Archive Monthly Archives: January 2019

Your Resume Is Not the Foundation of Your Career

Earlier this school year my daughters were tasked with an assignment to write about a famous person they admire. Before sending kids off to do the writing, the teacher spent weeks talking about the fundamentals of a good story – the plot, the story arc and the all-important character development. One of my daughters idolizes the soccer player Alex Morgan, so during her research phase she shared all sorts of fun facts at dinner, including Alex’s getting cut from an early soccer team she sought to join. We talked about the lessons she learned in the process: resilience, grit, and goal setting and how that changed the course of her soccer career.

Throughout, my daughter learned perhaps the most important aspect of any good story: without understanding what makes the protagonist tick – what they’re drawn to, what they care about, their flaws and what creates meaning for them – the story doesn’t hang together and usually isn’t all that interesting.

My daughter’s Alex Morgan story happened to pop up on my computer screen as I was about to hop on a call with a mentee who was getting ready to graduate college. He’d asked me for a “quick resume review” as he’d sent it out to more than 50 companies with virtually no response from any and was clearly frustrated – and nervous. So before jumping into his resume, I started with what I consider the basics.

What sort of work are you looking for? “Management consulting,” he said. What about consulting interests you? What have you considered and decided against? Based on the experiences you’ve had, what do you think a good fit looks like for you? A not so good fit?

Because we were on a video call, I could see the rather blank expression on his face. So I backed up and asked a bit about him and how he’d decided on consulting.

My mentee was getting increasingly impatient as he clearly just wanted to have his resume off his to do list – and was struggling to answer my questions that he seemed to feel were off-topic. It made me realize why I never looked forward to reviewing the thousands of resumes I received throughout my career: they rarely tell the story of the person they’re about.

Resumes are generally a list of what someone has done – and maybe that’s because all too often we’re not clear on our own story. We haven’t done the work of our own “character development” to uncover our motivators, our towering skills and what we care about in order to find work that fits.

Many of the college students we talk to hear that getting their resume together is the very first step. But this strikes me as out of order: A resume isn’t the foundation, understanding who you are is. For a resume to jump off the page – which admittedly they rarely do – you have to understand yourself and build your resume to tell that story. It will help you decide which accomplishments to focus on, which responsibilities to highlight and even which hobbies to include. And it certainly makes a summary far easier to craft.

What any person reading your resume really wants to know is how you can help them and their organization. So while you don’t want to focus solely on your personal values and interests, you do want to highlight the accomplishments that showcase them, and thereby show whoever is reading your resume what you bring to the table. In other words, if you love using your creativity, show what you’ve accomplished using it – perhaps you’ve come up with an innovative solution to a problem, you’ve combined ideas from two different industries to improve a product or you’ve incorporated art into a dry presentation to increase retention.

Here’s another way to think of it: What movie or book character do you most relate to? What stands out about him or her? What about that person makes her or him different? And what have they accomplished with those traits? The idea here is to pull out who they are – and then show what their personality has helped them achieve. What about you – what have you accomplished that people value? The spin is to include not just what you’ve done but what it shows about you in a way that’s true to who you are – as opposed to a laundry list of accomplishments that don’t tell a bigger story.

If you were a writer, discovering character traits after writing the story would likely lead to plenty of editors rejections. And unfortunately when we teach young adults that building your resume is the foundation of job hunting – before they learn about what makes them tick – we’re setting them up for a similar outcome. The power of your story only comes through when you take the time to discover YOU.

A Mixtape of Music and Science – Interview with Laura Frias

Can passion for music intersect with a profound interest in human sciences? Spoiler alert: Yes! (And really successfully too).

Laura is a 24 year-old pioneer living in Los Angeles, California. After earning her bachelor’s degree in Cognitive Science and Consumer Marketing Behavior at USC, she received a life-changing opportunity: working as an assistant manager for one of the biggest music companies in the world.

Recruiting new artistic talent, helping out with weekly concerts, and getting to meet amazing stars are just some of the activities Laura now gets to do for a living. Here are some of Laura’s thoughts on being herself, her college experience and how she worked to find the job that fit her:

Hi Laura, let’s help our readers get to know you better. What are the three words you’d use to describe yourself?
Energetic, charismatic and competitive.

What is one activity you really enjoyed doing when you were young and what did you enjoy about it?
I remember wanting to dance all the time. It wasn’t anything professional, I just really enjoyed blasting music with my friends or by myself and coming up with dance routines for the songs that I really liked. I guess it was my mechanism for self-expression. Twirling around and singing at the top of my lungs made me feel free from the stress I felt inside.

I agree with you that dancing can be very therapeutic. How else do you think you express yourself creatively now?
Aside from music, I’ve always enjoyed visual arts, especially the fashion world. Coming up with unique outfits is something that I try to do every day because it allows me to speak about who I am without having to say any words. I go for pastel colors or anything that matches my bubbly and cheerful personality.

What did you study in college and how did you decide on that field(s)?
I started at USC as a neuroscience pre-medicine major. I thought I wanted to be a doctor because of my long interest for the sciences, specifically human science. I’ve always been intrigued about how the mind works and the sense of purpose behind people’s actions. Once I moved to Los Angeles, I began to be influenced by the entertainment industry and gained more curiosity about redefining my sense of self and creativity. I saw potential in combining the artistic world with science and changed my major to cognitive science because it was applicable to both.

Cognitive science is an interdisciplinary science of the mind that combines elements of philosophy, linguistic and biology. I studied the human mind and the mental processes of how people think, recall and so much more. Its focus was more towards the sciences, so I decided to double major in Consumer Marketing Behavior to also learn more about the business world. I think it was the perfect complement to what I was looking for.

What is it that you enjoyed most about your major and how do you think it relates to who you are as a person?
The way the academic curriculum was structured in my school gave me autonomy to choose all of my classes, so I liked being able to adapt what I studied to my academic and creative interests. I also used this as an opportunity to learn more about myself and my own potential around thinking and making decisions, and believe I still apply this knowledge in many different situations.

What is your current job and how does it relate to your majors?
I work in the artistic and repertoire department in the music business in LA – which consists of finding new talent and developing potential artists from the ground up. It takes a strong understanding of the market, consumer trends and forecasting information, but music also has a huge psychological aspect that I think many people disregard.

With the rising impact of social media, people segment themselves by what they listen to in their daily lives. It is super interesting to associate certain music trends with personal and cultural identities by analyzing why people listen to what they do or how people identify with different types of music. I truly believe that cognitive and psychological insights into trends is a critical component for the 21st century.

What’s one secret you’d share about working in the entertainment business?
Consumer behavior 101: humans have a tendency to like familiarity. If you think about it, everything is kind of a repetition of past trends: choker necklaces, mom jeans, the list goes on. The new generations will always adapt elements of the past in a familiar and adaptable manner.

What direction are you thinking of taking your career? Any specific goals or aspirations?
I would love to work with more artists that have a strong creative vision, not just musically but visually as well. A goal of mine is to work with visionary artists that are not afraid to go against convention while still remaining honest to themselves.

What’s your definition of happiness and what are you doing to achieve it now?
Happiness, for me, is a feeling of contentment with where you are and what you have. We should all aspire to do better and be bigger, but also to remember to be grateful of where you are, even if it means just being alive.

Adding onto that, I’m happiest when I make other people happy. I believe kindness and compassion are the strongest and most truthful path towards reaching world peace. With my job, I get to bring people together and make dreams happen and it’s so very rewarding.

What advice you would give someone aspiring to expand their professional career?
Remember that everyone is running their own race. Make sure you’re looking inwards so that you can apply your own qualities in purposeful ways. Be proactive, even if you’re only taking the smallest steps, and I guarantee success will naturally fall into your path.

Laura is a huge inspiration, not only as an older sister, but also as the intelligent and distinctive person that she is. Her hard work is clearly showing off and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for her.

If you want to find more about Laura, feel free to catch her on her social media platforms:
Instagram @laura.frias
Spotify: Laura Frías

Join us for occasional installments of The Self-Power Club, authored by students for students, as we explore personal journeys through career development and self reflection.