How to Stand Out


Jeff Haden (Inc. Magazine and Business Insider) posted two articles that any college student (and high school students for that matter) should use to “audit” their resume and their elevator speech. I’ve provided highlights of the main points here with my own bits of advice. The full articles are:

6 Ways Successful People Stand Out by Jeff Haden

10 Ways You Should Never Describe Yourself by Jeff Haden

Let’s face it. Your resume is a frustrating document to write. Do you include details or keep it high level? Do you include all work history or just the relevant stuff for the position you are applying for? Is one page the rule or is it best to have multiple pages?   The article “10 Ways You Should Never Describe Yourself” makes some very valid points. But how do you describe yourself? As Jeff states in his article, the 10 ways to describe yourself are great for others to say about you but probably not okay for putting on your resume.

At the end of this article, I’ll offer a complimentary assessment that will give you words to describe yourself. Yes, putting a few descriptors on your resume isn’t wrong, just don’t put words that are too general. My rule of thumb is, “if you are using a descriptive word because you think it is what the employer is looking for then you are misusing the space in your resume.

Haden’s 10 Words You Shouldn’t Use

Motivated – A better word might be “self motivated” which can be substantiated by things you’ve done.

Authority – Taking charge and leading (position authority) or having exceptional expertise (knowledge authority) need to be self-evident in your resume. A better strategy might be a statement like “Recognized for my leadership on the xyz project.” or “Recognized for my research on the zyq study.”

Global Provider – This may not be applicable to students, at least not right now, but many students have taken advantage of a Study Abroad program. This doesn’t make you a global expert. List the overseas period and describe what it gave you.

Innovative – Some people actually are innovative. That can be a good thing or a curse depending on the job. Some bosses don’t want a young upstart coming in and challenging or changing everything. They want you to learn. Employers want to know you are able to appreciate and follow their policies, procedures and work strategies. A better word might be creative if you were solely responsible for something new and creative that was recognized. However, that word has been overused.

Creative – We gave this one away as part of Innovative. Overused is the issue. Just be sure you have been recognized for something special. If not, don’t bother using it.

Passionate – This has no value. However, in the assessment report you might see “customer focused” or “results oriented” or “goal oriented”. Use those if you have a story to connect the word to.

Unique – Everyone is unique. I don’t see this word used too often but if I did, I think I’d file the resume in the round file.

Guru – Even if you could substantiate this some how, a student or recent grad isn’t a guru in anything. Be a learner.

Incredibly… – This is way too informal and is an exaggeration word. Avoid all words that exaggerate what you are trying to say.

Words that Work

If you’d like to take an online assessment to find better descriptors for your resume and for your interviews, go to http://www.ttisurvey.com///142181FUW This assessment takes about 20 minutes (2 parts @ 10 minutes each). The report is approximately 46 pages and will come directly to your email.

Haden has also made a list of 6 ways to stand out. There are many ways to stand out. I saw a person with pink and yellow hair. Yes, they stood out. Many young people today are  getting tattoos. To stand out from an employer standpoint, get into the recruiter or hiring managers head. What if you were them? What would you be looking for in a new hire?

Haden’s 6 Ways to Stand Out

Be first, with a purpose – From showing for the interview, to finding the job opportunities before they are posted on the company website. A position is officially approved and being recruited for 10 to 15 days before it gets any public exposure. Also, some companies have a policy of posting a position for as much as 30 days internally before posting it publicly. Make it your business to get the inside scoop from current employees and managers at the company you want to get hired. A great starting point is LinkedIn. But you have pursue that rich networking tool with purpose.

Be known for something specific – My son was advised to play down some of his high school accomplishments in his resume by a visiting industry mentor. The fact that he was accepted to and graduated (June 2012 –  and yes I’m very proud) from a prestigious university “assumes your high school years were impressive.” Whether it is high school or college stuff, be known for something! If you are currently in high school (or a parent of a HS student), be involved in something. I recently provided career coaching to a group of HS students (see Career Coaching for Students) and one student took this advice to heart and met with the school counselor and principle of the HS to request formation of a Poetry Society/Club. Stating on your college application resume “Founded and served as President of the Poetry Club” is what colleges and employers like to see. Just be sure you are able to say something about what you did after you founded it, such as, “grew first year membership to 48 students” and/or “Held 8 club meetings where 25 student-written poems were presented.”

Create your own side project – Integrating the project with another activity makes it exponentially easier and more likely to be completed. Many students are critical of, or sarcastic about, students that are in Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts but colleges and employers value the experience. Both of these organizations have an “ultimate level” (Eagle Scout or Gold Award respectively) that is usually attained during high school that includes a significant project.  My daughter was president of the ecology club and also achieved the Gold Award by designing and building out the grounds as part of a “Greenhouse Enrichment Project”. This required fund raising, organizing volunteers and working with the high school administration for approval and support. The fact that she was involved with the Ecology Club gave her the ability to offer service hours to club members. Getting volunteers was easy.

Put your muscle where your mouth is – Don’t talk about what is wrong, even if the interviewer asks you to describe something that someone else screwed up. When put in that awkward situation, always share a situation or problem that you were at least partly responsible for delivering the solution – even if you were the one that screwed it up. Being part of the solution is what everyone wants.

Show a little of your personal side – Personal interests help others to identify and remember you. For many interviewers, asking the proverbial “tell me about yourself” can lead to all kinds of responses. Stay focused on the purpose of the question and environment you are in. If the interview is a standard 30 minutes, and you talk for 10 minutes about “who you are”, it is likely you won’t be getting the job or internship. Be prepared for how to “share a little.”

Work harder than everyone else – There is a book titled “Only the Paranoid Survive” by Andy Grove, ex-CEO of Intel, that gets this point across and then some. If you are in the right major and career for you, (or soon will be) this isn’t a hard thing to do. If you feel apathetic about your major/career choice, now is the time to do the work to find your passions. Working harder than everyone else should not be a chore. Look for the career that you can say “I can’t believe they pay me to do this stuff.”

Carl Nielson is an organizational development consultant, professional career and executive/leadership coach and creator of the nationally recognized program Career Coaching for Students™ . Career Coaching for Students is available as a district-wide high school program and in group and on-one-one offerings through certified career coaches throughout the United States, Canada and other countries. Contact Carl Nielson at carl@successdiscoveries.com or call 972-346-2892 to discuss specific needs. Or visit us at http://www.careercoachingforstudents.net

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