July 31, 2020

Time to Define Yourself and Move Up! © Cici Mattiuzzi

For years I have worked with candidates to help them define who they are, find the best places to apply, and then create the documents that move them to the next level and show them in the best possible light – resumes, project descriptions, portfolios, cover letters and applications; interview notes, salary and promotion justifications.

The objectives are new jobs, law school, graduate school, job promotion, raises and so on..

Being able to write is one of the most important skills you have for career acquisition and growth. It is an essential requirement for employers - in hiring new talent and in promoting people to higher levels.

I have visited hundreds of companies and met managers in manufacturing, technical, government and business environments. It is always easy to tell who is in charge. The people in charge have excellent communication skills. They are smooth, smart, and confident. They speak well and are skilled at communicating a clear mission in writing. And they demand the same from the people they hire.

Strong writing skills are the root of effective communications. There really is no reason to give up in despair if you have trouble writing. It is not that hard to improve your skills and to use tools that correct your writing. I found a really great writing app called Grammarly … and it’s free! If you look you will find others. I just typed in “how can I improve my writing?”

Too often, I am stunned to find that individuals have greatly undersold and undervalued themselves on resumes, graduate school applications, job applications, promotion justifications, and qualifications summaries. Sometimes, their materials do not even begin to explain who they are and how much they have to offer.

Often, there is a problem with the writing. Other times people are too humble and don’t want to brag. That means they leave out some of the best parts of their experience or fail to highlight their greatest strengths.

It really doesn’t matter what your background is… I have worked with new graduates as well as very experienced candidates... and everything in between. I have worked with people who have graduated from top level international universities, prestigious public and private American universities, UC, and CSU, and more often than not people cannot seem to explain who they are in writing.

When a person writes a resume or a graduate school application or fills out an application they are telling the story of their life - what they have done and who they have become. Each and every person is unique. Everyone has a story to tell.

Just about every person seems to think their story is unremarkable. And yet I am always impressed by what I hear as I draw a candidate out and listen to their story.

It is often the case that people undervalue who they are. It is helpful to tell someone else your story to get an accurate assessment.

One engineer I worked with was going to omit his head lifeguarding experience and his volunteer, church media engineer experience. Both of those experiences, when explained carefully, were important elements of the story that got him a coveted engineering job with Disneyland! Really! Disney cares a lot about safety and nothing says safety like a head lifeguard job and the accompanying rescue stories he told in his job interview. Disney also delivers a lot of shows that include sound, music, light shows – just like large churches do.

Define yourself! What have you done? What is it that makes you different? Did you play a sport? Did you volunteer somewhere? Did you solve a difficult problem somewhere at some time? What event was memorable? What obstacle did you overcome?

One candidate who was applying for high level management jobs was not getting his ideas across. He was scattered across multiple topics and instances where he actually had a lot of really great information to share. I suggested that he put the answers on paper and share them outloud. That helped him organize his thoughts and refine his presentation. And, he had someone to critique his delivery. His ability to communicate what he had to offer improved immensely, and he got the job.

If you cannot define yourself effectively, get someone to help you. How do you know you need help? You are stuck. You are not moving forward. Your interviews are just ok. You are not getting where you want to go or you are staring at the computer screen without any words forming on the page that show your successes… That is when you will know you need to get help.

Once you understand you need to tell your story - you are ready to define yourself…

You got this!

Cici Mattiuzzi is the Author of ‘The Serious Job Seeker’ and the founding director (emeritus) of the Career Services Office for the College of Engineering and Computer Science at CSUS