this information straight up front is actually helpful. When liaising with your recruiter ask their recommendation in advance. They will have already taken a brief from the client so will be far better placed to gauge the clients appetite for straight talking. Most importantly remember the interview is a two way street. This is not the high school play ground when if a boy said he liked you, ergo you must like him back!  This is actually your chance to find out about the organisation and the people you will be working with, equally as it is their opportunity to find out about you. Why not try asking those questions out loud with a trusted friend or mentor? 

Finally, to leave you with two reminders from inspirational women of the importance of you tackling big and important work, and some motivation to help you get there.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be?”
— Marianne Williamson
“You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.”
— Eleanor Roosevelt

Call or email to find out more about either the "Level Up" mentoring pack. Developing clear communication skills is an integral part of the process.

Feel like your leadership journey has stalled? Email ablesing@amandablesing.com to set up a 30 min one on one to learn more. Helping clients shift from feeling invisible to becoming invincible in just 12 months

5 Tragic Errors Women Make That “Sink” Their CVs

Over the years I’ve had the privilege of working with many women, recruiting for many roles and helping women with CV rewrites. In fact, it all started 25 years ago when I was starting out in my own career and I paid for my first professional CV to be rewritten. The new CV was well written, strategic and clearly sold me and my skill set which helped me think about myself differently and gave me a huge boost in confidence. Voilà! Dream job landed and a new career launched in a field that was far more lucrative.

Let's add some new science into the mix. Genetically and biologically, male and female brains are different. For most this is not rocket science but with use of FMRI scans we can now see that female brains are wired differently to male brains, we scan the environment differently, we experience lower confidence than men, resulting in valuing ourselves lower, plus socially and culturally we are brought up to be compliant, inclusive and not to big note ourselves.     

Men look in the mirror and see a senator, and women look in and see somebody who needs more experience
— Anne E Korblut - author/writer

So with that in mind here are five tragic and quite common errors that I see women make that totally sink their CVs when it comes to landing their dream job.

  1. Use of passive language – “I was tasked with”, “I was given responsibility for” - of course you were! That’s a given if its written on your CV. In fact nearly everything on your CV are things you were tasked with or were responsible for. This sort of language diffuses responsibility and makes you seem weaker. Lose the passive language. Use active language – created, managed, executed, led, delivered, implemented, restructured, built, achieved, decreased, optimised, programmed or transformed are a few to choose from.
  2. Use of words that could also be used to describe a pet or work horse – loyal, hardworking, committed, capable, team player or supportive. You can bet our bottom dollar that men don’t use that language in their CVs. Culturally women are brought up to be compliant, to be team players and not rock the boat, but our fast paced, commercialised world requires a ”smarter not harder” mentality PLUS confidence. Learn to describe yourself with words that “up-play” not down-play your contribution - excellent, driven, dynamic, highly accomplished, experienced executive, strategic, proven track record.
  3. Apologising - women apologise a lot. There is a great advertising campaign by a brand name who shall remain unnamed that draws attention to how frequently women apologise ...... and then what happens when we stop. Sheryl Sandberg says its because have been told we are too bossy since we were little girls. Use unapologetic language and you immediately look far more capable. If you were part of a team who delivered something major, instead of vaguely referencing your own contribution, point out your contribution and the result that you contribution made. If you took a career break in the last 10 years then of course you should list it – but one line only and frame it positively. Don’t apologise, fumble, disguise ever on your CV. Own it with pride - travel breaks, career breaks to raise kids, career transition breaks and study breaks are big important things for you to do so stop trying to hide them.
  4. Too long and hard to navigate – both men and women do this, perhaps because we forget the purpose of the CV – it’s a strategic sales document designed to help people easily see why you are the best candidate for the job. Frequently we’re so scared we’ll miss the “thing” that is the magic bullet that we include everything except the kitchen sink. Often too when we apply for a new role we rush the CV update and don't have enough time to focus on what to eliminate. So get on the front foot. Prepare in advance. Take pity on those who may be receiving 100s of these. Use formatting to draw the eye to Major Achievements, section headers and results  you are proud of. If you’ve been in this role for 5 years there’s a really good chance you can drop the first role off your list in your career history leaving 10 to 15 years at maximum. Also, don’t list everything from your job description. Instead use broad brush overviews of your responsibilities not the detail - and never include “other duties as required”.
  5. Down playing major achievements. After looking at many CVs I can confidently say that men and women write their major achievements differently. This is critical. What was the outcome of you working so hard for the past few years? As females we tend to think in process terms so understand in advance that process thinking will be easier for you - and make the shift to outcomes thinking. The Major Achievements  section is just like a movie trailer that draws people in – rather than the entire feature length film. Include interesting or strategic items that position you well, and be sure to describe them in strong, essential and result orientated language.

For successful and ambitious people, the CV rewrite is done well in advance, is strategic, and delivers exponential impact to your finances along with your career satisfaction levels. Start thinking about this document as the critical, strategic and marketing positioning piece that it truly is.

Check out how this post tracked on LinkedIn and

Vive la révolution! 

—    If you missed it - 3 Signs Your LinkedIn Profile Sucks

  • I am the creator of The Ambition Revolution – the science and  art of amping smart and savvy. 

  • I mentor ambitious professionals to ensure they remain strategic, agile and focused on the bigger game. 

  • I also work with organisations who are trying to increase the profile of women in leadership, but struggling to do so.

 

Feel like your leadership journey has stalled? Email ablesing@amandablesing.com to set up a 30 min one on one to learn more. Helping clients shift from feeling invisible to becoming invincible in just 12 months