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Archive for June, 2011

Dumbing Down Your Resume

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

The idea that you must “dumb down” your resume to be more appealing to younger hiring supervisors is nonsense.  When you have a lot of experience, knowing just what to highlight to showcase your value is a challenge. But young decision-makers are not dumb and “dumbing down” implies a sense of superiority that will probably bleed through in what you write–and in what you say if you get an interview.

You need to tweak it to be the most effective in can be every time you use it.  But that’s about focus and targeting what’s needed in that job, not pretending you are less than you.  It’s not that younger hiring decision makers aren’t smart enough or experienced enough to comprehend things as vast as your experience.  It’s that “your experience” isn’t what the hiring situation is about.  The company’s need is the focus of any hiring decision.  If you want to be in the running to do the work, shape your resume–and your cover letter, interview answers, and any other communication–around how what you can do matches what they need done.

Here are six questions to help you determine if your resume is saying a whole lot less than you think it is:

1.  Are you clinging to words, titles, and descriptions that focus on how great you were then?  Use words that make sense to the company you’re talking to now  instead.

2.  Are you clinging to multisyllabic  or out-of-date titles and terms simply because “that’s what it was called”?  Nobody cares if the title was actually “Managing Regional Partner for Customer Support, Retention, and Attraction. ” Even if that was the title, use the equivalent generic–Regional Marketing VP

3.  Are you phrasing everything you can in current vernacular?  Clinging to the words you used then instead of working from what’s current makes you look old–and out of date.

4.  Are you highlighting what you can do NOW?   A section that summarizes your strengths placed at the beginning of your resume helps with this.

5.  Are you name dropping to make yourself look good?  This plays to the ageist stereotype. Stand on your own laurels….but make sure they are relevant.

6.  Are you using jargon?  Communicating in plain language, even if you are in a highly technical field, makes you a stronger candidate.  Jargon changes rapidly, and you can appear obsolete simply because the term you used is no longer standard.    Use as little jargon as you can.  Same deal with acronyms.  Jargon makes those who don’t use it on their jobs feel inferior when someone else does–and that’s not what you want to happen when someone looks at your resume.

This is not “dumbing down” your resume.  It’s getting smart about what you are trying to do with it in the first place.


I Am NOT Going to Be a “Senior”!

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

I am definitely in the age cohort referred to as “seniors.”  But I am not going there.  Ever.

This is not about age, this is about mindset. I don’t like the kind of person a “senior” is. I spent part of this morning at a “senior center,” and the experience is still chaffing.  I finally understand why I detest the “senior” thing.

“Senior”–as in “Give me my damn discount.”  Senior–as in “I don’t want to figure it out so you do it for me.”  Senior–as in “I’m ‘old’ so you need to take care of me.”  Senior–as in “I’m entitled to complain but if you offer something that might help me, I don’t have to do it–because I’m a senior and we’re exempt from having to do anything we don’t want to do.”

While I was waiting to teach a class that this particular senior center asked me to create for them–for free–I got to listen to the routine conversations in the main room of the center.  One woman was whining because her son “only” came to visit her once a week.  She was being denied the treatment she felt she deserved because he wasn’t available to give her rides whenever she needed them.  He managed a busy local restaurant!  Since when did giving birth guarantee you a fulltime chauffeur in your advanced years?  Most mothers would feel pretty lucky if a busy son stopped by every week.

Another conversation was about bus service, which is being cut back because of the budget crisis.  That complaint was about crowded buses.  If it’s still running to where you want to go, be grateful!  Empty buses may be more comfortable for you, but they are wasting everyone’s money and also polluting the air a lot more per person that a full bus does.  And by the way, the bus system isn’t just for you.  A lot of younger workers need it to get to a job.  That job supports the economy that supports you.  Time for a little gratitude, maybe?

The class I was to teach never happened.  They said they wanted it, but no one bothered to show up when it was offered.  The county library system faces the same challenge.  There’s an “I can do whatever I want because I’m a senior” mentality that’s really ugly when it’s coupled with an expectation that the rest of us are “supposed” to be right there to help out with whatever a “senior” can’t do.

Too often, “can’t” is really “I don’t want to.”  Too often, the brains they have themselves turn to mush because it’s so much easier to ask someone else to do the thinking.  Too often, a senior’s automatic solution is to expect someone else to find the right solution.  This is a stupid way to live a life and a stupid thing to support.

No more seniors!  Senior status is a crock.  It’s lazy people outraged at the idea that they have to deal with reality like the rest of us.

We need to start expecting people every age to do as much as they can to take care of themselves.  Enough of the “oh you poor dear, let me do it for you” crap.  People thrive when they can demonstrate their own competence no matter how old they are.  They can do even more difficult things once they prove they can get one difficult thing done.  Taking this away in the name of “senior status” is a travesty.

Those who are old enough to let it happen are idiots to buy in on it.  I am old enough to be a “senior.”  After this morning, you’d be wise not to call me one.  I might “punch out your lights.”  I am not going to ever be a senior.  I am going to be as producticve and independent as I can for as long as I live.  I am going to learn and do my best to solve my own problems.  It may take me fifteen minutes to walk twenty feet to my mailbox when I am 101 but I will still do it myself.  I am NOT going to be a senior!


Staying on Track

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

Once you figure out the right path for what you want to do, it seems it should be simple to stay on it. For some reason, that’s not how it goes.

It’s easy to make a major breakthrough on what needs to change to get things to go better and then lose track of it after a while. Whether it’s how you mow the lawn or how to better use social media to get your message across, the new great thing sometimes gets lost in the shuffle.

This is not a case of memory lapse. You just stop doing things the better way. This bugs me a lot when I do it, so I’ve been thinking about it. This is what I’ve learned so far.

Returning to autopilot too soon. A lot of what we need to get done in life works just fine on autopilot. Some of what we forget we know how to do comes from going back to autopilot before the new way is fully ingrained. (This is how you end up in front of the house you moved out of two months ago when you intended to go home to the one you live in now.) When you just let things proceed “as usual” and “as usual” pre-dates the change you’ve found the insight to make, the new way is going to get lost in shuffle–literally.

Stress made me do it. Stress makes us forget things we know. We do things far less effectively, including forgetting the new better way exists, when we’re wrapped up in “what’s not working.”

To do a better job of keeping process improvements in place, the stress has to go. But then the stress should go anyway. It serves no useful purpose, and you really don’t need it. You are the one choosing to have it. I know you hate it when I tell you that. I hate it when I tell myself that. But it’s the truth.

Believing it will always stay the same. Sometimes it’s not that you “forgot.” It’s that things changed and that great insight doesn’t get you what you need anymore. But that doesn’t mean you should go back to the comfortable, old, ineffective way. If the new way doesn’t fetch it anymore, you have to step up to finding another new way.

You lose track. I think this is the one that gets me off the right path most often. I stop paying attention for whatever reason–I’m tired, doing too much, excited about something else, distracted by some immediate minutia–whatever. It’s not quite the same as choosing to go back to autopilot too soon. When you lose track because the lack of attention, you weren’t focused on what you were trying to do.

I think for me, this is most likely to happen if I think I really understand the new insight that brought about the improvement. I think I “have it covered” and then forget all about actually doing it.

So is this a big deal? Or is it just something that happens to everyone from time to time and needs to be tolerated?

That depends on how important whatever you’ve fallen off the wagon on is. If you lose track of your new accounting system after paying someone to help you create and install it for your small business, you ‘re in a world of hurt. If you forget that you fertilize your roses every fourth week, not so much.

So what can you do to stay on track?

1. On big things that you don’t do often, take the time to recall whether you’ve made any major changes recently in how you do this process. Remembering what’s new can save you a bunch of rework.

2. Don’t buy in on stress. Period.

3. Pay attention to what’s important.  Ask yourself if you are doing it the best way.

4. Notice when you are unintentionally on autopilot.

5. Cut yourself some slack. Usually lives are complex projects. We aren’t going to remember to do things the best way every time.


Lonely, Blue, and 50+

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

It’s easy to feel sorry for yourself when life sucks and no one even notices.   It’s probably even easier at 50+.  But we’re big kids now and our fun—and a meaningful life—isn’t someone else’s job.  The “good life” is up to each of us individually.  You may think you’re doing all the right things to make friends and attract a special someone into your life.  But if it’s not happening, look at what you’re telling yourself.

“I’m bored…” 

Well, it’s good to notice this.  It’s bad to sit around waiting for someone else to fix it.  “Bored” is a danger signal.  You need to keep your world expanding to thrive.  Boredom means you aren’t doing that.  Figure out what interests you and pursue it.

Boredom is the first clue to understanding why you can’t make friends, find a sweetheart, or create that good life you’re yearning for, too.  Admitting that you’re bored with what you have going is a good step.  Continuing down that path is settling for being boring.  Boring is not interesting.  If you want a life, be interested—which makes you interesting.

“I want someone to…” 

Are you putting this in terms of what other people are supposed to do for you?  “I want a man to take care of me” is just plain lazy on many levels.  Same deal for “I want a woman to hang out with me.”  Why should other people want to be around you if you just want to use them?  If you want more in your life, you need to do the work to get it there.  Which means you need to be ready to give as well as receive.

The best way to find friends is to take that scary step of going solo to groups who do the things you want to be part of.  An organization probably already exists for what you want to do—some of them explicitly for singles.  Travel.  Sports.  Hobbies.  You name it.

Do some research online.  Check out the local listings of social groups.  And talk to people.   You might find your all-time favorite venue for rock ‘n roll dancing by talking to a guy at a singles dance.  (I did.)  Once you find the group, get active.  Go to the meetings, get involved in the events, volunteer to do what needs to be done.

As a general rule, the best way to beat a bout of the blues is to do something for someone else.  So think about that, too.  There are many ways to help and most of them will help you as much as whoever you’re assisting.  You never know who you might meet.

“My way or the highway…”

Another big mistake at this point in life is assuming that everyone you spend time with has to agree with your politics and your religious persuasion.  Good character and the party line are not the same thing.  This is another part of keeping your world expanding.  A good discussion with different points of view makes you think—and grow.  Respecting others’ right to their own views is a key piece of your own emotional development, too.

Being right is baloney.  There are so many shades of gray in what goes on in the world these days that insisting that whoever you talk to see it exactly as you is like assuming the entire world should be looking out the same 12” square window.  You’re building a bunker where a bridge belongs–a guaranteed way to feel lonely at the end of the day.

“I want my freedom…” 

One of the pluses of being alone after 50 is the bliss of doing everything the way you want, whether it’s popcorn for dinner, tai chi on the deck at sunrise, or never making the bed.  The hard truth about having other people in your life is you’ll have to let go of some of these “sovereign rights.”   If you want to do things with other people, you’re going have to agree to do it their way sometimes.  One-way streets are for cars not friendships.

Finding people to spend time with and to love is a multifaceted challenge.  It’s also something you have to choose to do and then work at getting good at.  Your mother may have been willing to listen to you go on and on about “you,” but the rest of the world needs more give and take than that.   Get good at both.

To beat “lonely and blue,” get on with what you like to do, connect with others who enjoy those same things, and then get to know them without deciding how they are going to be what you need.  A vibrant life at any age requires that you think beyond yourself and what you “don’t have.”


Feeling Dumb with a Smartphone

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

If you’re willing to feel really stupid for a bit, the technology at your fingertips can be amazing. The best example of this right now is your cellphone.

I’ve known I needed a smartphone for over two years. They do things I need to be able to do.  But I kept postponing the purchase. First, the technology I wanted wasn’t available with the service provider I prefer to use.  That was resolved almost a year ago. Then I decided I needed to wait to acquire it until I had plenty of time to learn how to use it. Who ever has that kind of time?

The truth of why I’ve delayed this transition is that I knew the effort was going to make me feel really dumb before I got anywhere close to the “smart” part.

I got the new phone six days ago.  I am now a fulltime resident of Dumbville.

Some of the mistakes weren’t even mine. The nerd setting up the phone accidentally dialed my buddy from high school. (Sorry, Bill.)  The friend even called back to see what I needed–but I didn’t realize that until four days later.

However,  this time around with new technology, things do have a slightly different tenor. I’m seeing the “stupidity” as a function of what I’m trying to learn rather than as a personal failing.

Yes, I accidentally dialed a business acquaintance–three times in quick succession. But I cut off the call before it even rang (so I’m hoping she doesn’t see it as a missed call). And yes, it’s taken me four days to learn how to “drag” so I can unlock the screen in less than a full minute. Yes, I still lose the screen I’m working with and can’t figure out why.   But sometimes I can figure out how to get it back.

It’s just all part of the process.

The big difference this time around is that I’m not stressing about getting it right instantly. And that means, I’ve become comfortable in the one thing that true nerds have to be good at. I’m learning to try something and see what happens. That’s a different strategy than “learn what you are supposed to do and then get it right the first time you try it.”

Mastering technology is easier for people who do a lot with it. And it’s easier for people who were born with a joystick in the nursery. But even for those of us who experienced rotary phones and adding machines, learning new technology is easier if you get comfortable with the idea that you’re going to feel dumb for a while. It’s part of the process–like getting wet when you take a shower.

That said, I do have to admit I did one very old-fashioned thing to help myself with the effort. In the small print of the small booklet for “getting started” I saw that you could request a printed user’s manual by calling an 800 number. So I did that. It came in the mail yesterday.  It’s a little four inch square of a book that’s an inch and a half thick.   Odd shape, but oddly reassuring.

Stumbling around is the primary way to learn to use a smartphone. All the geeks I’ve asked acknowledge that. But having that user’s manual gives me a second point of attack. No, I’m not planning to look a bunch of stuff up in it. That’s easier to do online. (Did I really say that?!)

What I need the user’s manual for is browsing. I can leaf through a section while I’m watching TV and learn about stuff I would not have known it could do otherwise.  The user’s manual helps me see what it can do that I never would have asked it to do.

It’s still going to take a while for me to really use this new piece of equipment. It has amazing capabilities plus it’s a better way of doing things it’s important to me to get done. But I need to keep in mind that it’s not just a matter of learning the new stuff.  I have to unlearn the old stuff , tool.  Not the end of the world, but a complication.

This is all doable–as long as I’m okay with feeling dumb for a while. I’m on it. I want to get really good with this smartphone so dumb it is for the time being.