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Table of contents :
It’s Not Rocket Science
Briefly, About Us
Finding Work Is Work
Not Everyone’s Cup of Tea
Get Out of Your Own Way
Stay on Top (of Your Career)
The Who of You
Casting: Pick Your Part(s)
Narrative: The Greatest Story Ever Told – Is Yours
It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint
Excellence is Underrated
Just Say When
Upcycle Your Network
There’s No Wrong Way
Set A Date for Opening Night
Find Your Foil
“Vision Plan” Not “Business Plan”
Resume: Your Marketing Material
Portfolio: Your Visual Vibe
Create a Connection
The Essential Thank You Note
Negotiation + Decision
Exit Stage Left
No Single Prescription
It’s Up to Each of Us
Little Book Press An imprint of Little Book Productions No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means – electronic, photocopying, recording, or otherwise – without prior written permission, except in the case of brief excerpts in critical reviews and articles. For permission requests, contact the authors. All rights reserved. Copyright © 2021 Billy Clark and Clayton Apgar ISBN: 978-1-7372590-1-5 (Hardback) ISBN: 978-1-7372590-0-8 (Paperback) The authors disclaim responsibility for adverse effects or consequences from the misapplication or injudicious use of the information contained in this book. Mention of resources and associations does not imply an endorsement.
The Menu Introduction It’s Not Rocket Science Briefly, About Us Finding Work Is Work Not Everyone’s Cup of Tea Get Out of Your Own Way Stay on Top (of Your Career) Proﬁle The Who of You WIP (Works-In-Progress) Casting: Pick Your Part(s) Narrative: The Greatest Story Ever Told – Is Yours It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint Preparation Excellence is Underrated Just Say When Upcycle Your Network Pivot There’s No Wrong Way Set A Date for Opening Night Find Your Foil “Vision Plan” Not “Business Plan” Presentation Resume: Your Marketing Material
Portfolio: Your Visual Vibe The Interview Create a Connection The Essential Thank You Note The Offer References Negotiation + Decision Exit Stage Left Onward! No Single Prescription It’s Up to Each of Us Gut Check Workbook
hours. Believe it or not, each of us spends on average 90,000 hours 90,000 at work during our lifetimes. Needless to say – a significant portion of our waking lives. And yet 80% of us say we are dissatisfied with what we do. Appreciate that: 90,000 unfulfilled hours. We have written this little book to change what work means by reframing how you approach your career. During times of both opportunity and uncertainty, understanding your professional trajectory can be the key to landing your next job – perhaps one you never even considered. In particular, we focus on three aspects: • How to develop a Professional Identity • How to create career direction from that Identity • How that direction can lead to your dream job Our methodology is based on four Ps: Profile, Preparation, Pivot, and Presentation. Everything you need to know about your career relates to one of these four ideas. Through this book, we’ll explain each of them clearly and efficiently, giving you strategies to use now and to which you can return time and again. We also include real-life anecdotes from professionals of all kinds to give color and context to some of the topics. Finally, we have added a Workbook at the end with exercises to help you act on the analysis and approaches we describe. Questions about what to do with one’s life are as old as human history itself. Seriously – scholars surmise that professional specialization is one of the characteristics responsible for humans’ separation from other species. In other words, creating productive roles for ourselves was elemental to human evolution! Modern work, of course, is different than the early activities in which our ancestors engaged. Nonetheless, just like those early
humans, work still has an existential notion to it, giving us structure, meaning, and a sense of identity.
It’s Not Rocket Science Paradoxically, as a collective workforce, we seldom discuss career. Mind you, we all think a lot about work, but too often we skip or ignore the larger questions that concern why we’re doing what we’re doing and whether we’re best suited for it. In short, we lack career literacy. To start at the (very) beginning, we come by this neglect honestly. Most of us are never taught to think about career. This lack of education means we are ill-equipped to plan for and evaluate our professional lives once we’re ready for them. Growing up, we learn a range of subjects in school – history, English, math, science, perhaps a language. Hopefully, we are exposed to music and art. In college, we might study philosophy, literature, business, the social sciences. And, finally, we are told to get a job – to stop learning and start, well, working. But, during that entire journey, we are never taught how to build a professional life. Or simply what it means to have a job. We learn the subject matter but not how to get and keep a job in the subject. The problem can compound the further we progress, such that many of us reach age thirty – or forty, or fifty – and suddenly realize we don’t like what we do every day and don’t know how to assess our attributes and priorities to change it. Each of us has the opportunity to define a Professional Identity, rather than let happenstance and time do it for us. In the twenty-first century, most of us will have a number of occupations and roles, perhaps in a number of fields or industries. If we approach our career thoughtfully, we can become aware of the connections between each occupation or role, no matter how disparate they appear, informing our direction and decision-making for
each subsequent chapter. This Professional Identity reflects your professional DNA – your unique encoding of aptitudes and talents, methods of working and modes of thinking – and is the foundation of your working life.
Briefly, About Us Before we delve into your career, we should briefly tell you about ours, as we are practitioners of the methodology we espouse. We lead Billy Clark Creative Management, an authority on talent acquisition and career strategy, advising some of the world’s leading companies on how and where to find talent, which gives us insight into what companies look for when they hire, what piques their interest and stands out. In doing that work, we also collaborate with a variety of professionals on the shape and structure of their careers, enabling them to find jobs that are both relevant and fulfilling. Most importantly, many of these same candidates are empowered to pursue professional aspirations they once considered inconceivable. Billy Clark When he graduated college, like many of us, Billy did not know what he wanted to do professionally. Following Boston College, where he was a marketing major with a French minor, he moved to New York with a cohort of friends and found a role in investor relations, as it felt like a sensible first job. He quickly realized he more or less hated it; the work was restrictive and the repetition of daily tasks limiting and uninspiring. While evaluating why he so disliked what he was doing, he first noticed several of the components that would become his Professional Identity: he wanted to work in a personal context with people as the focus rather than an organization or a product; he appreciated collaborating directly with a range of personalities; he made meaningful connections quickly and easily; and, he set a high standard of excellence for himself in professional matters. Considering what to do next, without a sense of the industry or role that might align with those attributes, he took a meeting with the owner of a recruiting firm specializing in architecture and interior design. It was a shot in the dark, as Billy had limited knowledge of recruiting but thought the
collaboration with “creatives” could be interesting. Much to his surprise, he was offered a job and took the risk, diving in head-first. In his early twenties, he reasoned, he could afford to, and in all likelihood, it wouldn’t be less satisfying than investor relations. Upon starting his new role, Billy recognized another important aspect of his Identity: he is a self-starter and internally driven, which worked well as he increasingly assumed responsibility for client relationships and started managing other aspects of the business. Thus, Billy’s Professional Identity emerged: • He leads with empathy, deriving a sense of purpose from human connectivity. • He has a visionary perspective. • He is constantly thinking about “The Professional Condition.” • He values aesthetics. • He is adept at professional service. • He develops professional relationships easily and often. • He moves at a rapid pace through a variety of disparate activities. • He requires of himself and others a high degree of excellence. • He is a self-starter and entrepreneur. After eleven years, Billy was ready to “hang his own shingle,” and successfully bought the business from his former employer. Having arrived at the threshold of a new professional chapter, Billy Clark Creative Management was born. Of particular importance to Billy’s trajectory were two factors: • He said “yes” when the opportunity to work in an industry about which he knew nothing presented itself, a decision born of equal parts trust, leap of faith, and the recognition that, early in his career, he could switch gears again if it didn’t work.
• He recognized he needed a change before it became critical. Professionally and personally, life can yield its greatest surprises and rewards when we take such risks. It is on a tree’s skinny branches that we best see the view. Clayton Apgar If Billy’s path was linear and focused, Clayton’s was broad and circuitous. Graduating Princeton University with an AB in History, he, like Billy, did not know what he wanted to do. His sole, half-baked notion was to pursue acting because he liked public speaking and felt fulfilled by creative projects and people. Thus, without prior experience in theater save for an introductory acting class, he moved to New York and began the slow and steady climb of “professional” acting, auditioning for any theatrical production and independent film he could find. Meanwhile, he consulted for a non-profit in the public relations department – engaging work that also helped pay the bills. Nonetheless, he knew he needed a professional springboard. One day, at lunch with the actress Julie Bowen – a kindness on Julie’s part born of a mutual connection – she told him that if he were serious about acting, he needed to learn how to, well, act, equipping himself with the craft and tools to take him beyond whatever lucky breaks he might get. As she put it, the random circumstances that can make one successful as an actor when younger fade (and eventually disappear); if he still wanted to act when he was fifty, he needed an education. The advice changed Clayton’s trajectory entirely. Over the next two years, he built a resume of credits in small productions and created relationships with industry professionals, in particular a teacher well-regarded at the country’s leading graduate programs. Then, he auditioned for the Graduate Acting Program at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and was admitted. Getting in involved a great deal of luck – hundreds
applied for 18 spots – but the outcome was also the culmination of a deliberate strategy set in motion that day at lunch with Julie Bowen. Following graduation from NYU, Clayton spent two more years pounding the pavement before his pursuit yielded regular work, with roles on Broadway and television. It was then, just as he thought he had finally begun to successfully climb the entertainment ladder, that Clayton had the discomfiting realization that he did not like the career of acting – the experience of being on a TV set or of performing a theatrical show night after night. Whereas his fellow actors (including his wife, the actress Kate Morgan Chadwick) found the work enriching and enlivening, Clayton found it tedious and repetitive. Such a realization created months of professional panic. After all, he had committed the first ten years of his professional life and graduate school to what he was suddenly aware he didn’t want to do. Following the panic and a period of self-analysis, covering steps we examine in this book, he finally accepted emotionally what he already understood intellectually: he would not be happy or fulfilled if he continued as an actor. He also noticed with fresh eyes that in his spare time he devoted considerable hours to studying and observing design and architecture. Often the simplest way to (re-)orient your thinking around what you might do is to notice what you do of your own volition. Focus on that industry and chart a professional course within it that is feasible and realistic given your attributes and talents. The act of noticing what we already “know” is often the self-discovery we need in order to advance. Years committed to other industries or another career path are not wasted or misspent. On the contrary, they are necessary phases of your journey which enable you, once you’re pointed in a different direction, to pursue a new career path with facility and confidence. Clayton’s self-evaluation led him to the fundamentals of his Professional Identity:
• • • • • •
He likes leading teams. He is adept at devising organizational structure. He values aesthetics. He works well with creative people. He can translate vision into initiative. He has entrepreneurial instincts but the attributes of a practitioner.
The question became: was there a role within design that fit the elements of this Professional Identity? Clayton’s first attempt at deploying his newfound “professional DNA” was working directly for an interior design studio. However, it wasn’t until he joined Billy at BCCM that he discovered a fit, as he could be involved with creative industries and people on a daily basis while helping build an organization and a team.
Finding Work Is Work Career self-analysis is hard work. It takes commitment, perseverance, and self-honesty. It also requires trust and courage to own the desire for something more, to ask difficult questions and commit to the answers. In fact, looking for a new job or making a career pivot often feels like a second, full-time job, given the considerable time, energy and focus necessary to get it right. As you embark on this journey, be both rigorous and thoughtful when asking what you want. We each need to be the entrepreneur of own career, thinking beyond job boards and traditional methods of hiring to leverage our interests, experiences, and relationships in ways that surprise even our own understanding of who we are and what we might do. Perhaps you aren’t sure whether you are on the right path. Perhaps you think you are but have never stopped to consider another. Perhaps you are simply curious. Perhaps you love your chosen profession, or even the company at which you work, but have plateaued. Or perhaps you are unemployed and need a job – any job. Whatever your circumstance, it starts with introspection and preparation. When you invest the time and energy to be your own best professional self, you feel a sense of empowerment previously unknown to you.
Steven Cutler, COO, Airtime “In 2006, I realized I was dying inside toiling away as an overworked junior investment banker…one of my friends made an introduction to a small digital-media focused private equity fund. After a few interviews there, I realized it was my DREAM job but they were super slow and could not commit to hiring me at that moment for a few reasons. Meanwhile, I found a somewhat compelling opportunity in trading that I managed to convince myself was pretty good and worlds better than what I had going on as a banker. So after weeks and weeks of praying the private equity job would come through (they still dragged their feet), I quit the banking job, accepted the trading job and went to Rome on holiday. One afternoon it hit me what I needed to do – I went down to the lobby of the hotel in Rome, found a telephone booth (remember those? Lol) and called the trading job and said I was rescinding their offer and apologized. Then, I called the private equity fund and told them they had to hire me because I had quit my job and I was ready to start even on a consulting basis. They wound up taking me on as a consultant for six months and then added me full time. Risky but best decision I ever made with my career path.”
Not Everyone’s Cup of Tea During that lunch many years ago, Julie Bowen told Clayton that the foundation of her success was that she never took rejection personally, and that she convinced herself that pursuing acting would be a matter of attrition. She never believed she was the most talented of her actor-friends. Rather, she resolved to be a case study in perseverance. Many of those same friends eventually decided they didn’t want the rejection and the hustle, reasonably moving on to other careers and starting families, the happier and more satisfied for doing so. Julie kept at it long enough to get some of those lucky breaks essential to success in the field. By her telling, when she was starting out, she expected to go on fifty auditions before landing a single callback (the next round in the audition process); then fifty more auditions for the next callback. Then for every fifty callbacks, she expected one actual acting job. And so on. Needless to say, it meant a lot of auditioning, a lot of rejection, a lot of “NO” and little “YES.” Before joining BCCM, Clayton applied to scores of jobs for which he was rejected. What’s more, he created extensive individual proposals for jobs that didn’t even exist, writing letters, cold-calling and walking in the front door of companies with a pitch that he could contribute if given the opportunity. In every instance, he was turned down, sometimes rudely. But, in the end, it was also just such a pitch that he originally made to Billy. Before he was Billy’s business partner, Clayton was a BCCM candidate after leaving the interior design firm for which he worked. Billy was helping him, as he had thousands of others, think through his Professional Identity. One day, during a strategy session, Clayton asked Billy out of the blue if he would consider taking on a partner to help grow the company. To Clayton’s surprise, Billy said they should talk further. A series of conversations ensued, eventually culminating in their partnership. For Clayton, his proposal that day was yet another pitch with little chance of
success. Though he couldn’t know it at the time, it would be the one that changed his life. All of which is to say, none of us are right for every job, which is okay. When you are turned down, allow yourself the disappointment – briefly – then learn from the experience and actively move it aside in your mind and your heart. “It” wasn’t the one, no matter how promising.
Get Out of Your Own Way Most of us get in our own way. By our words and actions, or inactions, we unintentionally work against our own professional interests, becoming fixated on issues and details that simply aren’t important in the long run. Often this involves a failure to sequence or evaluate what we want and to what we should give meaning. In other words, we get hung up on that which is less productive at the expense of that which is more. At one time or another, we are also all paralyzed by the prospect of taking action. Risk often feels like it outweighs reality, even if that reality is unfulfilling or even damaging to some part of our well-being. We revert to the same rationalization: it could be worse. Many of us apply this fear-based logic to our career, choosing to remain in a role, company or profession when a transition or pivot could be more straightforward than we admit.
Cullen Conly, Literary Manager, Mosaic “I really swear by the ‘take every meeting’ mantra. My ﬁrst executive job was at the Sundance Institute, and I was minutes away from canceling the interview because it was slightly unconventional compared to my friends’ jobs. And that position at Sundance 100% changed my career trajectory for the better – it’s led me to have the client list that I have now as a manager.”
Stay on Top (of Your Career) No matter how established and successful you are, make sure to regularly evaluate your prospects for professional growth and continued relevance. Otherwise, at any age and any level of seniority, you might become marginalized or obsolete before you realize it. No good job lasts forever. We worked with a talented creative director who had a long and lucrative role at a major retailer. He stayed because he enjoyed the work and the money was good, even though at a certain point he knew the job was (too) easy and that he had become complacent. Meanwhile, the retail world changed and companies such as his no longer needed teams of in-house creatives, no matter how skilled. Eventually, he was let go, along with scores of his contemporaries, all of whom had been at the company for decades. Suddenly – so it seemed – he was at a professional dead end in his fifties. By that time, there were few options for him, as the model on which he had built his professional profile no longer existed. Unfortunately, his relevance went with it. It represented a harsh reality and a professional crisis. In an alternate version of his trajectory, he might have recognized earlier that the landscape was shifting under him and left the retailer before the retailer left him. He might have leveraged the extensive contacts created over three decades while still “in the game” and started his own design studio, achieving newfound purpose and autonomy. Or, if less entrepreneurial, he might have moved to a younger, fresher brand that would have engaged his specialized knowledge of retailing. If you aren’t challenged, if the job feels easy, it probably is and could be a sign that you need to reevaluate, or at least take stock of where you are – and perhaps where you aren’t.
Assess what makes you special, why and how you are professionally unique. Understanding these assets will keep you relevant and inherently valuable through the several decades that constitute a career. The truth is: we all think we’re more employable than we are. As a result, we can easily lose sight of the fact that there are many people also doing what we do. But if we pay particular attention to our own relevance, if we honestly evaluate our standing, our approach, our strengths and blind spots, we can continue to grow and reposition ourselves. Process-wise, we all go through this same exploration. When we lack focus, a career feels like it happens to us. Conversely, when we actively define our professional self, we begin to have agency over the what, where and how of our working lives. We are our own best professional advocate. We owe it to ourselves to stay sharp, nimble and flexible.
The Who of You step in assembling your Professional Identity is to inventory four Thekeyfirst elements: Interests, Attributes, Purpose, and Priorities. Think of this as an audit of what makes you – YOU. As humans, when we ask ourselves the simple questions we typically avoid or think are rudimentary, we force the honest answers we are generally too distracted or afraid to acknowledge. Or we reveal a passion or characteristic that was heretofore unknown to us, sitting just deep enough inside us that we have never seen it. Keep in mind there is fluidity to this self-exploration. Don’t belabor your answers. Often, responses are easier and simpler than we think they should be. The challenge is to ask each type of question of its own accord and in order. When we struggle for direction in life, the real issue is often that we try to ask and answer multiple questions at the same time. Thus, none of our answers seem clearly defined. Our thinking, understanding, and decision-making become jumbled.
Not every role you seek will meet all of the criteria of your Professional Identity. As we tell candidates: not everything can be a 10 out of 10! You are creating a composite that reflects your professional being. If you land a role
that meshes with this composite, you are well on your way to a satisfying trajectory. Interests We define Interests as those things you enjoy doing and/or thinking about. One way to consider this question: what do you think about when you don’t have to think about anything? You have to promise us you will not make judgements on the content, regardless of preconceptions you have as to whether an Interest is a legitimate professional pursuit. There is a job – at least one – that relates to every possible Interest.
Interests are as wide ranging as: Reading, skateboarding, the cosmos, physical ﬁtness, plants, the design of stamps, radio dramas, cooking, cooking shows, crossword puzzles, baby clothes, ants, ceramics, the stock market, the elegance of numbers, human emotions, any tactile work, any theoretical argument, the law, the human foot, a duck’s beak. And on and on. And on. Interests can feel as consequential as a calling or passion or as light and easy as a hobby. After all, sometimes a hobby is a calling you’ve never taken seriously. Either way, the brain space we reserve for such elective thought is telling. As with Clayton, it was years before he performed this simple exercise, which helped him see that his free thinking and time were consistently devoted to design. At the most essential level, we are asking ourselves: what’s important to me? You might end up with three strong yet completely divergent Interests that seem impossible to capture in one career trajectory; perhaps you end up choosing one and the others remain avocations. Or perhaps you pursue one but discover the roles associated with that Interest aren’t as compelling as the Interest itself. Who is to say? Only you are.
Serena Lightner Hospitality and Service Consultant, SLIGHTNER, INC. “I loved planning my friends’ birthday parties, dinner parties and get togethers. I wanted to make it perfect for them; ﬁnd the cutest little under the radar restaurant or bar…make sure that every detail was thought of (invites, gifts, décor, fun!). So how ﬁtting that my ﬁrst concierge job at the Royalton Hotel made me giddy with gratiﬁcation. Dinner reservations? Club recommendations? Art galleries? I LOVED giving people an NYC experience that was carefully thought out keeping the selection just curious and off beat enough. There is nothing better than making people happy…so yes, hospitality is in my blood and has led me to the most amazing people and experiences.” Attributes Attributes are the defining characteristics that make you unique – as a person and a professional. You can think of these as the assets that an employer buys when hiring you. The traditional ways of thinking about oneself as a professional are dated. Historically, most of us have learned to think of ourselves in terms of qualifications. However, the sum total of what you bring to a role and to an employer is considerably more substantial. If you understand these Attributes, you can direct your career and job search(es) accordingly, crafting your profile to emphasize your breadth and depth. Do not consider particular jobs or industries when thinking about your Attributes. Otherwise, you will back yourself into a self-fulfilling result that will not fully represent you or your potential. Attributes are innate, though one can forever develop and hone them. To get at your strongest Attributes, answer the following: what do you choose to emphasize when asked to (honestly) describe yourself? You can also think about those professional activities you enjoy on a daily basis (and those you don’t), considering the corresponding Attributes that make those activities enjoyable.
Attributes are more than skills. Skills are an important subset – a specific, tactile type that can be learned, such as a computer program at which you are fluent. Thus, it is valuable to include them. However, we also need you to think more broadly about your softer, less tangible qualities. They concern your perspective on and approach to people, situations, challenges, and problems. How you function in the world. We never know what an employer might recognize as valuable to their organization.
Examples of Attributes, in no order of importance: Your ease at developing relationships and engaging with people; your poise and creativity when faced with professional crises; your resilience in the face of setbacks; your efﬁciency with tasks; your fastidiousness, or conversely your boldness; your steeliness; your total commitment to and investment in a subject, or conversely your generalist attitude about and basic knowledge of a wide range of subjects; your entrepreneurial impulse, or your skill as a team player. There is no need to worry about a sense of modesty. Modesty concerns the sensitivity and awareness with which we interact with others, the understanding that our shared humanity means we never want to think too highly of ourselves nor express a boastful attitude. This exercise is different – a private and personal audit allowing us to understand ourselves and therefore express the positive differentiators that make each of us professionally desirable. Some people are meant to do their own thing. Others thrive in a large organization with structure. Some people are adept at leading; others are adept at executing. Some are wired to sell and drive revenue. Others need the assurance of a salary to perform without the pressure of the bottom line. That’s the exciting dynamic at work: there are no right or wrong Attributes, no stronger or weaker Attributes. There are simply different Attributes that combine to make your Professional Identity unique, and that therefore make you more suited to some roles and careers than others. Purpose Let’s reflect on Purpose for a moment. This includes any notions you have about the “why” of your career. Another way to consider Purpose is to put into words how you want to make your professional mark, both in the near term and throughout the course of your working life – your career mission
statement. There are no judgements on the type, nature and size of your Purpose. It can be big, audacious, and public; it can be simple, closer to home, and more personal. That said, if you’re too lofty or general, such as “I want to change the world”, you create a dead end for yourself which isn’t as useful in defining Professional Identity and teasing out those industries and roles most suited to you. Instead, try the same answer with more detail, such as “I want to change the world by _____________ .” The more specific and direct you are, the better. Purposes come in all shapes and sizes and are highly individual. Each Purpose serves as the end goal from which you work backward. For instance, if you are a longtime litigator who realizes you’ve always wanted to represent talent at a major entertainment or creative agency, you will need an intermediate step (or two) in your career journey. A direct pivot from one to the other isn’t feasible, but perhaps, therefore, you aim to join a law firm with an entertainment or art practice first in order to develop this new area of expertise.
Examples of Purpose: Change society’s relationship to the homeless; discover a groundbreaking cancer treatment; start and build your own company; lead an established company as a C-suite executive; achieve a certain standard of living for your family; open a restaurant; publish a book of recipes; perfect the art and practice of customer service; design better buildings; design better communities. And on and on. And on. Priorities Lastly, to our Interests, Attributes, and Purpose, we add Priorities. These are the real-life drivers, such as family and finances, about which you feel strongly, and which determine the parameters of how and where you target the other three. None of us exists in a vacuum, devoid of desires and preferences outside the professional realm. Quite the opposite, our career – no matter how Purpose-driven – also exists in service to other aspects of our life. Thus, our Priorities are central to our trajectory and advancement. Priorities are both guideposts and boundaries. As people, we are often our most creative when given a set of constructive limitations. Otherwise, it is like trying to design a room without walls. Where does one put the furniture?
Examples of Priorities: Where you want to live; having a family; making a certain income; ﬂexibility with work schedule; size of organization or company; culture and environment (the ofﬁce and, more importantly than ever, home ofﬁce); beneﬁts of employment, such as health care. And on and on. And on. As we’ve discussed, one of the challenges with analyzing career is sequencing – what is most important, what is less important. Such analysis is a process, as we drill down from the big picture. It is a little like baking a cake. You need to assemble the ingredients, then add them in the right order at the right times. It requires a sensitivity we can’t force. There is no sense in adding an extra tablespoon of sugar if the recipe doesn’t call for it. Your cake will just be too sweet. By way of example, if geography is most important to you, then all else regarding your search for a new job follows from that Priority. Do not spend time looking at opportunities in other cities if you know you want to live in Los Angeles, as it is time you could devote to a deeper dive into that market, into research and making connections. Once you’ve sequenced the first Priority, you move onto your next Priority, which is where you would fold in your Interests. Incidentally, it is more effective to live in the city where you are looking for a new role than to job hunt and interview from a distance. Granted, this isn’t always feasible financially or logistically. However, if you are able, your search will be easier and your range of possibilities expanded, as employers almost always prefer hiring local talent given the potential complications with relocation, even in a world oriented toward remote work. In some instances, your Priorities serve to achieve your Purpose, especially if that Purpose centers on more practical elements, such as finances. If your
Purpose is as direct as achieving greater financial capacity, then your Priorities will likely include a role that compensates well, and you will be willing to forego a closer alignment with your Interests. Occasionally, for some of us, the answers to all four elements align in seamless and actionable ways, meaning we are personally interested in a subject matter and industry for which our primary Attributes are well-suited, which we can do wherever we desire to live, and for which compensation matches our expectations. If that is you, congratulations. Nevertheless, we encourage you to read on, as positioning yourself for and achieving that trajectory are a separate matter entirely. For the rest of us, the exercise of examining Professional Identity allows us to understand what’s most important among the elements, thereby empowering us to compromise, consciously and clearly, on that which is less important.
WIP (Works-In-Progress) Your Professional Identity and the career direction you define from it will always be works-in-progress. We encourage you to embrace this evolution, revisiting your Professional Identity often to see what has shifted and whether your trajectory still aligns with fresh analysis. Our task with our career is twofold: to chart a course and then navigate that course, connecting the dots from one heading to the next. Navigating means having the flexibility and fluidity to adjust as circumstances change. When the personal or the professional is upended, it’s important to have the tools and faculties to course correct. Just as Apple and Microsoft release updates to their operating systems, so, too, should you update your professional “programming.” Your Interests, Purpose, and Priorities will continue to shift and your Attributes mature.
Monique Hypes, CMO, Parks & Nash “I’ve always been envious of people that knew exactly what they wanted to be when they grew up. They were able to craft and then follow a plan: college, major/minor, internship, job, and voila! a career. How sexy, a career! Example: my grandfather, an immigrant from France, who worked up a corporate ladder to eventually become the CEO of a major corporation. But alas, my story is not a straight shot. In fact, it’s still a WIP! And while I used to wish otherwise, I’ve come to realize that, for me, an everevolving line of passionate endeavors is perfect. I love to build, to innovate, to inspire and to lead. I’m grateful for the dynamic, evolving roles I’ve had throughout my career: ﬁnancial services, digital media sales, Founder, consultant, and CMO. Yes, I might look like a ping pong on paper, but there is a rhythm to the rhyme. Each job has provided the perfect outlet, at the perfect time, to learn, prosper, and grow. At which point, because of how I’m wired, it’s often on to the next challenge. My unconventional path has afforded me incredible opportunities. I know what lights me up, what I value, and what I desire. Sometimes, a nonlinear path is just as it should be, and in hindsight it’s always divinely perfect.”
Casting: Pick Your Part(s) Now that you have an idea of your professional makeup, let’s deepen your understanding of how and where you might apply it. The truth is, hiring is casting, similar to what the entertainment industry does with actors for television shows and films. Not every actor, no matter how good, is right for every part. There are many characters Meryl Streep would tell you she absolutely should not – nor would want to – play. As you consider how and where to cast yourself, try writing your own job descriptions. They can be long or short, detailed or general. We find the most productive descriptions include buckets of responsibilities and tasks arranged by category. In each bucket, create a simple list where each item starts with an active verb, like this: Operations • Analyze and reconfigure corporate structure • Lead weekly team meetings • Consult on supply chain logistics Envisioning such day-to-day functionality enables you to better map your Identity onto a particular industry, and a particular role within that industry. Some mapping is more complicated than others. Take again the example of the legal profession. If you are an attorney, you might spend some part of your day engaged in legal reading and writing. In fact, you realize you excel at thinking sequentially and formally, which is in part what makes you a good lawyer. When you are not billing hours, you also realize you spend a significant amount of free time and energy appreciating fine art. More than an Interest, it is a passion, which begs the question: in what sector could those Interests and Attributes coalesce? The art world has both forprofit and nonprofit sides to it, so you could ask yourself which organizational culture most appeals to you. If you like the focus and
orientation of a for-profit culture, you might decide your ultimate goal is to manage the business affairs of a world-famous photographer, as it will engage your deliberate and linear inclinations, your aptitude for professional writing, and your passion for the arts. Such a goal is absolutely attainable with a couple of intermediate steps along the way. While a photographer is unlikely to hire you directly from your current role, that same famous photographer is apt to find your profile compelling and unusual if you are an attorney who has recently spent several years in the art gallery world. Perhaps you cast a wide net for a role in an arts organization that will serve as that springboard. You put your head down and dive in, knowing that, on the other side, your end goal quite possibly awaits. Another example: if your Purpose is to make a mark on hotel design, and, more specifically, your long-term professional aspiration is to become Head of Design for Mandarin Oriental hotels, then a precursor – an early chapter – would likely be to join an interior design studio that designs high-end hospitality projects. Such exposure would be critical before leading a brand such as Mandarin and would be appealing, if not necessary, in order to even be considered. This is how you sequence your goals and apply a strategic lens to your career. You can begin to see how one’s Professional Identity is a living profile to which we add based on what we want to pursue, making our candidacy appropriate and appealing to a particular role or industry in ways it wasn’t just a few years prior. When we hire at BCCM, we do not hire people with previous experience in recruiting, even though, as a company, we recruit talent on a daily basis. From the outside, you might assume BCCM would only hire recruiters, or that experience in recruiting would be the one requirement we have of applicants. In fact, we are most interested in motivated, thoughtful, creative people who we determine will be able to internalize our proprietary
strategy, synthesize the nuances of our technique, and exercise their own judgement within our framework. Recruiting is a skill we are confident we can (almost) always teach. What’s more, if someone has recruited elsewhere, we think they might be at a disadvantage, as they’ll need to unlearn industry practices and habits that are counter to our own. In a service-based economy, many roles are more about the way one works than they are a person’s skills and experience. Jobs can be like clothes: sometimes you need to try one on to know whether you like it – whether it fits. There is nothing wrong with making this allowance, and no judgement in trying a role, provided you have an informed and sincere notion that the opportunity is relevant to your Professional Identity. (A word of warning: doing so with too much frequency creates a negative impression with potential employers, as it will appear as if you aren’t serious about work – any work. Who wants to hire someone who won’t stick around?) We often only know whether a path is right for us by treading that path. Building a body of work means building a body of experience you can evaluate. Sometimes it takes years of trying or doing to know whether you have the combination of Interests, Attributes, and Purpose to make the pursuit worthwhile.
Narrative: The Greatest Story Ever Told – Is Yours Now that you have defined your Professional Identity and explored how you can apply it, you’re ready to craft the narrative that communicates it. When you speak about career, you are telling a story. As soon as we humans developed language, we started telling stories. It remains the most effective form of communication. It is no accident that successful politicians are often the best storytellers, and their most compelling speeches are about people and the lives they lead. We want and respond to emotional connection. The ways we speak about our careers should have as much of that same resonance as we can engender. Every impactful narrative depends on a through-line that makes sense of its unique aspects. Think of the many ways one can mold the same block of clay. Some forms will be more interesting and refined than others. In the same way, we want the most captivating, thoughtful version of our professional story. To state the obvious: never misrepresent facts or mislead the listener. While the same set of circumstances can be presented differently to greater or lesser effect, the circumstances themselves can’t change to suit a “better” plot. Embellishing your achievements or biography never works in the long run, let alone the short run. What we’re describing, instead, concerns tone and emphasis, remaining true to your experience while successfully illustrating your capabilities and added value. A narrative that is nothing more than a laundry list of jobs is redundant – your resume already does that. Instead, you want to animate the content as a cohesive, engaging whole, compelling potential employers to deepen the dialogue with you. No one likes to listen to complaints or absorb negative energy, no matter how true or justified those complaints and no matter how much we
empathize with them. We respond instinctively to positive energy and uplift. So, make sure your career story is a narrative of opportunity rather than disappointment, regardless of how you feel about past experiences. If opportunity is your perspective, your previous roles become the building blocks that have led naturally and inevitably to the current moment, wherein you are primed to contribute to a new employer. Connect those dots! The more you characterize circumstances in the positive, the more you mold that clay, the more you internalize an interesting version of your trajectory and manifest that attitude in yourself. There is an old maxim: as you think, so shall you be. Extend this to the way you describe yourself professionally: as you speak, so shall you be. Tell the version of your story to which you want to listen. Take Clayton’s early career; we can tell his narrative two ways. First, the plain, uninspired version: After college, Clayton moved to New York to become an actor. During his ﬁrst two years, he was cast in a few minor productions, including a low-budget ﬁlm. As he wasn’t making money acting, he got a survival job in public relations. Eventually, he was admitted to the Graduate Acting Program at NYU. Now, a more compelling version: After graduating from Princeton, Clayton moved to New York to start a career as an actor. Auditioning regularly, he landed roles in a series of productions, including leads in an independent feature ﬁlm, shot on location in Brooklyn, and the Molière play, Scapin. He also worked as a writer and events planner in the public relations department at Enterprise Community Partners, a non-proﬁt that builds affordable housing. After two years, he was accepted to the Graduate Acting Program at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. The second version is more interesting and substantive, right? The facts are – in fact – the same, but the tone, perspective, and detail are markedly different. In a sense, it comes down to mindset – to your point of
view. By one measure or sentiment, Clayton’s first two years in New York were tough and underwhelming. He auditioned a lot, was rarely cast, and made no money doing the very thing he was trying to do professionally. By another measure or sentiment, those same years were a significant success. He was cast in interesting productions and a longform film and assembled a resume that enabled him to successfully apply to an esteemed graduate program, while working for a non-profit organization doing engaging work. Now practice your story – say it to the mirror or walk around your apartment or house talking aloud. Or wrangle a family member or friend into listening. Build that muscle of describing who you are in a professional context. At first, it will likely feel clunky and long-winded. Practice honestly makes perfect. Or at least makes better. If you’re speaking aloud to yourself, your imaginary audience could be an interviewer or just as easily a new professional acquaintance who has asked about your background. Answer the questions: what do you do and how did you get here? As with Professional Identity, you’ll be forever refashioning your story as circumstances change. The more you practice, the more you can edit with fluidity and ease.
Michael Krueger Global Communications Strategist, Fashion and Retail “So much of my ‘identity’ growing-up and coming-of-age was tied to the music I listened to, the indie ﬁlms I consumed, and the places I’d travelled. I almost challenged myself to explore the far reaches of pop culture (and the world) for the sake of ﬁrst-hand experience and reference. With such a broad foundation of interests, I aimed to be a writer somewhere in this mix. When I moved to NYC in my early 20s, I pursued an entry-level role at GQ , which led to my hiring as a Fashion Assistant. From there, I soon learned that the Fashion industry, and GQ in particular, was at the nexus of all the things I loved – music, entertainment, travel, etc. – and my career has followed a through line where men’s fashion is the core, but my personal interests (and all those earlyin-life references) have come in handy and are regularly tapped.”
Annie Ferrer, Group Director, Strategy, Sullivan “By age 25, I’d held six jobs; that’s approximately two jobs every year for three years. While typical of most millennials, I was an anomaly amongst my college friends, most of whom were on their second and third promotions as I struggled to ﬁgure out what the hell I wanted and could do. It wasn’t until I was 30 – after graduating from business school – that I landed a job that I love in a profession that requires all facets of the skill set I amassed in my 20s. As a Brand Strategist at a creative agency in New York City, I utilize every lesson learned and strength built from my time as a reporter, a factchecker, a writer, a copyeditor, and an in-house marketer at a tech-startup on a daily basis. If only someone had told my 25-year-old self that one day it would all make sense, I could have dodged a few frown lines.”
It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint As we have been exploring, there is ample opportunity to reinvent oneself professionally, to pursue a strong interest as a second or third career or pivot to a different role within an industry. However, keep in mind: Rome wasn’t built in a day. A career is long and each step along the way necessary to the journey. You’ll need patience and a view of the big picture. When you do make a move, make sure to see it through. Even if it doesn’t seem so in the short term, there can be long-term consequences to shifting jobs, careers, or Interests too often. Once your resume shows a pattern of “job hopping,” companies begin to question your intentions when evaluating you. In our work with executives and principals, the disqualifying response we most often hear in reaction to a resume is that a candidate has “moved around too much.” No matter how impressive your output, no matter your educational pedigree or previous jobs, if you have shifted every couple of years, it is a bright red flag. Often, a hiring manager won’t give your profile a second look. What’s more, it doesn’t matter whether you have shifted jobs frequently because you have been recruited for successive roles. While that demonstrates talent, it also demonstrates potential lack of commitment. No company wants to hire a person for the short term, nor would any of us want to join a company that thinks of its team as expendable. It’s a significant cost to businesses to hire, which impacts all other aspects of the company, from available resources to culture. An employee is an investment. To put it simply, it’s a two-way street. As a general rule, don’t leave a job of your own accord before you know what you’ll do next, as it is more difficult to land a new role if you are unemployed. You are frankly less attractive to potential employers when not working. No matter how frustrating or disappointing a job is, stick with it, using it as daily motivation to find that new role. It will be that much
more satisfying when you finally walk out the door for the last time, onward toward the next chapter of your professional life. If you do decide or feel you need to leave, make sure you can explain cogently why you did so. While “I wanted to sit around and do nothing for a year” isn’t a compelling storyline when you re-enter the job market, “I always wanted to live in Asia” can be. Certainly, caring for an ill family member or other such significant life moments fall into the category of legitimate motivation. It all comes back to your narrative and how you fashion it.
Excellence is Underrated of the most powerful ways to distinguish yourself career-wise is to Onedemonstrate a sense of excellence. Seems simple enough, but not everyone does, and therefore you will be the one who stands out. In a world that moves quickly, that overloads us with the pace and stress of daily life, it’s easy to let ourselves be a little less precise, less conscientious, less organized, resourceful and thoughtful. Excellence is a mode of daily behavior one cultivates. It requires of each of us an elevated level of comportment and sensitivity. The greatest athletes and artists maintain such standards for training and performance because they have to, because in order to achieve at such a high level, they have no choice but to be highly aware of all of the elements that go into their preparation. The rest of us don’t need to meet the same standards to function professionally – but we are worse off when we don’t, especially when seeking a job or new professional direction. We don’t see the costs of lowering our standards – the misimpressions and lost opportunities. But it doesn’t mean they aren’t there. What is a sense of excellence? It is keeping perspective on the big picture while tending to the smallest detail. It is being the consummate professional, even in unprofessional settings. It is specificity. It is clarity and responsiveness in every conversation and piece of correspondence, ensuring that each element of your profile – from your resume to your attire – is well considered. Practically speaking, “well considered” means clean and artful with NO formatting issues, typos, or carelessness. Carelessness is the opposite of excellence. When you care about something, you mind the details. When you don’t, you, well, don’t. And if you don’t care enough, why should a professional acquaintance or the owner of a business do so either?
Excellence is maintaining a standard of organization and presentational composure. To do so, you can develop a “language” for yourself to use in professional correspondence. Craft your own set of phrases and templates for various job-seeking circumstances that you employ again and again, customizing the content each time to the particular recipient. Rather than being impersonal or formulaic, this language will enable a greater degree of clarity in your writing because you will have taken more time to compose messages, structure and word choice in a way you can’t possibly every time you submit a resume, send an outreach email or mail a “thank you” note. Why write every email from scratch? This approach only works if you tailor your hopper of phrases and templates when you use them. We leverage such phraseology and templating at BCCM every day, making our work more effective and enabling us to produce a better product – and, ultimately, result – for our clients and candidates. We cover a volume of correspondence quickly while maintaining a high standard. Excellence is not the same as perfection. In fact, perfection is often the enemy of progress because it leads to professional paralysis. And we are, all of us, constantly imperfect. Rather, excellence concerns personal expectations. It is not about making a mistake – we all make them – but instead about not making that same mistake twice. Excellence also concerns personal behavior as much as presentation. Bob Iger, Executive Chairman of the Walt Disney Company, has said he gets up at 4:15am every morning. While he never considered himself the smartest person in the room, he realized he could distinguish himself if he adopted a personal set of expectations and standards that exceed those of others. Thus, he started his “early riser” routine because those hours were when he could think without distraction, when he could be at his most productive and creative. In a sense, he gave himself a head start every day while his colleagues slept. There are many reasons for Bob Iger’s success – he is
supremely talented – but his dedication to professional excellence is clearly one of them. Excellence is a means to differentiate yourself in a hypercompetitive professional landscape. If you incorporate these practices – and those you identify on your own – they will set you up for professional success, both when looking for a job and when you walk into a new office on that first day of work.
Just Say When Let’s drill down further on communication, as it is fundamental to excellence and more important than people give it credit. If we have a collective tendency as humans when communicating, it is to overwrite, overspeak, and overthink. Professional writing is distinct from creative prose, poetry, or the casual ways we text with family and friends. Its hallmarks are clarity and brevity, producing an economy of language. With your every note and interaction, ask yourself: is there a more concise way to phrase this same thought? The answer is (almost always) yes. (This is why templates can be handy, as outlined in the previous section, because you’ll have some of the phrasing readymade.) Our golden rule of correspondence: Never say in two words what you can say in one. Often, the secret is in knowing what not to say or include. Adding tangential or extraneous words and comments dilutes important content. As you’re writing, you can also ask yourself: what do I need to include in order to 1) clearly make my point and 2) move the dialogue forward as effectively as possible? If you keep your end goal in mind, you’ll better craft each piece of correspondence. Often, it’s as simple as taking a moment to distill your thoughts to their minimum, using simple sentences and phrases, and distinct paragraphs. In addition, use bullets and lists as often as you can. At BCCM, we bullet and number everything. Lists keep everyone organized. Period. Just because we are careful with phraseology and structure does not mean we exclude relevant content. Quite the opposite, the most persuasive communication is that which says all it can as briefly as possible. There is no sense in having a five-email exchange when you can include all of the
details in your first email, such that the recipient won’t have further questions. Our emphasis on brevity is also not to exclude pleasantry. The tailoring of templates and individual sentiment is critical and what makes correspondence personal. In other words, we want to be clear and kind. Pick and choose your expressions of excitement. That way they will be honest, surprising, and meaningful. A bit of wit goes a long way. Rule of thumb: try using one exclamation point at most in any piece of correspondence. Second rule of thumb: once you’ve written a note, take an extra moment or two to read it over in its entirety. Always proofread, no matter the purpose or length. Typos can torpedo even the simplest note. No errors allowed with your GPS (your Grammar, Punctuation + Spelling), including with your spacing and capitalization. The above applies to texts, calls, and voicemails, as well. Any form of professional correspondence. Regarding social media, these platforms are excellent research and information-gathering tools. For posting and correspondence, be mindful it’s a two-way street – a potential employer can see where you are and what you’re doing, just as you can see where they are. Social Media Guidance and Recommendations: • Following: build a tight list of companies for which you would like to work. • Making Outreach: “like” or a comment when appropriate or “DM” with a longer (though well-tailored) note. • Managing Expectations: sliding into someone’s “DM” won’t mean directly sliding into a new job; more often than not you’ll need to go through an application and recruitment process, regardless of how you make contact, but nonetheless it can be an effective approach.
• You Are What You Eat and What You Post: be mindful of what you put into the universe; content is always available to potential employers before, during, and after your job search. • Not Everything Is as It Seems: everyone and every company curate their social profiles; the reality can be different. True understanding of a potential employer comes from dialogue and exposure; no matter what you see on a platform, always “meet” a place before deciding it’s the one. You’ll notice your facility when speaking improves as you begin to consider more carefully what you write and to prepare more conscientiously for conversations. It will become easier to engage in professional dialogue confidently and succinctly. A recap on professional writing etiquette: • • • • •
Short + Sweet: concise, direct, purposeful sentence structure. Paragraphs: a few sentences in each at most. Grammar, Punctuation + Spelling: 100% correct every time. Exclamation Points: one at most per piece of correspondence. Clear + Kind: warm doesn’t mean verbose.
Upcycle Your Network A job search is a campaign. Think of it as requiring that same high level of organization and concerted outreach. You need your supporters – your professional friends. And it is up to you to proactively cultivate such relationships and to coordinate their involvement, sparking conversation and asking for advice and introductions. We always tell candidates: conversations never hurt. Put another way: talk to as many people as possible. Conversations yield knowledge, and knowledge is empowering. Thus, each conversation is valuable and additive. Most, in fact, won’t lead to anything concrete, which is okay. Until one does. You simply never know when a conversation will become your next job.
Ian Nicholson, Founder and CEO, Partners + Alchemy “Your network is your lifeline in business. It’s been my network, cultivated over 30 years, that grows the constant ﬂow of work possibilities and word-of-mouth recommendations. This isn’t about certain people on projects or at dinner parties that you gravitate towards, this is everyone you meet. Work everyone in a room and always follow-up. And once you establish your core network – make sure you maintain reciprocity. Networks have to be mutually beneﬁcial, so you grow together, and attract more talent into the group.” Never feel badly about “networking” – about creating dialogue with the possibility of professional benefit. We know this isn’t easy – it’s hard to ask for help, hard to know where to begin such conversations. In seeking to build such relationships, start by asking questions. People enjoy giving advice and sharing knowledge and expertise. And most people also take pleasure in mentoring, even if only informally. Make time for coffee talk, whether real or virtual. Not everyone will say yes when you approach them for guidance or help, but the worst you will hear is no, and life moves on. Most of us are surprised by how large our “network” is once we sit down to catalogue it. After all, how often do we assess the full spectrum of who we know in professional contexts? Many of us have broad circles of connectivity about which we aren’t aware. The best method to inventory who you can approach is to make a list. Include everyone you know from current and previous jobs, and everyone those people might know from other affiliations. Include everyone in your “Address Book” – those with whom you keep in touch and those you’ve forgotten because it’s been years. Even decades. Also include anyone you might reach via school networks. Those broad alumni groups are a great place to find help and advice. Alums by and large love helping alums. And leverage your social media accounts, especially LinkedIn and Instagram: to whom are you connected; to whom are they connected; who do you follow and who
follows you? Much of the work is done for you, the connections already virtually established. When you reach out, you don’t need to hide your motivation. There are as many types of and dynamics to relationships as there are people. Some conversations will progress to a deeper, more substantive level. Others won’t. You won’t know until you send that initial LinkedIn note. It’s very possible you might be in a position to help them! As a rule of thumb, there is always someone else with whom you can connect. It can feel daunting, but this is also your profound opportunity to open a potential door you can’t even see. Remember, Billy’s first encounter with the recruiting industry was a general meeting, which ultimately led to his career and the foundation of a business. Clayton’s lunch with Julie Bowen was the same – a favor on Julie’s part that altered his trajectory. Case in point, our Business Manager at BCCM came to us as a referral. Even more to the point, when he joined the company, it wasn’t as our Business Manager. In fact, he started as Billy’s studio coordinator and, after several years, transitioned to recruiting. We have mentored him within the organization, as early on we recognized his talent, dedication and spongelike ability to learn new skill sets – and, by extension, entirely new jobs. He “had something.” It was incumbent upon us to figure out what. He is formerly a professional pairs figure skater, which we saw gave him discipline, poise, and focus. Essentially, we put the responsibility on ourselves to craft role(s) for him that best leveraged his Attributes. Most recently, this involved his transition to a business and operational capacity, where he has been instrumental to BCCM’s success. As mentioned, before joining BCCM, Clayton pursued a wide range of possibilities, scouting and approaching companies and brands that made everything from men’s suits to beer. In the case of the former, it was through cold outreach on LinkedIn to a fellow college alum which led to
interviewing for a Director of Culture role at a men’s apparel company. In the case of the latter, he developed a twenty-page brand brief for a microbrewery in Santa Monica and walked in the front door with it. He also wrote personal notes to hoteliers and left them at the front desks of hotels, which led to a call with one of the legends of the Los Angeles hospitality scene. Honestly, such initiative isn’t easy or enjoyable. In fact, a lot of the time, it might feel downright uncomfortable. But know that it is a productive means to a better end. The bottom line: we never know what will stick, what inquiry will lead to opportunity. It just takes starting that list by writing down an initial name.
There’s No Wrong Way if, through assessing your Professional Identity and casting yourself, What you discover that what you’re doing isn’t what you want to be doing? You’re suddenly – perhaps for the first time – aware that there is another path that might better fit your Interests, Attributes, Purpose, and Priorities. You could be ready for professional transference – the pivot that many of us make at least once in our careers. Before you dive in, it’s important to assess whether a newfound direction truly aligns with your Interests and Attributes. We can all fool ourselves at times into thinking that an exciting idea is one we should pursue when, frankly, it’s not. The first maxim of the Career Pivot: if you are not passionate about it, it likely won’t work. In other words, no matter an idea’s genius, you might not be the right person to take it on. For example, if you’re not an avid consumer of all-things digital technology and social media, then you probably don’t want to try to create an app, even if the concept is original or clever. You won’t feel the impetus to get up every day and work on it, committing early mornings and late nights to its success. We would not have been able to write this little book were it not for our passion for the career experience and our investment in helping people reframe their professional trajectories. Every time we have such a conversation, we enjoy hearing a new narrative and exploring how our methodology might apply. A pivot can take multiple stages – in fact, it often does. Your first “next job” might not be the ideal manifestation of your newfound Professional Identity or represent a destination in your mind. It might, instead, be a steppingstone to position yourself for a role that truly inspires you and leverages the full spectrum of your experience and talent. This might mean lower pay than you expected at this stage of your career or a title significantly under
your qualifications. There can no doubt be tradeoffs along the way. Nonetheless, such a “bridge” can be well worth it.
Ellen Kim, CFO/Finance and Operations Advisor “I have made multiple career transitions from Wall Street to government to restaurant C-Suite executive, with only the ﬁrst move to Wall Street part of my career plan. Wall Street lived up to my expectations of being surrounded by smart and ambitious young people, but I was unmotivated by the long-term career trajectory of becoming a Managing Director at a Wall Street bank. After completing my MBA, while a path had been set to take a strategy role at a consumer products company, the US was on the brink of a deep economic recession, so I took advantage of what could be viewed as unfortunate timing to take a ‘short detour’ into a Presidential appointee position with the federal government working to support startups and small businesses. At the end of my government tenure, I realized that if I was going to pursue my long-held passion in the restaurant and hospitality space, I had to sell my functional skills as a value-added role into an industry where I had no work experience. In the end, I found that marrying my ﬁnance skills with the industry I was so passionate about proved to be a great ﬁt both for me and the various hospitality companies I have since joined.” A candidate came to us who managed an impressive pivot. After graduating from a well-regarded liberal arts college, he joined a top law firm in their New York office. It was a traditional career path, which he thought would fit his own professional expectations and the expectations of those who knew him. After several years, it was clear that the job would be lucrative but would demand a grinding schedule of late nights and weekends, and all the while he would be devoting his energy to work that sparked neither passion nor inspiration. He spent a couple of months observing the characteristics of those that thrived in the environment. They seemed to have limited interest in the prospect of family or didn’t have the expectation they would see their family much, nor did they mind the late nights; in fact, the total commitment seemed thrilling to them – a part of professional life. To our
candidate, it was not. He was ready for hard work but not an all-consuming imbalance. He left the firm – and law – and through his network found an opportunity with a real estate development company in South America, which proved problematic within a year, as he learned of questionable business practices. Twice professionally disappointed in four years, he returned to New York and regrouped, taking a job as a bartender. At the bar, he began serving a regular who, it turned out, was an emerging interior designer. Our candidate was the only waiter or bartender who could handle the prickly and demanding customer. Having developed a relationship, one day the designer offered him a job, very much out of the blue. The designer had identified a talent for client management and multi-tasking, impressed at how he handled him on a daily basis. The designer was right. For several years, our candidate ran his studio, helping him organize and grow the business. Today, the candidate is a Senior Associate at BCCM. We, in fact, saw in him the same intangible and unusual qualities that made him successful at the studio, and in his previous roles. • Since hiring is casting, a pivot to a new role is always possible. Be open to the moments and circumstances that can turn into opportunities, including making a cocktail for a regular.
Colin King, Stylist and Interior Designer, Colin King Studio “My pivot from trainer to stylist and designer wasn’t seamless, but it was successful. When I moved back from Los Angeles to New York City, I was managing a social media account for a design ﬁrm while simultaneously teaching ﬁtness classes and training private clients on the side to supplement my income and support myself. I never stopped training. It was my fall back, my ‘just-incase’ ﬁle that I held onto in case nothing else works out. I had a ﬁling cabinet full of these because I didn’t trust myself; real estate license, personal training clients, social media manager, you name it. While taking on more social media clients and then eventually landing the job as a Junior Designer, I never stopped hustling. I trained clients every morning before going into the ofﬁce for my ‘day’ job and went back to the studio to teach classes while at the same time, taking off days that I would book an occasional editorial styling gig. It wasn’t until a well-known agent representing photographers and stylists approached me and reassured me I was talented enough to leave that all behind and pursue styling full time. It was then, that I ﬁled away those ‘just-in-case ﬁles’ and placed an all-in bet on myself.”
Set A Date for Opening Night The best way to write a play is to set a date for opening night and tell all your friends. In other words, force yourself to take action by declaring your intention openly to those you most respect and love, even if you don’t know what you’re going to do or how you’ll do it. Then you’ll feel you have to sit down at the keyboard and write something. The same applies to your career. If you have been considering a pivot for some time but haven’t yet pursued it, perhaps all you need is the final push from having others hold you accountable. It can be scary; it can seem preposterous. It works. Say it, start it. It made no sense for Billy to hire Clayton when he did, having only months before bought the business from his mentor. It was a huge investment in human capital that came with significant risk. But Billy held fast to the bigger picture he envisioned – if he were going to transform and grow the business, more than anything he needed a partner, even if he wasn’t sure he could afford it. Had he adopted a more measured – even advisable – plan, had he soberly and cautiously assessed what made sense for him at the time, he would not have hired Clayton.
Find Your Foil The magic of partnership often lies in the philosophical alignment of different – even opposite – personalities. This distinction is critical when searching for a new job or starting a new enterprise. Different personalities make excellent business collaborators, partners, and team members, because personalities and strengths can complement each other. Different skill sets are also helpful as they allow an organization to cover more ground. Redundant or overlapping skill sets, by contrast, are costly, inefficient, and a drag on progress and innovation. Different philosophies are also hard to meld. Philosophy starts with common perspective, both professional and personal, on matters of ethics, definitions of success, methods by which one deals with situations, and the ways one engages with colleagues, employees, clients, and customers. This is not to say that styles of communication need be the same or even similar. Rather, the expectations and outcomes of such communication are what should be shared. The differences in how partners describe an objective or initiative can be beneficial, as some colleagues respond to one type of description, other team members another. It is counterproductive, even disruptive, however, when the objective itself is unclear, often because leaders and managers are philosophically misaligned.
“Vision Plan” Not “Business Plan” You don’t need a business plan to succeed in business. It is a bit of sacrilege, but once you decide to leap on your own, don’t focus on a business plan. Instead, focus on your vision. Some of the greatest innovations in human history, some of the most successful companies making some of the most revolutionary products, did not make sense at the beginning. Before they started, they did not know how they would get “there.” The answer, of course, was one foot in front of the other. Fits and starts. Progress and setbacks. If you need capital, you will need to show those who might give it to you what they want to see in order to invest. However, what’s more important than an investor deck are passion and flexibility. Often, it’s more effective to be nimble than strategic. You will constantly be striking a balance between analysis and intuition, bringing on partners and advisors to tell you what you can’t tell yourself in order to make effective, meaningful moves at the right moments. In infancy, businesses are small communities. You want that community to be comprised of people generally smarter than you, who see and think about things in ways you don’t. The hardest and perhaps most important challenge with a professional pivot is finding that partner who will pivot with you. When you do, trust the relationship. Look before you leap. Then be sure to leap.
Resume: Your Marketing Material to tackle the tactile elements that will enable you to act on your It’sjobtime search or career pivot. Let’s discuss the resume – not the most exciting subject, but the key document in professional advancement. It is a good bet that the resume, in one form or another, will always be with us, as it serves a fundamental purpose no amount of technological hiring innovation will likely eclipse. The resume is the very definition of a first impression. It is your introduction, your calling card, your opportunity to show your best professional self. It is not the sum-total of your career, and certainly not a true representation of the three-dimensional Attributes you possess and bring to a job. Nevertheless, it is a record that frames conversations regarding who you are and what you do. Described another way – you are accounting for time, for the substance of what you have accomplished during a career, no matter how long or short, focused or broad. But here is the important distinction: while a resume reflects the past, it is most effective when written for the future. In other words, it is a prospective, rather than a retrospective, document. Honestly, it is a marketing tool – and the product is YOU. Thus, our First Rule of the Resume: always create it for the role you want, not the role you have. As we saw when we explored narrative, we can tell the same story with the same elements a number of different ways. Use this approach when crafting your resume. Enjoy what your resume says about you. Believe in it. Let it do the introductory work and provide a foundation for an engaging conversation with an interviewer. Those on the other side of the hiring desk
always appreciate a well-crafted resume because every detail therein is a potential dialogue driver which serves to create a connection, and they are as interested in a connection as you are. Conversation is built on relatable content and common references, on touchstones and anecdotes to which a reader might also have a relationship. They can be experiential, intellectual, or theoretical – shared knowledge of or interest in a place, another company, a school, a person, a subject, an event, even shared curiosity about an idea. Perhaps you spent time in Istanbul earlier in your career, which appears on your resume. If an interviewer also spent time or travelled there, that connection might be the single most important detail in the whole document and what establishes an easy rapport, laying the groundwork for a new job. Before you begin to write, think about the blank white page as your Resume Real Estate. You have the opportunity to fill it however you would like. It is open property on which you are going to build a new house. You’re not going to build the same house you used to live in, you’re not going to build the same house as your neighbors. You’re going to build a house unique to that landscape, your preferences, and how you want to live. The same is true for your resume: the experiences that most apply to the role or job you want should take up the most space on the page(s). This is where your knowledge about your Professional Identity and research into the role and industry coalesce. Don’t worry about length (within reason). Contrary to popular belief, a resume need not stick to a single page. Don’t make it five pages, mind you, but two or even three pages is fine if the content is relevant and well edited. Do not use length as an excuse for wordiness or imprecision. Let’s address a few practical elements of effective resume composition. We use the word “effective” with purpose, because, when it comes down to it, that’s what we’re after with a resume: a document that is effective at introducing who you are, what you’ve done and, as an extension, what you
could do for another company or organization. In other words, clear, simple, and easily digestible. If your resume doesn’t do those things, it frankly doesn’t matter how comprehensive, creative, or graphically appealing it is. The following is the most impactful and logical order in which to organize content: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.
Professional Experience Consulting Experience Service Experience Educational Experience Skills
If you choose a more graphic approach for your layout, wherein the sections do not necessarily appear sequentially top to bottom, you will still want to follow the order above regarding the import and weight you give each type of content. When applying for full-time roles, potential employers most care about the other full-time roles you have had. Consulting, contract, and freelance experiences, no matter how impressive, don’t have the same impact and are harder to wrap one’s mind around. This doesn’t mean they are less valuable, but they are of a different type and therefore, for clarity’s sake, need their own section. Skills are best at the bottom or on the side. If you are starting out in your career, having just finished school – congratulations! Feel free to list your Educational Experience first, as it is most relevant. How would Professional Experience be important if you don’t yet have much of it?! Make sure to account for all of your time as an adult (meaning post-college) on your resume, whether you think certain jobs, activities, or periods apply to your career or particular search. Potential employers almost always want
to know (and are likely to ask). Furthermore, if you have unaccounted for gaps, they invite questions as to why you haven’t included the information. If you changed industries, your earlier professional experience is still relevant to whatever role you seek today. If you took a year to travel, amazing. Include it and describe the travels. It’s actually your opportunity to share content that illustrates your range of experience and curiosity. Since we never know what will hook a hiring manager or interviewer, other activities are potentially as important as direct professional experience. If you had meaningful internships during or after school, include and elaborate on those, as well. You will want to organize your professional experience in reverse chronological order (meaning most recent first) with the following information hierarchy for each entry: 1. 2.
Not the other way around. Titles are never as important as the places you have worked. Titles can be discretionary and have vastly different meanings and responsibilities at different companies. We see the following on resumes a lot:
In order of importance, this candidate has prioritized roles/ titles over company. Unfortunately, this actually holds her back. At first glance, it looks like she has had two different jobs at two places in two years. But, in fact, she was promoted within the same company. Companies care A LOT about longevity. They are making an investment in you; they want you to stay. So, we never want to make it appear as if we’ve had more jobs than we have. Instead, she can reorient her experience like this:
These distinctions may seem trivial – after all, the content is the same – but in a competitive landscape, they might make the difference between an interview inquiry and no response at all. The Summary You do not need a summary. We are serious. As much as you are tempted to create one and have seen resume templates include one, as much as you may have been advised by a career coach that you should include one, you do not need it. In all honesty, a summary is a waste of time. Because it wastes the reader’s time. A summary is a speed bump on the way to what makes you stand out: the arc of your experience. The problem with a summary is that anyone can say anything about themselves. The fact that it is qualitative is what renders it meaningless. We can all claim we are “dependable” and “highly skilled” and “innovative,” that we are a “proven leader” and “detail-oriented” – a “problem solver”! We also all claim we are “dynamic” and “creative” and “focused” and “resultsdriven.” See what we mean? Such descriptors lack substance because they lack specificity. Without substance, any section of your resume, including the summary, becomes unremarkable and, therefore, unmemorable. What’s more, since the vast majority of professionals claim such qualities, it doesn’t matter if you actually are those things. Your truth is lost regardless. Instead, you can demonstrate those special characteristics by highlighting the roles you have had, the companies for which you have worked, the contributions you have made, and the results you have achieved. Always remember – show, don’t tell. Novelists will tell you that it is more poignant to write the story of a character’s heroism rather than simply state that she is heroic – how she saved a subway full of passengers by evacuating them to safety. The images will be more vivid, our knowledge of the character more meaningful, our investment in her trajectory deeper and more present. So it
is with your resume. You want to show your Attributes by sharing specifics: roles, examples, distinctions, achievements. As we encouraged when creating job descriptions to properly cast yourself, “buckets” are an effective way to organize information on a resume, especially if your experiences cover multiple disciplines. For instance, following is one section of a resume for an inter-disciplinary executive with a lot on her plate. On the left, see how the variety and depth of her experience is obscured and unclear because she has presented her responsibilities and successes as a single, bulleted list. When reading the list, it’s hard to make cohesive sense of what she does. At right, we have reframed the content using buckets, allowing the reader to better grasp her range, and therefore potential value. Such a reorganization will also likely help her identify additional Attributes she herself hasn’t yet considered:
Project or Client List
A project or client list is another useful organizing device. No matter the type or variety of “projects” on which you have worked, it can be effective to list them separately as a second page accompanying your resume. Typically, you’ll organize this content by type of project (as opposed to where or when you did the project). This is what distinguishes it from the main body of your resume. It can also be enjoyable to “add up” all of the work you’ve done. The length and breadth might surprise you. Following is part of a project list for an architect who works primarily on high-end retail stores, hotels, and restaurants:
• In the last few years, we have observed a growing trend of using graphs and various other visual gimmicks/illustrations to present technical skills, such as fluency with computer programs. We encourage you not to follow suit. Instead, just list your skills in their own section separated by commas or bullets. The graphics draw too much attention to that part of the resume, which in many respects and for most jobs is least important. Furthermore, we never want to actively volunteer that we have less than total knowledge of something, so why would we show we only have 50% proficiency with a computer program? If an interviewer asks, you can elaborate, and it will be
in the context of a dialogue where you are able to demonstrate and emphasize other compelling aspects of your candidacy. A resume is your best foot forward, your opportunity to completely control content and narrative. Make the most of it. Style Let’s delve for a moment into resume STYLE: the look and feel of the document. For some, this aspect is of great interest. Others would rather not be bothered. Either way, always remember simplicity is your friend. This isn’t about everyone’s resume looking the same; it is about presenting information in the most effective way possible. Graphically speaking – when in doubt, leave it out! A few pointers. Choose a strong, simple font, either sans serif or serif. Or both if you are comfortable attempting the combination, though this is difficult to do well. Better to pick one and stick with it. Do not include quotations of any kind, whether they concern wisdom about life or positive reviews you have received. No matter how good the sentiment, it doesn’t belong in a resume. And please do not create or include special graphics, such as your own logo or symbol. Again, no matter how well achieved, these detract from the substance of the document. And they also create a bit of doubt in a reader’s mind, as it will appear as if you are or consider yourself your own corporate brand or company. While you can think of yourself as a personal brand, unless you’re an influencer or a Kardashian, you aren’t a public brand, and if you are applying for a job, it should mean you want to work for a company and its brand. A hiring manager might rightly ask: so, which is it? Overall, seek the following qualities in your design and layout: sophistication and polish with a dash of personality and perhaps a hint of
the cheeky or irreverent, if it’s naturally a part of your personality. Regardless, don’t force it. It is important to be consistent with spacing between lines and sections. Every time you leave a space, you create a design “rule” that you should repeat whenever you leave the same type of space. Even talented graphic designers can become casual with spacing. Honestly, it just looks sloppy if different sections have different relationships. The simplest example would be:
Notice the different spacing between content of the same type. While it’s not a major issue in the totality of your profile, it nevertheless indicates that you don’t pay attention to detail, and what employer wants to hire that? Remember our general rule on typos: DON’T HAVE THEM. Ever. You always want your GPS locked in. (Your Grammar, Punctuation, and Spelling.) Proofreading is essential, preferably in hard copy, though on screen is fine, too. (We get it: printing is not always easy to come by.) Check every word and detail for spelling, spacing, and sense until you haven’t found any typos. Then read the document one more time. You don’t need to include months when listing dates employed. Only years. The addition of months creates clutter, in terms of the content itself
and its appearance. It’s actually harder to make sense of a person’s employment history with months included. Think about it: it will only make a substantive difference to include months if a number of your stints are short enough that they don’t span a year’s time. And if that’s the case, you have larger challenges with your job search than the formatting of your resume. The inconsistency will be hard to overcome. If you were in a job a year or less, simply include the single year:
For young professionals, you can include a season to denote summer work during college, such as:
In addition to spacing consistency, it’s important to maintain grammatical consistency throughout a resume and within each section. Again, each time you use a word or phrase in a certain way, you establish a protocol which you should follow for the rest of the document. An easy test for words or phrases is to use each one in the same sentence, such as, “I excel at __________.” Here are two Skills sections, one demonstrating inconsistency, the other consistency.
Older and Wiser A note on ageism. It exists and is pervasive in hiring. We do not have the answer for how to eliminate, let alone mitigate, it. However, we’ll suggest our own approach to the question of dates on a resume. Career counselors often encourage senior candidates to leave educational dates – those that specifically “reveal” or indicate age – off. In fact, we find that withholding educational dates invites more scrutiny, not less, because it begs the question as to why they have been omitted when the standard practice is to include them. It simply doesn’t make sense to include dates for professional work and not education. Such omissions are glaringly obvious and can be reason for hiring managers to dismiss a resume, as they are skeptical and decide to move on. It is not an effective way to combat ageism and get one’s foot in the hiring door. Our advice: own your age. Create a compelling case through a portfolio or presentation, for example, or through correspondence that you can write better, converse better, think smarter and more strategically than your younger professional peers. They lack experience and wisdom. So demonstrate yours. Control Your Content
Always share your resume as a PDF document and never a Word or Pages document (or any other type of word processing file), unless you are seeking the recipient’s edits. The benefits are both for your reader and for you. For your reader, a PDF is simplest to open on any device. The content is locked and the presentation clean, such that they can review quickly and easily. For you, the PDF protects you from changes to the content, accidental or otherwise. The bottom line: sharing a PDF is professional; sharing any other file format is not. Let’s end at the beginning, with a brief review of Resume Fundamentals: • Prospective Document: create it for the job you want, not the job(s) you have or have had. • Resume Real Estate: the information that most applies to the job you want should take up the most real estate on the page. • Relatable Content: projects, places, and people are valuable, anything to which a reader might have a personal connection. These are conversation starters – you never know! • By You, For Others: always remember – your resume is about you, but it is for someone else. • Biographical Journey: tell your story.
Portfolio: Your Visual Vibe If you are in a creative field, you probably know you need a portfolio – a visual presentation of your professional work. If you are not in such a field, we encourage you to read this section anyway, as we include ideas for how you can distinguish your candidacy by adding a visual component. Think of a portfolio as a “greatest hits” album. It should include the work of which you are most proud and that you think showcases and properly represents your talent, experience and skills. It should not be an exhaustive collection of every last thing you have ever done or worked on. In other words, it is your best stuff. As we have encouraged elsewhere in this book, be rigorous when editing. Ask yourself – what projects do you truly love? In an interview, those are the projects you’ll talk about in the most animated and compelling fashion. We sell what we love when we love what we sell. If you didn’t like a project, why would you want to discuss it? There is no substitute for passion and genuine creative interest. As an applicant, we want to convince a principal or hiring manager that they should meet with us from the very first page of our portfolio. In fact, if they only make it through five pages and decide they want to meet, we are totally fine with that. The interview is the real opportunity for substantial dialogue – a resume and portfolio are merely carrots. Therefore, your portfolio need only be 10-20 pages. Perhaps a bit longer. But there is no reason for it to be 50 or 100 pages. Nobody will look at page 74, no matter how good the work. Everyone is too busy. Make their lives easier and serve up a superb 15-page portfolio instead. To this end – you’ve heard the expression, “kill your darlings” or, as it’s sometimes said, “kill your babies”? In writing, it means editing out that which is important to you or that which you really like because it doesn’t serve the story. Take this same approach with your portfolio. Be honest with
yourself about what shows well and what will resonate. Don’t include the rest. Just like your resume, create with purpose, crafting your portfolio for the role you want, not the role you have. Regarding types of content, it’s helpful to include a range of materials. In addition to examples of “finished product,” process work is always helpful, demonstrating how you arrived at the end result: mood and presentation boards, drawings, plans and elevations, images, stills of videos, etc. Since you can include most anything, almost anyone can develop a portfolio or visual representation of “work,” whether in a visual/creative field or not. (As discussed, a Project List or Client List is also a substantive presentational tool to differentiate oneself.) If you are a management consultant, for instance, there is a creative way to illustrate the work you have done for clients without divulging sensitive information. If you have worked in a number of capacities in a number of industries, all the more reason to codify that work in a compelling format that amplifies your resume. Visuals are stimulating and interesting. To tweak an old adage: visuals say a thousand words. Here are two pages from a well-achieved design portfolio by architect and designer Jeff Corney:
Passion Can Be Everything The portfolio is also an effective means to show passion for a brand or company for which you want to work. For instance, if you want to work for a clothing brand but don’t have a fashion portfolio, perhaps you create a portfolio documenting a year’s worth of traveling. You’ll get to show your talent for the visual, your skill at drawing, and your inspiration, perspective and process. People have been hired precisely this way, by showing that they are a creative force, even if they’ve never formally worked in the industry. In fact, Clayton was hired for a design job on the strength of a portfolio of his own work on projects with budgets a fraction of the high-end work the studio did. Most of what he had done had little relevance to the day-today activities of an interior design studio. But he was brought aboard on the strength of his portfolio alone, having illustrated a natural eye and aptitude for placemaking. Below is a page from the portfolio of creative director Robert August who, among other professional work, has designed an array of company logos. The simplicity of the presentation is very effective:
Websites A thought on websites. A personal website can be a compelling means to present your professional profile and work, however it is not a substitute for a single PDF portfolio. The PDF remains the standard for hiring because it is easiest to share, open, and review on a computer or smart phone, as the content is locked and presented sequentially. (Just as we outlined for your resume.) One can easily flip from start to finish. Websites are harder to peruse – especially on a smart phone and even when optimized – given multiple tabs and the need for connectivity. Importantly, just as your own logo creates confusion about your intent – is she her own brand, or isn’t she? – so, too, does a personal website. A principal might well ask: does she have her own company, or does she want to work for me? And if it’s both, will she commit to shuttering that company and halting those pursuits when she takes a full-time job?
Create a Connection hard work has landed you an interview. Now what? An interview So,is ayour world unto itself. As you may have experienced, interviewing at a company and working at a company are very different. Interviewing requires its own approach, narrative, and language. For instance, sometimes an interviewer will deliberately use silence as a way to see how a candidate responds to the quiet. You would be surprised how often candidates start blabbering just to fill the void, revealing more about themselves than is productive in such a setting. Our goal in an interview is to present the best version of our (professional) self. Importantly, this does not mean we misrepresent any aspect of our ability or experience. It does mean we aim to emphasize and speak to our Attributes and expertise, to the ways we can contribute and add value, with poise and warmth. An interview is a performance, which is why there is little correlation to day-to-day life. Both the atmosphere and expectations are heightened, which means our preparation and attitude need to be, as well. It is akin to an acting audition. The performance an actor gives in an audition is quite different from the actual job of acting, because the circumstances of the audition are artificial. Similarly, in an interview, the dynamic between interviewer and interviewee is a forced construct, even when friendly. Thus, we prepare appropriately to rise to the occasion and be at our best. Remember our narrative? It’s time to bring it to life. You’ve been practicing, right? The goal is a fluid, well-developed story, complete yet concise, with shape and a beginning, a middle, and an “end” culminating in the moment you are sitting in that interview chair discussing how your
combination of personality, talent, Attributes, and experience would be a fit for the company. Connect those dots. Keep in mind: no one else has the career trajectory you do. That in and of itself is compelling! Those unique aspects of your path, as you tell them, are the elements that leave more of an impression than your resume ever will. No matter how unusual some of your roles have been, no matter how disparate or far afield, no matter how circuitous your journey feels, there is a through line that summarizes your professional whole. As we explored, a narrative is often more about how you contribute to the professional world than the jobs you have had, reflective of your talents and Attributes more than roles and titles. When reviewing your professional past to tell your story, remember to think beyond the jobs. The jobs are the anchors, the themes are the substance. What’s more – your narrative can be tweaked to fit the company at which you are interviewing. There is a particular version of your story that will be most effective with each potential employer, based on your research into the company and your interviewer(s). In this way, you marry preparation with profile. Your tasks in an interview: 1. 2. 3. 4.
Be the best version of yourself. Bring your resume to life. Be open, available, and curious. Be inquisitive (and care about the answers).
Questions Anyone? An interview is a two-way street. You are there to impress, but you are also there on your own fact-finding mission, to understand if the company is a good fit for you.
In order to ask intelligent questions, make sure you do your research ahead of time. This is preparation you’ll want to do anyway – after all, you are considering spending a good portion of your waking, weekday life within those walls. Once you complete your research, reflect on what you want to know about the role and the company, formulating a few key questions in advance. Only consider questions about which you have a genuine interest in the answer. There’s no need to come up with questions just to ask them, as it is nakedly obvious when we do so. Your questions – and your interest in the answers – are also a way to grease the conversation in order to connect in a deeper way than typical pleasantries. Showing concerted interest in your interviewer will make them feel more comfortable and the dialogue more enjoyable. Always remember – your interviewer would love for you to be the right candidate, because then their search is over! Hiring is no easy task, demanding as much time, energy, and investment as looking for work. In other words, they are rooting for you. In terms of the questions themselves, focus on the substantive and contextual as opposed to the logistical. Questions that demonstrate a degree of forethought can move the dialogue from Q&A format to a true discussion, which will enable you both to settle in. For example, you could be interested in how teams at a company are composed and function, or you could ask about a particular project or initiative you admire. Demonstrating knowledge of a company’s work or products always makes a positive impression. What is not appropriate in an interview, especially at an early stage, is to ask about office hours, vacation time, or other human resources-related matters. Though important, such questions strike the wrong note and should instead be reserved for a later stage in the hiring process, once you’ve received an offer and are evaluating
whether to accept. In an interview, these questions risk leaving the impression that you are less concerned about what the company does – and therefore the ways you might contribute – than about the general logistics of work. No Complaining! A word of caution: no principal or hiring manager likes to hear an applicant complain about a previous job or boss, no matter how justified the complaints. Negative energy and commentary do not earn points. When speaking with a potential employer, there is always a positive way to frame that which is broken at your current employer. Perhaps your workplace is toxic, with cliques and extensive infighting. Rather than recount such details in an interview, instead describe how excited you would be to contribute to a team and support fellow colleagues in an atmosphere of mutual respect and collegiality – to roll up your sleeves and pitch in. The former (the complaint) would be reductive, the latter is affirmative. The former is the past, the latter can be your future. Dress to Impress Briefly – what to wear. Your best bet is to research the industry and match the level and type of attire as closely as you can. Wardrobe expectations at a tech company differ from those at a financial services company or a law firm. Regardless, always err on the side of overdressing. Wearing a suit to an interview where the workwear culture is slacks and a button down means you still end up looking like a serious professional. Wearing jeans and a t-shirt to that same interview will make you look sloppy. No matter the style, be it a suit or jeans, keep it simple. Basic colors – black, blue, white, khaki – without a lot of pattern are always a good choice. You should be the star of the interview, not your shirt.
Most importantly, wear clothing you love. Our confidence and performance increase when what we’re wearing makes us feel like a million bucks. It’s kind of like a head start on the interview. But no flip flops. A talented candidate of ours once wore flip flops to an interview. Granted, it was Los Angeles. But just don’t. Virtual Reality With virtual interviews, it’s useful to remember that the “setting” is your responsibility, unlike an in-person interview where you head to a company’s office. We had a candidate fail to advance in an interview process solely because the room behind them on a video call was messy and cluttered, which the hiring manager took to have larger implications about the candidate’s work product. Fair or unfair, such judgements are increasingly commonplace. Avoid the pitfall by paying special attention to your background (both the composition and tidiness of the space), camera angle, lighting, and sound (your microphone and speakers). The (Million Dollar) Question To position yourself salary-wise, go with a number that is a little beyond what you think is reasonable but that you can still utter with a straight and confident face. It’s fine to stretch in this regard, as it is a sign that you believe in the value you will bring. That said, there’s no sense in sabotaging an entire interview process by quoting a number that is grossly overinflated on the chance that a potential employer will say “okay.” You are not doing yourself any favors, as you risk the company turning toward another candidate. In terms of your actual response when asked your desired salary, simply say, “I’m targeting $ ____________ .” That’s all. Straightforward and unembellished. You might feel like you want to explain or justify the number. You don’t need to. Just utter that single sentence and follow with a smile.
Last, Not Least Above all, remember to breathe when you sit down in the chair. Seems like a no brainer, right? In fact, most of us actually hold our breath in stressful or intense situations. Breath, it turns out, allows us to be open and available. Then we are better equipped to let the conversation go where it wants. It’s possible to overprepare and thus have a script in your head you are determined to follow or a series of compelling points you feel you need to convey in order to get the job. In fact, we can’t control the oddities and mysteries of hiring decisions. If the conversation includes an early exit, go with it, as there’s nothing you can do. There is no need to try to shoehorn commentary on a particular experience if the interviewer isn’t interested. It’s like a politician delivering a well-rehearsed talking point in a debate that has nothing to do with the question. Ultimately, what’s most valuable isn’t your qualifications or Attributes, your confidence or commitment, or making the most compelling impression. It is a connection with the person sitting across from you, discovering personal and professional parallels, common ground, and understanding. If you start with a deep breath or two, the rest will follow. To review – make sure you address or prepare the following ahead of an interview. In-Person Interview: • • • • • •
Attire Materials (hard or digital) Location (address, floor, suite, cross streets, access, ID for entry) Attendees Research on firm + interviewers Job description
Video Interview: • • • • • • • • •
Attire Digital presentation Invitation link Background Lighting Microphone + speakers Attendees Research on firm + interviewers Job description
The Essential Thank You Note Thank you notes are essential. They will never go out of style nor lose their effectiveness. Modes of communication will continue to evolve but the note itself will maintain its importance and simple power. Just as email is an accepted means for sending a thank you note today, whereas in the past a hard copy via mail was de rigueur, so will there likely be another format in the future by which it will become acceptable to convey thanks for a meeting or interview. We don’t know what that will be, but we are confident that the fundamental practice of expressing appreciation for one’s attention and interest in a clear and timely manner will always be important. You will never get a job solely because of a thank you note, but you can lose one when you don’t send one. We have seen it happen. When do you send a thank you note? As soon as possible. This is not like dating, wherein one plays hard to get and there is a kind of allure or attraction in mystery and silence. A thank you note is a prime illustration to a potential employer of your professional conduct, of how you comport yourself when the initiative is left to you. Those who shine in interviews, who are charming, engaging, well-spoken, and leave a glowing impression can undermine themselves in the hiring process if they don’t send a prompt, well-crafted thank you. Such a note is also an opportunity to demonstrate how you think and write. And as we’ve outlined, good writing can distinguish you from other candidates who might have more experience in the field. Writing is one of the most valued – and valuable – professional Attributes because so few people do it well. In a business context, what does good writing entail? It is simple, readable, and well-constructed. Remember the maxim we shared: never say in two words what you can say in one. In other words, it’s a note, not a novel. You can almost always convey what you would like to in a simpler manner than you think. When crafting your thank you, continue to ask yourself whether
you can express a thought or sentiment more clearly. This does not mean sacrificing personality or depth. Rather, it means demonstrating personality and depth in the most efficacious way possible. As with your resume and other materials, remember GPS. Get them right. What should you say? Express your appreciation for the meeting, for their time and insights into the role and company. It is always helpful to include a reference or two (but no more) to specific topics discussed, both of a serious and substantive nature, or also of a casual or comical nature, if such a moment arose. Only attempt soft humor if you are funny. Be honest with yourself about that. Just as in life, there is no need to force it. Be who you are – the best version – in your correspondence, as in each interview, as in life. Make sure to include any information or materials (as attachments if via email) that you agreed to share in the interview. Say you are available to speak further or meet again at their convenience, that you look forward to hearing from them, and close with a simple salutation. That’s it. The result should be a short note combining brevity and warmth.
References such a late stage in the hiring process, the reference check can still Atderail a candidacy. Choose your references carefully, making sure you are 100% certain that, if contacted, they will say glowing, over-the-moon things about you as a professional and a person. Some people agree to be references because they don’t want to say no but don’t have exceedingly enthusiastic opinions of you (for whatever reason). Or, more often, they might not feel they know you well enough to give a full-throated endorsement. Therefore, when asked during a reference check, they will simply say they like you and enjoyed working with you. Such mild sentiments aren’t enough! A lukewarm reference is no reference at all. Unless your reference speaks effusively about your performance and capability, they should not be one. Supervisors (past or present) should be primary references. In other words, you need people for whom you have worked, as they are considered stronger, more valuable judges of professional acumen and capability than colleagues, coworkers or those you have supervised. At a fundamental level, a potential employer wants to speak to another boss. When sharing references, provide the following: • • • •
Reference Name Title and Company Phone Number Email Address
Depending on the strength of your references and the type of company for which you are up for a job, it can also be effective to include a clear, concise (read: one phrase) description of your relationship to each reference, such as “Former supervisor at Wilderness Enterprises.”
Finally, always alert your references that they will be contacted as soon as you are asked to provide their information. It’s a courtesy and also puts them on notice so they can be ready to respond diligently (and enthusiastically).
Negotiation + Decision Congratulations – you have received a job offer! As you consider whether to accept, remember to keep the following in mind: not everything can be a 10. As we explored in other sections, there are moments when we get hung up on details at the expense of the big picture. Negotiating a job offer has the potential to be one. You’ll need to pick and choose what’s important to you, which is, in fact, an opportunity to prioritize what’s more valuable and less valuable. Is it compensation or paid time off? Is it a guaranteed salary or the chance for a larger, performance-based bonus? Are benefits especially important, such that you would take a lower salary because a company provides a superb health and wellness plan? Each element has value, but they are all of a different sort. Typically, it does not work to try to exchange or trade one for the other. Salary, bonus, PTO, benefits, and schedule flexibility are separate variables that together add up to the sum total of an offer. It’s best to choose which one or two you most care about and negotiate those. When you do, use the same approach we’ve encouraged for other correspondence. Be clear, simple, and precise in your language. Editorializing and embellishing do not help. For example, the following is a model email reply to an offer for a role with a base salary of $75,000 per year and thirteen days total of paid time off. The candidate counters with two straightforward questions:
A note on salary. In an increasing number of states, you are not legally obligated to divulge, nor can a company legally ask, your current and past salary figures. As described in the section on interviewing, you only need to state your desired target. That said, as in the example above, once you’ve received on offer, volunteering your current number can frame your request for additional compensation. Regarding schedule flexibility – of particular relevance in the new landscape of remote work – it is important to be realistic with your expectations. Say you have worked for a company for several years and, having proven yourself, have earned a more fluid schedule, perhaps setting your own hours several days a week to better care for your children. If you are interested in a career shift – a different challenge or further advancement – know that you likely can’t expect the same accommodation at the start. Employers are more attuned than ever to alternative working arrangements. However, you will be new to an organization, and while you have great potential (which is why you’ve been hired, after all), you won’t have a track record of success and commitment as at your current company. This is all to say – such flexible arrangements aren’t generally
transferrable. It’s helpful to know going in what you can and can’t expect from a transition.
Exit Stage Left It’s time to go. To leave your current job for the next professional chapter. No matter how you feel about your current job or boss, it is critical you exit respectfully and gracefully. Such diligence will serve you in the long run. Not every company for which you work will be a gold standard employer. Not every environment will be exemplary, not every boss fair, clear or even sane. Chances are you will encounter some disappointing circumstances along the way. None of that matters on your way out the door. Do everything you possibly can – go into overdrive – to depart in the best possible light, leaving your boss(es) and colleagues set up for success. Give them adequate notice and a smooth transition. You simply never know when you’ll “meet” again. Who knows, perhaps someone at your current company has connections at your new company – no need for sour whispers about you before you even start. And when it comes down to it, it’s also the right, generous, and human thing to do. Whenever possible, deliver news of your departure in a private, in-person conversation with your supervisor. If a physical conversation isn’t possible, set up a phone call instead. The messaging is best delivered in dialogue, as opposed to via email. This might be nerve-wracking if you aren’t sure of the reaction, but the likelihood of a smooth reception increases with a live backand-forth during which you can clearly and fully explain the what, why, and when of your leaving. Have your resignation letter drafted and ready to share either in person or through email as soon as the meeting or call is done. The high road is the only road in this instance.
No Single Prescription is no single prescription for a career. The twentieth century had There some of those prescriptions: defined, dependable pathways, especially in certain industries and for certain types of jobs. Not so in the twenty-first century, in a world that is flat, busy, and perpetually connected. It is more important than ever to seek out the humanity in professional life. If we spend 90,000 hours working, it isn’t “just a job.” The writer Malcolm Gladwell popularized the 10,000-hour rule regarding expertise, the notion that we become truly masterful at something when we’ve spent 10,000 hours practicing it. By this measure, we all become career masters many times over during our lifetime. If we don’t evaluate what we’re doing and why we’re doing it, we’ll end up without definition or meaning to that mastery.
It’s Up to Each of Us Keep in mind that a potential employer doesn’t need us. Thus, our goal is to make them want us for the value we demonstrate we will bring to their organization. We do so through the thoughtful approach we take during the application and interview process and the precision with which we convey and present every aspect of our profile. As we’ve explored, no detail is too small. Every interaction leaves an impression. Once we are aboard at a new employer, our efforts should continue in this same vein: do the work, earn respect, prove yourself invaluable. Then you’ll have leverage to more actively define your trajectory, responsibilities, and compensation. Also, keep in mind that every job or role has its bright spots and its boredom. In our aspirational, digitally connected society, there is a danger in seeking or even expecting a job that somehow eliminates all of the responsibilities we don’t enjoy. Truthfully, such a job doesn’t exist. Every role in every profession has elements one doesn’t like. Put another way: there will always be some version of an overfull inbox.
Gut Check Our final piece of advice: trust your gut. Do everything we say in this little book – dive deep into constructing a Professional Identity, examine what you want and don’t, research, prepare, and kill it in those interviews. Then – in the end – make sure you listen to your own internal barometer as to whether what you are pursuing feels right. We can never be too afraid to trust ourselves. The right professional role is a gift, is liberating, and can improve the rest of your life. 90,000 hours. Best to spend those hours doing something that is of interest, satisfying, and meaningful. Allow yourself to be surprised by what you discover, as it may or may not conform to your own understanding of success. We hope you’ll take the risk. Above all, we wish you professional joy and fulfillment and have every confidence you will find it.
do a bit of writing. Not to worry – it is easy writing. We’ve included Let’s this workbook as we want you to have practical space in which to work on and organize aspects of your professional profile, your network, and your career-related materials. This is a free-flowing mind dump. No one else is going to see what you write. Take as much or as little time as you need or would like. If you prefer, set aside a list, noodle on it in your head, and return a few days later to add to it. Or you could be done in seconds. A list could include a single word or phrase, or it could fill the page. Either way, the exercises and projects are in service of your understanding of who you are and what you want. Most importantly, try to enjoy the process – as much as you can. While it might not always feel fun, your work will personally empower you toward a better professional future.
Professional Identity Interests: Things you enjoy doing and/or thinking about.
Professional Identity Attributes: The deﬁning characteristics that make you unique as a person and a professional.
Professional Identity Purpose: Your career mission statement.
Professional Identity Priorities: Real-life drivers, such as family and ﬁnances, which are important to you. Your Network Anyone and everyone you know (or could get to know) in a professional context. • Current and Previous Jobs • Schools • Social Media • Others in your “Address Book”
Sample Resume Layout Your Name Phone Number Email Address
Interview Attire Dress to the industry and KEEP IT SIMPLE. When in doubt, choose as below:
1. Simple Sweater; 2. Length-appropriate Skirt to match; 3. Mid-height Pump; 4. Blazer; 5. Slacks; 6. Tie (if it matches industry culture – do not force it); 7. Collared Shirt (plain – no patterns!); 8. Dress Shoe; 9. Minimal Makeup; 10. Clean Hairdo (simply styled); 11. Bag or Folio (for relevant materials)
Your In-Person Interview Checklist Company Role Date Time Address BEFORE
Have you researched the company and your interviewer(s)?
Yes or No
Have you read the job description thoroughly?
Yes or No
Have you assembled and printed/saved your materials?
Yes or No
Have you picked out what you’re going to wear?
Yes or No
Have you ﬁgured out how you’re going to get there?
Yes or No
Have you checked for your photo ID for building entry?
Yes or No
DURING – BREATHE! AFTER
Have you exhaled?
Yes or No
Have you recorded your interviewer’s contact information?
Yes or No
Have you sent a “thank you” note?
Yes or No
Have you put the interview out of your mind?
Yes or No
Your Video Interview Checklist Company Role Date Time Address BEFORE
Have you received and accepted the video meeting invite?
Yes or No
Have you researched the company and your interviewer(s)?
Yes or No
Have you read the job description thoroughly?
Yes or No
Have you assembled your digital materials?
Yes or No
Have you picked out what you’re going to wear?
Yes or No
Have you cleaned and set up your background?
Yes or No
Have you set up and checked your microphone and speakers?
Yes or No
DURING – BREATHE! AFTER
Have you exhaled?
Yes or No
Have you recorded your interviewer’s contact information?
Yes or No
Have you sent a “thank you” note?
Yes or No
Have you put the interview out of your mind?
Yes or No
Sample References Layout Your Name Phone Number Email Address
PROFESSIONAL REFERENCES Reference Name Title, Company Email Address Phone Number Reference Name Title, Company Email Address Phone Number Reference Name Title, Company Email Address Phone Number
Sample Resignation Letter Your Name Street Address City, State + Zip Code Email Address Phone Number Date Employer Contact Name, Title Company Name Street Address City, State + Zip Code Email Address Phone Number Dear [Employer Contact First Name], Please consider this letter a formal resignation from my position as [Title] at [Company] effective [Date]. I greatly appreciate my time at [Company] and wish my colleagues and team members continued success. I will ensure a seamless transition in my departure and remain at your disposal to answer any questions. Thank you. Regards, [Signature]
Gratitude any output in life, the universal elements are luck and immense With support. We are grateful for both. The latter comprises a family of collaborators instrumental to the creation of this manuscript. Brandon Bayer, who organized and guided us when we needed it; Lisa Lim, advisor exemplar and friend always; James Turley and Taylor Toth, who have kept the ship afloat and sailing; Edna Chan, who provides wisdom and counts the numbers; Julia Deutsch of Lindebroeke Press, ever ready with her graphic genius; Isadora Lim, who added the final piece of the manuscript puzzle; Richard Phibbs, Teddy Borsen, and Chika Kobari from Richard Phibbs Studio, who made us look better than our best; Remi Barbier and Ellen Dupuy from RBPR, who so effectively spread the word; Will Wilbur and Cory Pitzer, who devised and implemented an exceptional social strategy; Eric Wink, who designed and built a beautiful website; Mario Caldato, Jr, and Jonathan Maia, who generously shared their sound recording expertise and Eastside hospitality; Jim Calder, who can dispense wisdom like candy; Kelli Watson, Greg Justice, and the team at Scriptor, who made our dream reality. Great thanks to our contributors for generously sharing insights from their own careers: Emmett Burke, Marissa Cirami, Sarah Coleman, Cullen Conly, Steven Cutler, Annie Ferrer, Christine Gachot, Monique Hypes, Ellen Kim, Colin King, Michael Krueger, Serena Lightner, Ian Nicholson, Reed Trimble. And to Jeff Corney and Robert August for their portfolio examples. Billy owes much to the Ferrers, his “quarantine family.” This Little Book would not exist without those countless hours typing poolside.
Finally, we are indebted above all to the Clark and Apgar-Chadwick families (Rita, Bill, Annie, Dan, Wyatt, Otis, Sammy, Kate, Cal, Anne, Sandy, Sarah, Ben, Emory, Arlyn, Jamie, Melanie, Michele, David, Bob and Teddy). Ever patient with us, supportive, and loving.
Clark and Clayton Apgar are amongst the most soughtafter career Billy experts in the world, having counseled over 5,000 professionals on job search. Billy Clark is the Founder of Billy Clark Creative Management (BCCM). Prior to BCCM, he spent eleven years building the recruiting firm Jack Kelly & Partners after starting his career in investor relations at Taylor Rafferty. A graduate of Boston College, where he majored in Marketing at the Carroll School of Management and received a minor in French from the School of Arts & Sciences, he divides his time between New York and Los Angeles. Clayton Apgar is a Partner at BCCM. He began his career in public relations at Enterprise Community Partners and for seven years was an actor, working on Broadway, on television and in films. For two years he was on the design team at Michael S Smith and previously led an eponymous interior design practice. He received an MFA in Acting from the Graduate Acting Program at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and an AB in History from Princeton University. He lives with his wife, the actress Kate Morgan Chadwick, and their son in Southern California.