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The Painful Process of Naming Yourself


By Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter

I hear it repeatedly, how painful and intellectually rigorous my writing processes are. Collaborating with clients on their career stories, I hear that my career-intel gathering phase is both “demanding” and “mind-bending.”

However, I have learned, over the years, that if such feedback is absent, then I probably am not doing my job well. So, while not wanting to cause undue pain, I also know that, “no pain, no gain,” and I want the end result, the return on investment to be both powerful and career lifting. Of course, my clients realize the same and survive — quite frankly, they thrive! Most exceed expectations during the process, and as a result, the writing is propelled to greater heights than I often imagined it would be.

Most recently, I was honored when a renowned writer, thought leader and top social media influencer (e.g., listed among Inc. Magazine’s “12 People to Follow on Twitter” and Business Insider’s “54 Smart Thinkers to Follow”) hired me to write her biography. Whitney Johnson, author of Dare, Dream, Do: Remarkable Things Happen When You Dare to Dream, and former institutional investor-ranked Wall Street analyst reached out to me after we met on Twitter.

A long-time Whitney fan, I had blogged about her writing in 2012, inspired to weave her personal disruption ideas into my post on resume writing,  Disrupting Your Resume.  Perhaps that is when I first appeared on her radar. 

After we launched our work together, Ms. Johnson blogged about our initial writing collaboration, HERE, describing the process of being a “gold digger” where she said she had to do much of the digging herself.

After the project she hired me for was complete, she blogged again HERE, asserting, “Naming myself (updating my bio) was painful.” She later expressed she couldn’t read what I had written (initially) – that she was kind of embarrassed (her husband’s words), and that the bio was, “Like a beautiful robe or cloak that is a bit too fine.”

I loved reading her feedback. It echoed her genuine style which I had gotten a peek into through a couple of phone and several email exchanges throughout our collaboration.

The finalized (official!) biography is published, HERE.

The project was intriguing, uplifting and challenging; in short, it was a joy. I wanted to paint the most vivid, genuine and moving picture possible, and ensure Whitney Johnson felt the same. To borrow a baseball analogy, I wanted to drive it home. I wanted to exceed my client’s expectations. 

Throughout my long, 16-year career at the helm of CareerTrend, I have been blessed with a plethora of interesting, smart, successful and I daresay, even colorful clients. All have a rich tapestry of stories that require fine, strategic word stitching to weave them together. My goal is to tell a story that none of them would tell for themselves.

We are often too close to ourselves, too humble even, to showcase our true value.

Have you been holding back in creating (or having someone articulate) a robust story of you? Have you been avoiding the painful process of naming yourself? What’s holding you back? The gain — more than likely — will be worth the pain!

Job Seeker: Are You Frustrated?

image: flickr (say it ain't so!)

By Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter

In a recent US News post, I wrote about the value of adding an Executive Biography and Executive Summary to your career and job-search portfolio. You can read the reasoning behind my urgings, in the full article, HERE.

As a result of my post, an impassioned commenter articulated her frustrations in regard to the “need to provide MORE documents when applying for jobs.” She went on to inquire, “Why does a prospective employer need to know what I’ve been reading or where I grew up or how I spend my weekends?”

Her palpable frustrations resonated, and I’d like to share my response to her concerns, here:

Response to Job Seeker Frustrated With the “Hoops” of Job Search

I appreciate your passionate responses, and I’m on your side! I work with careerists every day who are in the throes of career transition, many who are undergoing change unexpectedly; or, even if they saw the writing on the wall, they were unprepared as we often are for difficult change when it actually confronts us.

I think the bottom line message I’d like to reinforce is that employers aren’t necessarily requiring this additional information (biographies and summaries), but the documents are being requested situationally. I would rather the job seekers I advise and collaborate with be ahead of the curve, versus behind. And, if another candidate is presenting these value-add documents, and you’re not, you may find yourself unnecessarily eliminated from the running.

Because writing resumes is my expertise (15 years’ full-time experience), I’d like to address your comment regarding needing a customized resume for each job you apply to. I advise my clients to focus in tightly on a job-target goal and create an uber focused resume that will drive your search forward — you shouldn’t need to tailor each resume, with a targeted resume in hand. At the most, you might tweak a headline or a bullet here and there.

Selectively and Strategically Center Your Efforts

As well, I’ve been swept up in the tsunami of social media, just like you; it’s had an overwhelming impact on ALL of us: job seekers, people who are happily employed, business owners, corporations–everyone! With a tough economy, with employers still having the edge of a buyer’s market and with the realities of business right now, we all must stand a little taller, work a little more strategically and do things differently than we did a few years ago.

While I don’t agree that you must have a polished profile on every single social media / job search network (you simply don’t have the time), I do think selectively and strategically centering your efforts, time and energy on a couple that fit your style and personality can add organically to your job search success.

Don Your Blinders, and FOCUS!

I write about careers weekly, so while I advise you soak up learnings that may support your goals and propel your energies toward your career goals, I would also encourage you to tune out some of the negative information that crowds the Internet – the scare tactics if you will. For example, while social site passwords may have been requested in a few rare cases, I don’t think that’s the norm. What matters most in job search, I feel, is staying focused, keeping blinders on, if you will, and providing the best, richest, most powerful message that articulates YOUR value to your target audience’s needs. Period.

Hope this helps!
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