business and career

A Better Way to Introduce Your Friends at Parties

Sometimes I let my vocation boss around my self-esteem.

When I’m satisfied with my work, I feel like a rockstar. When I’m working under my potential or my strengths and assets aren’t recognized, I can feel like a speck of lint.

I’m not what I do, but especially living in DC area, what you do seems almost more important than who you are. You start to feel this way when at parties you’re introduced as, “Sally the the Social Media Coordinator,” “Joe who works in public health,” or when, right out of the gate you’re asked “So what do you do?” Sure I’m guilty of this too. It’s a great conversation starter, but writer Cadence Turpin reminds us resumes are just paper, people are more than what they do, and she offers:

 A Better Way to Introduce Your Friends at Parties

In an effort to continually remind ourselves we are more than our work, perhaps we should even start introducing ourselves this way.


What Do Employers Really Want?

I’ve written about how to not get the job, what clothes to wear to networking events, and personal branding, but I recently had the opportunity to participate in applicant screenings and interviews and understand what employers really want. While my previous tips on professionalism hold true, here are just a few more tweaks that could mean the difference between the “yes” pile or the “almost” pile.

Be Brief

While you might feel like your resume is the platform to describe every detail of your work experience, it’s not. That’s called an interview. Human Resources screens dozens of applications everyday. Do the screeners a kindness and state your skills as briefly as possible. And words aren’t the only thing that matter–guide the reader through your resume by paying special attention to your layout. Incorporate the following:

  • Bullet points. See what I did there? Bullet points say, “Hey, look at me! I’m important.”
  • Consistency. Don’t distract your reader with mismatched fonts and inconsistent layout. Choosing an outline style with consistent font, weights, and visual elements keeps the focus on you.
    • White space. See what I did there, again? White space directs attention to the true focal point. So start thinking of your resume as a piece of art. It doesn’t have to be a Picasso or a Warhol, but is it pleasing to look at? Or are your eyes crying for a place to rest?

Your resume is a marketing piece. Make it enticing to read and appealing to view.

Be Relevant

I’m about to get controversial–and I’m not a hiring expert–so take or leave this advice: If you have enough relevant work experience, don’t start your resume with your educational background. I mean, are you applying for college or are you applying for a job? Two reasons:

  1. Sure, it’s important to be educated and your commitment to a 4-year degree makes a great statement about your drive and your ambition, but leading with education places too much significance on having a degree, and not enough on your experience. Which leads me to reason #2. . .
  2. Perhaps you’ve been fortunate to work some great internships or field projects, but more often than not, educational experience brings theoretic skills to the table. Employers want relevant skills and real results. Lead with real experience.

Be You

The applications that stand out are sprinkled with personality. Don’t be afraid to take a risk and use unconventional descriptions. Do you consider yourself a word nerd, a tech genius, a financial wizard? Say so, then deliver. My resume says “I eat tight deadlines for breakfast.” Guess what my new office mates remember about me?

Look, there’s no doubt that job searching stinks, but if I could offer any encouragement, it’s this: competition is stiff. If you weren’t called or you didn’t make it past the first round of interviews, it isn’t necessarily because you weren’t great. It just means one of the other applicant’s skill sets more closely aligned with the job description.

The difference between the “yes” and the “almost” pile is often razor thin. So do your best to make your resume sharp.

5 Tips to Guarantee You Don’t Get the Job


In this economy, who really needs a job? Work is icky and offices are boring. So here are 5 tips to guarantee you don’t get the job before you even get an interview.

Proofreading Scmoofreading. Nothing says, “Read no further” like an unproofed cover letter. Try this opening from one my old covers, “Dead Hiring Manager, I’m writing to inquire about . . .” Never heard from that guy.

Key—what? Got your eye on a sweet job? Don’t bother yourself by customizing your cover letter and resume to include job post keywords. You are you! You are unique! And you are perfect for this job . . . just like the 2,000 other applicants. Seriously, keywords? Waist of time.

A thing and some stuff. A guy I once went on a date with reminded me of the importance of speaking vaguely when telling me he was disinterested in seeing me again, “Yeah, so I’ll . . . do . . .  stuff?” When applying for a target job, try using an objective like “I want to work in a place that pays me money to do stuff.”

Leave being professional to the professionals.

Hey, pal! Approach hiring managers like they’re your best friend. That obnoxious combination of informality and smooth charmer usually leaves a lasting impression . . .

I’d wish you luck, but I’m pretty sure you don’t need it.

Profile: Voila! Event Studio

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VoilaOpening-114-1If you haven’t noticed by the by the couples on park benches and picnic blankets, by the pollen in the air, or by the proliferating animals, it’s spring–which also means we’re headed straight for wedding season. So this seemed like a good time to highlight my friend Tyler, who recently realized her dream of becoming a full-time wedding and event planner.

What are you passionate about?
I’m passionate about my faith, my family, and my business.

What made you decide to start your own business? 
From a young age I wanted to start a business because I was deeply impressed by my fathers entrepreneurism. One day the opportunity came and I went after my dream!

What do you like best about being a business owner?
I get to call the shots, I answer to my clients, not a boss, and I have a sense of freedom.

You said you’re passionate about your faith. How has being a business owner impacted your faith?
I have to trust that God made all of this possible because it is what I’m called to do. That is scary, especially when you are working hard all of the time and not necessarily seeing the fruits of your labor, immediately. You also have to remember to ask God to be a part of your business. Sometimes if you’re business is going well, you tend to forget to ask for God’s guidance because you don’t feel a need for it at the time. So I think staying humble and asking for God’s direction are important parts of being a Christian business owner, both during seasons of famine and in times of plenty.

Do you integrate faith into your business practices? 
Yes, I try to as much as possible. I mention my faith on my website and I treat my clients and industry peers with respect, honesty, and fairness. I try to keep my eyes open to any doors the Lord brings my way, whether it’s witnessing to a bride or encouraging a vendor, or another opportunity to bless someone through my business.

How do you want your clients to remember you or your business?
I want them to remember me as a fun, honest, genuine, organized, creative person, who really wanted to make their wedding day as unique and fabulous as they are. I want them to remember my business as a classy and sophisticated firm that more than exceeded their every expectation.

What have you learned about yourself through this process?
Your own business is really like your child in many ways. You have to give it constant attention, feed it, love it, help it grow, and keep it safe. So when you see it do well, you’re ecstatic. When you see it struggling, your heart aches. I have tried to rely on my faith to keep me more analytical and buoyant and less emotional and fatalistic when it comes to the ups and downs of every-day business.

What advice do you have for young professionals?
Don’t listen to the nay-sayers. You can do whatever you put your mind to. This is America where you have every opportunity in the world to achieve success and create your own American Dream.


Do you have any hidden talents?
I make a mean chocolate soufflé.


Twitter: @VoilaWeddings
Instagram: voilaeventstudio

How to Succeed at Almost Anything

I took a rhetoric course in college of which I understood approximately 2%. This was probably because 98% of the textbook was written in Greek. That’s probably an exaggeration–I didn’t do so well in math that semester either. While I didn’t learn much about rhetoric, I did learn how to succeed at almost anything.

Each week our professor asked, “What was this week’s reading about?” And each week the class sat blinking. Maybe our responses were profound in Morse Code–either way, our professor wasn’t impressed. “OK, then,” he said one day. “Write an essay on this week’s readings. Compare and contrast the arguments, then pick a side and justify it. You can use your books. You have an hour.”

I skimmed the book and had no idea what I wrote, but it took the whole hour.

A few weeks later he handed our papers back and announced that save for one A and a smattering of Bs and Cs, most of us failed.

“Pss! Whadya get?” whispered my classmate. I turned and whispered back, “An A.” Her jaw dropped. “How did you do that?”

“I honestly don’t know. I just . . . followed the instructions.”

I didn’t consider myself particularly smart–in fact, there were a few students who talked circles around the rest of us about the intricacies of rhetoric (they probably spoke Greek too)–so I was as shocked as my classmate about my grade. That’s when I realized I didn’t need to be the smartest kid to succeed. I just needed to understand my professors’ expectations and follow basic instructions.

I ended up getting an A in the class and graduating school with the gold cord of honor.

It seems too simplistic to even point out, but this principle will serve you well long after your classroom days. Do you want a job? Do you want to win an audition?

You can perfect your resume, write a dazzling cover letter, and hone your interview skills to CEO-level awesome, but I guarantee none of that matters if you don’t follow the instructions on the application.

I know we live in a culture that prizes leadership. And as I type this, I find myself squirming at the idea of stepping in line. But here’s some real-talk:

There are times to deviate from instruction, to break some rules, and buck some systems. But for most of us, before we can rise or out-maneuver, we have to learn how the systems work.

Before we can be a good leader, we have to learn how to be a good follower.

Now, I think there are two kinds of followers:

  1. Those who like to be told (dependent)
  2. Those who like to be instructed (independent)

The first kind can result in blind acceptance and an inability to critically examine systems. The second kind–the kind I’m totally biased for–develops confident, multi-talented people and strong, independent thinkers. And these are the kind of people who inspire, the kind of people who enact change, the kind of people who should be leading.

The ability to self-start, self-teach, and self-direct is invaluable.

There are, of course, a few more traits that play into success: passion, hard work, courage, and persistence, among others. But it all starts with a few fundamentals.

Someone recently asked me about my proudest accomplishment. I couldn’t pinpoint one that screamed “Look at me!” So I told him I’m proud that I know how to follow directions.

I’m proud because it means I can do anything.

Even pass a Greek rhetoric class.