Monthly Archives: October 2015

Career changers know which way to go

Smooth streamlined CVs have long been considered the ultimate ticket to a career. Late entrants seemed to have no chance to proceed. But they do have their specific qualifications such as experience, all-round knowledge and the ability to take on new challenges. Therefore, “uneven” resumes are much more exciting. And more and more employers are tending to see it like this.

Once upon a time … a prospective design student drove taxi at night. He had fun at his night city adventure and thought about starting an enterprise in that business. What did he became instead? An advertising assistant. Then copywriter. Finally journalist. A long-time office assistant and later team manager changed to the theater after more than 20 years and is now thoroughbred stage director. A former IT controller now works both as designer and programmer of websites and mobile apps in a digital agency. “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans” John Lennon once sang. As far as I know, he was never anything but a musician. But it’s right what he said for millions of people like me and you.

The so-called professional life is changing faster than ever. It’s time’s to skip the classical ideal of slick CV’s with education, work, career and top job all in the same profession. An applicant is not automatically a better worker when his qualification meet at least thirteen of fifteen requirements of the job posting. HR personnel and bosses have to track variations of this classic road if they want to find out who’s their top candidate.

Let’s just take the example of digital marketing. This is a profession that did not exist twenty years ago. Nobody can have decades of experience in it. Take the classical advertising assistants. These generalists of the 70s to 90s are no longer asked for. Today they call themselves Account Executive, Key Account Manager or maybe Production Manager and have become quite specialized in their current fields. Stereotype thinking gets hard when jobs and life plans are no longer totally comparable.

“Fur us it’s much more important that a candidate fits into the team, company and its work environment,” say HR agents Ute Hagen and Anja Haufe in agreement. “With this basic requirement everybody should be given the chance to demonstrate his abilities, to take responsibility and to follow his passion.” But how can this basic requirement be defined? For example, on factors such as company size, hierarchical structures or teamwork.

An accountant in a small tiling operation knows the products and customer requirements, too. So he could possibly also work as a salesman there. An experienced employee from the accounting of a car trust may not be able to sell the products of his company. But maybe he’s the right man for the commercial procuration of a supplier. And speaking of passion: Everyone probably knows examples of people who turn their hobbies into professions after decades. One of my friends began to study history after 15 years of work in the consumer electronics industry. Today, he is on his way of habilitation to become a professor.

We just find less clean CVs more exciting than the streamlined––as the human resources manager Eva Hille stated this week in an interview with a German marketing trade magazine. She speaks of people who want to try something new and who are more consciously than ever to “take on”. They have the courage to admit that their previous way was not the right one or is not the right one anymore. We can only wish that more and more HR professionals also recognize that courage and see in it the opportunities for their companies. That’s my message to you today.

Yours, the former taxi driver.

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Needless to explain

Today there’s a story from a completely different perspective. Without introduction. Just read and see …

I could …

The alarm clock rings … not yet. But what if I got up an hour earlier? Couldn’t I? There is enough work on the schedule for today. And my girlfriend? Or the children? They may once have a breakfast without me.

I could take the lunch break for the appointment with the customer as final contract details still need to be clarified. And as the saying goes, combine the nice with the necessary, or no, combine the necessary with the useful. That’s when I invite the client for the inevitable lunch instead of having the conversation with him at the office during my valuable working time. And then I don’t have to waste my lunch time without any useful activity at the canteen table. Because there, I would probably have to sit quite relaxed next to the trainee, small-talking about nothing else but the latest youtubers. What a waste of time!

I could postpone the meeting with the supplier to dinner time or later, because he said he would come whenever I had time. This would mean I had time all afternoon to do my job instead of meeting him and having to delegate my tasks to someone else.

Well, now it is eight o’clock in the evening. I could still go on and prepare the meeting for tomorrow morning. Who cares if I come home half an hour later or more?

On Sunday, I could read the emails on my mobile phone account at least once in the morning, in the afternoon and at night. No one gets bothered, I guess, when I send out the answers, say, in the halftime break at the stadium or between two rounds of a game of dice with the children–or while wining and dining with Christine at Bella Italia. “Honey, it’s just one email …”!

I could go to the office on Sunday afternoon to begin preparing the draft that’s got to be finished early next week. I’m sure the boss will acknowledge because he always says he loves nothing more than well-prepared employees.

And what about the holidays where I just relax under tropical palm trees? I could choose the automatic email absence reply saying I’d be back on August 31 but anyone could address to Mr Meyer. For Meyer knows the number under which he can always reach me in case of emergency. And emergency is always when I’m not there.

Why should I NOT do all this? Really quite simple.

Because I feel much much better when I do relax sometimes. My friends, my girl and of course my children need to have time with me. And what about me? Am I really happy? No. Maybe the world would actually go on turning as usual even when I’m not always available. Maybe it’s just me who has to turn a little bit around and change. I know I could.

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Skills Profile: Be as strong as your skills

A quick thought back to the post last week, to the HR or stressed entrepreneur: How can you as a candidate meet him and help him to select the applications in his lack of time—and, of course, leave the very best impression of you?

The perfect resume–short, concise and consistently, is essential for a good application. In addition to it and the cover letter and testimonies, Ute Hagen and her team recommend a profile of skills, competence or qualifications. And as the name suggests, it responds to the most basic questions about your knowledge and skills in a few seconds if it’s tabular, in list form.

Which professional knowledge and particularly pronounced soft skills do you have? That and nothing else is the subject of your skills profile. Do not write lyrics but keywords or short phrases. Break down by priorities: What seems most important for your employer, belongs to the top. Ideally, you structure your competence profile just like the requirement profile of a job posting.

Call for example a dot “leadership” or “management experience”. Are you a team leader? Then file under the term “management experience”, for example, explanations like “leading the purchase department for 7 years (5 employees).” If you are member of a management board, your future employer may certainly be interested in the legal form of your company and if there is no trade secret, approximate sales figures or business volumes, too.

Very important is an issue that you can call “specific or technical expertise”. Have you created the balance sheets, tax returns or financial statements? Do you have implemented the production control software? Are you experienced in creating product launching commercial campaigns? Which people or departments do you have to coordinate? Here is where this belongs to. And don’t forget to mention all your participations in important trainings such as “4-week CNC welding workshop”.

If appropriate, separate the issue “industry experience” from the technical expertise. There’s no question that you are all the more attractive, the more knowledge you bring to the product–e.g. as a publisher’s management assistant applying for another media service provider. But what if you do not apply within the same specific industry, but to “cross-industry” jobs such as commercial staff in marketing or controlling? In cases like that, you can of course apply to anyone, be it an electricity provider, a financial broker or a food manufacturer. But with all your acquired industry or product knowledge, you prove that you have always been able to incorporate into new subjects. And who knows, maybe there are synergies.

More difficult to prove by data and facts of course is the issue of “social skills”. Here the HR managers must rely on whether you really practice what you claim to, for example an “open and communicative style of leadership at eye level”, or if you are “business fluent” or “a good seller”. Nevertheless: Your main self-assessments should not be missed in your competence profile. Most job ads ask you for it, anyway. Also do not forget to mention your language skills. Let your future boss know that you have spent four years living and working abroad in Munich, Germany or Madrid, Spain.

A tip to finish your skills profile is a last issue like “private life” or “work-life balance”. For many employers, it is interesting to know what kind of literature, sport or social environment makes you recharge your batteries for hard working days.

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Resume not a novel

Imagine you are HR manager or a busy SME owner. You have a whole lot of applications on your desktop and anything but time …

Then you can imagine how useful it is that resumes in the applications are kept short and well arranged. You want—no, you must be able to see in ten seconds: This candidate is in question and will be filed under “take a closer look”, and another one under “rejects”. Anyone who writes novels seems to need it.

Your resume should only tell when and in what position you have worked for which companies. Very roughly, nothing more. When companies ask for a resume in tabular form in their job ads, they really mean it. What you should leave out of your CV are references, certificates or work samples. For these there are separate categories in your application. Nevertheless, many people tend to put down everything into their CV what’s on their mind at the moment of writing.

What shall definitely not be seen in your resume?

Large time gaps.

Well, unemployment can happen to anyone. However, a phase of reorientation sounds much more convincing. Parenthood is a good argument, too. And maybe you had to take care of family members in need of. Even a sabbatical or a longer vacation is no disadvantage as you probably return(ed) more motivated. It is enough to provide the stations of your working life in years. Gaps of a few months can be ignored.

Links on sites like Facebook.

If you are applying as a photographer or in other artistic fields, an appropriately prepared page on Facebook or Instagram may be a brownie point. In commercial sectors of course not. The embarrassing Saturday night pictures should not be seen by any employer—by no means, anyway, and also as they seem to testify: I’ll behave like that in the workplace, too. The difference between professional and private life…? I do not know.

Lies—also white lies.

You have been looking for a job for a long time? Nevertheless, it does not help you to say, the internship would last so long, if it’s not true. The experiences that you have not made in reality could be expected and subjected to you. And to lie in a resume can later be mean that you get fired at any time without notice.


How you were judged and what your ex-bosses say is part of your testimonies. Your employer or recruiter only wants to read this after your resume has convinced them in brief. Anyway, your work samples should speak for themselves, as long as you belong to a professional group that performs on paper, PDF or any other displayable medium.

Empty words.

You are creative, motivated, hardworking and efficient? Nice. Who’s not?! Read more here about empty words in applications. Instead of only stating that you are have been a “successful team leader”, it’s far more convincing to say in brief that you have “lead the distribution team to 25% increase in productivity within a year.” Or to 30% new customers in the sales department. If verifiable.

Too many pages in length …

Even if your career saw many levels: If your CV longer than two A4 pages, cut it down to the most important items. Not every job must be described in detail. If you already have several years of professional experience and stations, no one wants to read about details like the steps of your school education.

… but also too little content.

And now the opposite: Too short resumes with “almost nothing to say” will exclude you almost automatically. One A4 page with well-filled content is the minimum. Have you just left school or training? Then you may write about knowledge gained there and any suitable life experience that the company may profit from. As a “starter” You can also include a sentence about your life and work philosophy. And why not stating your professional goals and what you want to achieve with the work to which you are applying …

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The Power of Praise

To motivate through honest and appreciative words has been proven the most effective way to increase the productivity of employees. But it seems to be more difficult to praise than to make any technical or organizational change. Many bosses, if not most, simply can’t.

One year, thank god, no longer have I worked in an advertising agency, where the only recognition I ever got was that they had given me the job. Uncomfortable feelings always accompanied me on my way to the boss with my text drafts. But that wasn’t just my problem. It was all my colleagues’ suffering, too. If you were lucky, he wouldn’t simply tear your work before your very eyes but harrumph something like a grumpy and doubting “the heck, that’s all? Well … let’s see what the customer says.” Then came the day of my dismissal. And–wait, I was wrong: there was a second recognition. It was when the boss remarked: “Well, was it all so bad here with us? We were satisfied with you … “. Oh, actually?

As it turns out, I am not better off than 75% of all employees everywhere. Only one in four gets praised, as I read in a study the other day. Isn’t praise recognized as the biggest boost to motivation and productivity? And their killer when it lacks? Sure. But do I really mean every kind of praise? No. The “Thank you, once again well done,” which later a unit leader always told me sounded no longer as honest as in the beginning. Instead, it seemed to me like a way to force me to loyalty and submission.

What about counter examples? In a publishing house I was doing a lot of overtime to help to lift a new project–just motivated, without need to ask or any complaints. Unlike the colleagues I remained available for unlimited times and made everyone see that I had a lot of fun doing that project. Spontaneously, the boss and the project leader invited me and my girlfriend to dinner. And I do not have to mention that it was not at the pizza parlor. So could there have been any greater praise or any more effective motivation than this? Yes. They let me lead a similar project shortly afterwards. That was not only spending time or money or trusting me. It was appreciation by upgrading.

Are only excellent results worth to be praised? No, well-crafted routine jobs should also be highlighted occasionally, so that the incentive remains and gets increased. In another publishing house one day, the editor in chief called me to her office. That wouldn’t always have to mean anything good. But on this day, to my complete surprise she handed me a special bonus. In cash! She said she was so satisfied with my work that I deserved this and may spend it for a present or the upcoming holiday weekend. More of all, she also gave me a boost in pay.

On that occasion, the boss did not award a single, exceptionally successful work and any spontaneous enthusiasm about it but my continuous efforts and performance. This motivated me more sustainably than the praise for a single work after which every following job would not have been awarded any more but taken as a matter of course without any positive or negative comments. And the five minutes time that she had taken to surprise me like that remain in my memory until today, fifteen years later.

There are still plenty of other good examples of motivating praise—even in indirect words. Some bosses, for instance, ask employees for advice or make them feel that they put value on their opinion. Of course there are endless counter-examples, too, such as the notorious sandwich method which is often used only to put the positive lyrics into the choruses and the true criticism into the verses in between.

But how, if not by moderate and occasional honest praise may an employee be able to classify his status in the boss’ world? How will he know how important “those up there” rank his contribution, his power, his patience and perseverance for the company and its success? How should he raise his self-esteem in the workplace or defeat possible fears of failure?

What is true for chefs and their staff also counts for the relationship between customers and suppliers. Recently a real nice praise from a customer quite saved my weekend which otherwise would have been almost entirely spoiled by some private misfortune. I know what I am talking about, even as the self-employed person of today.

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