The 3 R’s

Just when you thought the three R’s were Reading, wRiting, and ‘Rithmetic, I have three more for you: Resumes, References and Research.

Resumes: The key to writing an effective resume is to focus on your objective. When you figure that out, everything else falls into place. What’s your objective? It describes the job you do most naturally, dedicate your free time to, and requires the least amount of energy from you. The job should be personally gratifying, financially rewarding and benefit those who profit from your endeavors. When you nail your objective, you simplify your search because you know what to say to the networking contacts and prospective employers who ask, “tell me about yourself”;“tell me about your strengths”, and “describe what you’re proud of having accomplished.”

Align your work experiences with your objective (that’s the job that benefits both you and the employer): For each job you’ve held, list three or more accomplishments that support your objective by demonstrating ways you’ve made a quantifiable difference in verifiable ways.
When responding to openings that you find in print or on-line, focus on the key words that appear in the ads. Include those exact words in your objective as well as in your job descriptions and accomplishments. The greater the number of times these key words appear, the more likely your resume will be retained for further consideration.

References: Once you’ve specified your objective, you know who to go to for references: former customers, clients, owners or managers who have benefited from what you do best. Be considerate. Not everyone wants to be a reference or is obliged to agree with the direction you’d like your career to take. If you’d like to get a candid reaction and at the same time, save face (yours and theirs), say something like…

“John, I’ve learned a lot working for you over the last few years and I value your perspective.  I’d like to get your reaction to a job I’m considering…”

Then describe what you’re looking for and give John time to respond. If he’s supportive and encouraging, ask if he’d be willing to serve as a reference for you.  If he’s hesitant or says it’s not a good match for you, brace yourself and ask him to give you some honest feedback about what you’re missing or failing to consider. Listen to his take on what he thinks you need to do going forward. Be respectful. Don’t argue, explain or defend your position, and don’t ask John to be your reference. Contact others you know and trust and pay attention to the sum of what they’re telling you. If they’re in solid agreement that you’re on the right road, sign them up, they’ll be good references.

Research: Prospective employers expect you to do your homework before you pay them a visit. The assignment is simple: learn who they are, what they do, where they do it, and how they add value to the marketplace. You’ll find almost all you need to know from their company website.

Download the information, review it, use it like a study guide, and prepare questions based upon it. While you’re on line, search for additional information about the company; articles that have appeared in the press and in trade magazines that reference recent changes in leadership and direction, expansions and acquisitions, contractions and layoffs. If you’re interviewing with retail or service businesses and want to know their track record with the consuming public, check with the Better Business Bureau.

Bottom line, look for a match that satisfies what you want and do best and what the company values and needs most. The better informed and prepared you are the more successful you’ll be.

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Joyce Richman ( has been specializing in executive and career coaching since she started her own practice in 1982. She works in a variety of environments including: higher education, manufacturing, sales, marketing, media, technology, pharmaceuticals, medicine, banking and finance, service, IT, and non-profit sectors. A member of the adjunct faculty at the Center for Creative Leadership, Joyce is certified to administer a number of feedback and psychological instruments. Joyce has appeared regularly on WFMY-TV and is the career columnist for The Greensboro News & Record. She is the author of Roads, Routes and Ruts: A Guidebook to Career Success and co-author of Getting Your Kid Out of the House and Into a Job. A popular speaker, Richman conducts seminars and workshops throughout the United States, Canada and Europe. Her coaching profile can be found at

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