When Aaron Schock resigns from the House of Representatives this spring, few people will focus on the impact he made in Congress.
Why? For starters, the Illinois politician never sponsored a bill that became a law.
Heavy on the style. Light on the substance.
What’s worse, Schock was a rising millennial politician. At 33 years old, he’s one of us! Surely our generation can do better, and it starts right now.
Look at your resume and cover letter. Do you include these three adjectives?
Find any of them? Probably. That’s because EVERYONE describes themselves the same way. It’s a bad habit we carry over from life as an undergrad in our quest to seem impressive.
Joanie Connell, PhD sums it up in her book “Flying without a Helicopter: How to Prepare Young People for Work and Life.” Connell writes:
“The funny thing about college is how little of it applies to work.”
Yep. Now’s the time to replace words like “successful” with your actual job history. Your applications will become more interesting because you provide substance, not style. It’s the winning strategy I employ with all of my career coaching clients.
Let’s break down the three adjectives.
STYLE in a job application: “I’m a successful project manager who always delivers for the client.”
SUBSTANCE in a job application: “The best example of my work as a project manager is when I oversaw the merger of three client websites into one. The project took seven months and involved 17 other people, but I kept everyone on track to complete the job.”
Explanation: Everyone claims to be “successful,” but only YOU merged three websites and dealt with 17 people along the way. Let the competition tout their “success.” You have a far better story to tell.
Learn how to tell a meaningful story in your next cover letter. Why? It sets you apart.
STYLE in a job application: “I’m hard-working and always get the job done.”
SUBSTANCE in a job application: “At my most recent job, I gathered and sorted 12,000 pieces of data on childhood obesity across all 50 states. I only had two weeks to create a report so my boss could deliver the information at a national conference. I had several late nights at the office but got the job done.”
Explanation: How would anyone believe you’re “hard-working” unless you explain yourself? Skip the style. Go with substance.
STYLE in a job application: “I always bring an enthusiastic approach the job.”
SUBSTANCE in a job application: “Most interns wouldn’t love a summer fetching coffee for team leaders, but I took full advantage of the opportunity. Since I became the ‘coffee runner,’ I developed relationships with my superiors and was able to ask questions about the business and their own careers. For me, buying coffee was the best use of my time as an intern.”
Explanation: Let the other 100 job applicants be “enthusiastic.” You demonstrate enthusiasm with actual work history AKA substance.
In every “substance” example, notice how I don’t drop the three adjectives: successful, hard-working and enthusiastic. That’s because when you explain HOW you’re “successful,” you don’t need to use the word at all.
Let your experience drive your job applications. Leave the fluff to everyone else.
What other adjectives can we remove?
Featured photo: Mike Licht (Flickr)