Monday, August 30, 2010

The Downside of a Brand

A brand goes both ways; it can help you, or it can hurt you. Sometimes it can be both, and it pays to understand what it’s doing for you. The brand, or the impressions you make, can determine where you go, or don’t go, so be aware of what impression you are making.

I have a personal story here, and I hope it makes some sense.

I have a fairly large brand for the average person. I’m not well known around the world like Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, and I’m not even that well known in the technical world like a Joel Spolsky or a Tim O’Reilly, but in my own niche of technology, I have a fairly well known presence.

I think most people view me as a thinker, as a helper, as someone that can be outspoken and have strong opinions. I’m someone that speaks their mind, and has a fairly raw way of expressing myself. I do think about what I write and say, but I try to leave some emotion and passion in it.

Is that good or bad?

As with everything, or most things, it depends. In a recent case it held me back. I have been publically critical of some people, and I stand by what I wrote, but I believe it bit me in the proverbial behind. I was rejected from an opportunity, and it stung.

Is my brand bad? I don’t think so, despite what happened. I think that someone had power over me, and exercised it, using their opinion that I would be a bad fit in the opportunity. I can’t control that, and I live with it.

However if I were applying for something different, say a management job, a project lead, I think that my raw expression, my honesty, my ability to communicate, and the willingness to do so, would help me. Many people see those things as positive strengths.

If I were applying to be a member of a technical team, that might hurt me. Perhaps a manager would think that I might take over the team, or might not be able to work well with others.

You can’t control what others do, and no matter what you think, at some point you will need to give someone else control over your life. They’ll have the ability to exercise some power over which direction you move, or more likely, don’t move.

Knowing your brand, and understanding how it is perceived, will help you to determine which directions you should move in. And if you can emphasize parts of your brand, some of your skills and experiences differently, you can present the image you need for a particular opportunity.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Resume Hints - Keywords

Recently I have a presentation at an event that had a few college students. Afterwards one of them came up to me to ask about their resume, and mentioned that they had been told to include the keywords at the top of their resume, and then list stuff below that. In the presentation I had talked about putting them at the end of your resume, and having a good opening instead that lists your accomplishments.

I was surprised to hear that this college career center had thought keywords made sense at the beginning of the resume, but perhaps they’re thinking about different keywords.

If you search for “resume keywords”, you get lots of lists and advice about using words like “accelerated” and “balanced” and other words that don’t often get used in normal conversation, but have a bit of power.

That’s fine, and feel free to use them, but that’s for prose, for writing about what you’ve accomplished. Those are words that punch up your writing. In technology, however, keywords are often skills you have. You wouldn’t want to do this:


Steve Jones

123 My St

Denver, CO 80111

Objective: xxxx


  • C++
  • Java
  • .NET
  • SQL

As someone that’s received lots of resumes, this isn’t interesting to read. Typically if I need a C++ person, I used a search method to get to your resume. Now I want to know what you’ve done with C++.

Keywords are needed for those search programs, but those programs don’t care where the keywords are. Humans that will to scan your for 30 sec don’t need to see them. You want that 30 sec to count, so make sure that the first few things that a person reads stand out.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Your Career Is Up to You

That’s a quote from an article by Buck Woody (blog | Twitter) on SQL Server Professional Development Plan, Part 1. It’s a great read, and worth the time to go through.

The one quote in there that stands out to me, is this one:

Your career is up to you.

I think Buck is right on that you are responsible for your career. I think you do need to take the view that you are always a consultant, even if you work at the same job for 45 years, you need to take control of your career and make sure it is moving forward.

Your boss might encourage you, your company might help you, but ultimately it is still your responsibility to ensure that their assistance is right for you.

And if there is no assistance, you need to provide it yourself.

Monday, August 9, 2010

A Resume Experiment

I found this person's resume experiment to be very interesting. In looking for a data science internship, he created multiple versions of his resume and then tracked how they were downloaded or viewed.
The findings are interesting, though they are limited in scope. It appears that a shorter resume is more likely to be read, and also that links distract users.

I'd draw a few things from this, and it tends to match up with what I've seen as well.

1. Limit the length of your resume. I still think two pages work, but don't cram too much in there, go with less.
2. Limit links on the resume. I think a landing page on some site, or a blog, are better places for links to your various branding efforts.
3. Using social media helps. There were enough notes about people clicking through that I think this is a good way to move your resume around. Don't link from your resume, but link back to your resume from social media posts.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Speaking and Presenting Tips - Handouts

I’ve given quite a few presentations, one keynote with another to come, and attended many more. I’ve read a few books on how to get better, and then in an Edward Tufte seminar recently, I got another one.
Dr. Tufte mentioned the idea of a supergraphic, an image with a ton of information in it. I think that some BI systems are starting to think of this as something to display to users. Dr. Tufte said that most screens, especially with projectors, can’t really put up the resolution, and I’d agree. Here’s an image I found online:
This is the idea. A ton of information on one piece of paper that you can give out to people. He said that as a presenter if you find one of these, you can likely “dine on it” for years. Here’s another example he showed from the course.
It’s actually about Napoleon's march into Russia in the early 1800s. There were other examples, but I didn’t see any online and didn’t want to play with a scanner.
The idea here is that you give people a bunch of information. Most of it might not matter to each person, but each person will look at something. They’ll also begin to process the data themselves, and let you highlight, talk about, or even encourage debate on the material.
I’m not sure how I’d do this in a tech presentation, but I definitely can see that if you are presenting a lot of information, especially some type of report to others, this would make sense. I’m going to keep this in mind for future presentations I do, and perhaps even build a Modern Resume supergraphic.