Resumes are about Strategy

Last week I was contacted by a CFO who sent me two resumes to review along with a request to talk by phone. I would normally just do an email review on one of his resumes, but since he was referred to me I deviated from my typical response.

Turns out I was about the 10th in a long line of resume reviewers that he contacted. I guess he didn’t like any of the other feedback and was more interested in finding someone who would agree with what he did, or he just wanted free advice.

What he did, he told me, is pull an “award-winning resume” from another resume writer’s site and insert his name and employer names. Whoaaaaaaaaa! Resumes are about strategy, not taking a template you like and plugging in words.

Every candidate has his own unique personal brand, value proposition, strengths, values, and goals. Someone else’s resume will not foster powerful positioning from “his” (or her) uniqueness but rather, will more likely result in positioning as a commodity.

It’s what is different, unique, and valuable about you – what you distinctly bring that a company is willing to pay to get – that creates powerful positioning … not those things that are  “like”  or “very similar to” every other candidate. 

I Can Do All Things!

Unless you are Superman, those words will probably work against you rather than for you … particularly when searching for that next finance executive position. From my perspective, here are the top three reasons why …

Jack-of-all-Trades, Master-of-None … When you’re good at a lot of things, rarely are you an expert at SOMEthing. That “something” is usually what companies are hiring. Katie Konrath said this in her post, “Stop Saying You Can Do Anything!”

… acting like a jack-of-all-trades ends up causing others to think (that if you’ve spent the time learning how to do everything) you haven’t had the time to become really good at what they actually need you to do.

Commodity Status … Knowing a lot about a little rather than being a Subject Matter Expert, by its very nature, relegates candidates to commodity status. Wikipedia’s definition of commodity is this … paraphrased … “there is demand, but no differentiation … and price [salary] is determined as a function of its market as a whole.” 

Being a Master of SOMEthing is usually more valued than being a Master of ALL things … both in perception and salary.

Weak Positioning … When you are all things to all people, you are no longer true to yourself. You aren’t playing from your passions, values, or in many cases, your strengths you are making and re-making yourself into what someone needs or wants. The result is compromising a strong and compelling position. Raymond Hull said it this way … “He who trims himself to suit everyone will soon whittle himself away.”  When you understand your area of expertise and the target market who needs it, your positioning is much stronger. 

The reality is … the tighter your niche or area of expertise, the bigger your presence. Think about it.

Brand vs. Non-Brand … Let the CFO Games Begin

In the article “10 Branding Trends for ’10,” marketing communications professional Francis Anderson discusses the power of consumer branding in 2010. I’ve taken a couple of his points and added personal branding commentary. 

Value is the new black: Consumer spending, even on sale items, will continue to be replaced by a reason-to-buy at all. This may spell  trouble for brands with no authentic meaning, whether high-end or low.

With competition fierce among job seekers, passive candidates still hold the most power and position. Authentically-branded passive candidates hold the trump card.

I stumbled across this on the Internet recently and thought it aptly captured the dilemma of branding inauthenticity. “The inauthentic man faces a difficult balancing act, for he is not only avoiding the truth, he has forgotten where he put the truth.”

Brand differentiation is brand value: The unique meaning of a brand will increase in importance as generic features continue to propagate in the brand landscape. Awareness as a meaningful market force has long been obsolete, and differentiation will be critical for sales and profitability.

Do you know what you have that a company is willing to pay to get? If not, the perception of you may be “commodity” rather than “value.”

“Because I said so” is over: Brand values can be established as a brand identity, but they must believably exist in the mind of the consumer. A brand can’t just say it stands for something and make it so. The consumer will decide, making it more important than ever for a brand to have measures of authenticity that will aid in brand differentiation and consumer engagement.

Branding is NOT who you think you are. Branding IS the perception of you held by others. If, for example, you are a CFO and believe yourself to be a visionary leader but your staff, peers, and bosses view you as a micro-managing bean counter … what are you really?

Consumer expectations are growing: Brands are barely keeping up with consumer expectations now. Every day consumers adopt and devour the latest technologies and innovations, and hunger for more. Smarter marketers will identify and capitalize on unmet expectations. Those brands that understand where the strongest expectations exist will be the brands that survive and prosper.

Being a generalist or jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none  … trying to be all things to all people … might just get you added to the list of endangered species. 

How might CFOs leverage branding to gain competitive market positioning? As William Arruda says, “what makes you unique, makes you successful.”

Pain Talk

One of my client coaching calls yesterday afternoon was around how to answer questions in a more powerful, and succinct, manner. He is very analytical and his tendency is towards providing lots of details. The kind of details that unless he is talking to his peers, might cure even the most challenging case of insomnia. What’s great is that he recognizes that tendency and is open to getting the coaching he needs to converse more effectively.

After a bit of coaching, I put on my networking hat and asked him what he did. He responded … “I’m a CFO for XYZ company.” While that was true, and may be true for you, I hope that is not how you respond! That answer screams … COMMODITY! Absolutely no one is going to hire you because there is an empty corner office with a “CFO” placard on the door, and they are looking for a body to sit at the empty desk. 

Companies ARE hiring finance executives who can take away their pain. In the course of the conversation, the most powerful words anyone can use are “pain connectors.” Those are the words that resonate with your target audience, letting them know convincingly that you understand their pain, problems, challenges, or situations … and have solved those exact sorts of things in the past. 

For example … I work with CFOs who may be feeling restless, dissatisfied, or unhappy in their current corporate finance position and are contemplating some kind of career transition. 

Restless, dissatisfied, unhappy … CFOs. Pain connectors + target audience.

Who is your target market and what are their pain connectors?

What Difference Does 3% Make?

According to Peter Weddle, keynote speaker at the CMA annual conference last month, quite a bit. Robyn Greenspan, Editor-in-Chief at ExecuNet, offers this quote from Weddle in its most recent newsletter … 

While 2001 sparked a jobless recovery, the current recession is actually eliminating jobs. Where there were once 1.7 job seekers for every open position, now four candidates compete for the same role.

The advantage for job seekers lies in the 3% separating them from everyone else. Weddle asserts that we are all just 3% different from each other, and those who identify, strengthen and express that small portion can become the A-players who are in demand in any economy. "Find the 3% that makes you special, your best self.”

It may not be easy to find that 3% difference, but it is well worth the effort to do so. Unless and until you identify and clearly convey your branded marketable value proposition (MVP), you are playing in the very crowded field of commodity.

Why Employees Are Like Napkins

In a recent article entitled “Why Employees Are Like Napkins,” Jeff Higgins, Executive Vice President of Client Services, North America for Infohrm, and former CFO of Klune Industries, responds to a question about layoffs with this comment:

Employees are usually seen as period expenses. They're the same as a napkin. They're less than a chair, because if you bought a bunch of chairs, they are capital equipment. Computers rate far higher than people in accounting systems.


Are you a napkin? Disposable and easily replaced? You might be if you don’t have a branded and compelling marketable value proposition, a clear message, and visibility among your target market. Without these things, sadly, you may just be a commodity, one of many. Much like a paper napkin in the napkin holders at a fast food restaurant. As soon as you use up one, you toss it in the trash and grab another one. 

It’s not easy to move beyond napkin positioning, but career longevity depends on it. Especially today.