Thoughts, Ideas, and Concepts by Sandra Parks

Archive for January, 2010

Should you file your taxes???

You must file a tax return if your income is above a certain level. The amount varies depending on filing status, age and the type of income you receive.

Check the Individuals section of IRS.gov or consult the instructions for Form 1040, 1040A, or 1040EZ for specific details that may affect your need to file a tax return with the IRS this year.

Even if you don’t have to file, here are eight reasons why you may want to file:

  1. Federal Income Tax Withheld If you are not required to file, you should file to get money back if Federal Income Tax was withheld from your pay, you made estimated tax payments, or had a prior year overpayment applied to this year’s tax.
  2. Making Work Pay Credit You may be able to take this credit if you have earned income from work. The maximum credit for a married couple filing a joint return is $800 and $400 for other taxpayers.
  3. Government Retiree Credit You may be eligible for this credit if you received a government pension or annuity payment in 2009. However, the amount of this credit reduces any making work pay credit you receive.
  4. Earned Income Tax Credit You may qualify for EITC if you worked, but did not earn a lot of money. EITC is a refundable tax credit; which means you could qualify for a tax refund.
  5. Additional Child Tax Credit This credit may be available to you if you have at least one qualifying child and you did not get the full amount of the Child Tax Credit.
  6. Refundable American Opportunity Credit This education tax credit is available for 2009 and 2010. The maximum credit per student is $2,500 and the first four years of postsecondary education qualify.
  7. First-Time Homebuyer Credit The credit is a maximum of $8,000 or $4,000 if your filing status is married filing separately. The credit applies to homes bought anytime in 2009 and on or before April 30, 2010. However, you have until on or before June 30, 2010, if you entered into a written binding contract before May 1, 2010. If you bought a home after November 6, 2009, you may be able to qualify and claim the credit even if you already owned a home. In this case, the maximum credit for long-time residents is $6,500, or $3,250 if your filing status is married filing separately.
  8. Health Coverage Tax Credit Certain individuals, who are receiving Trade Adjustment Assistance, Reemployment Trade Adjustment Assistance, or pension benefit payments from the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, may be eligible for a Health Coverage Tax Credit worth 80 percent of monthly health insurance premiums when you file your 2009 tax return.

For more information about filing requirements and your eligibility to receive tax credits, SAP Taxes at 972.569.7938

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Are you Arrogant of Confident?

Personal Branding

There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance. This is especially true given both entail a strong belief in one’s own abilities. When it comes to the results they provoke, however, that’s where the similarities end.

Confidence is inspiring; arrogance is a turn-off.

Confidence gets hired; arrogance is shown the door.

Building confidence takes work; arrogance is simple. In fact, it’s easy to come off as arrogant. Avoid these 10 behaviors so you don’t leave the impression of being a Class-A jerk people would rather avoid instead of the confident leader they want to follow.

1. Drop names out of context.

The name-dropper is a character who frequents many local Chamber of Commerce mixers. Name-droppers are a dime a dozen. Completely unsolicited, they will jabber endlessly about who they know, who they met and who they pal around with. As a journalist, I interview many great business leaders, one of whom was Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz. Bringing up his name in a presentation about leadership is appropriate; talking about Schultz with a barista at my local Starbucks is arrogant.

2. Avoid eye contact.

Arrogant people could care less about others. They’re only interested in themselves. The arrogant person will constantly be looking past you for someone else to talk to — someone they think will benefit them more than you. Confident leaders look you in the eye and make you feel as though you’re the most important person in the room.

3. Arrive consistently late to meetings … and don’t apologize.

Arrogant people think their time is more important than anybody else’s. Being late means nothing to them. Confident leaders are timely and quick to apologize when they’re off schedule.

4. Use condescending phrases and put-downs.

Some well-known business leaders have been known to put down others with phrases like “that’s stupid” or “you’re a bozo.” These particular leaders are supremely confident, of course, but they’ve crossed the line into arrogance. I worked for one famous broadcast executive who routinely demeaned his employees and colleagues. Before long there was a massive brain drain from his department. He was bright ; ambitious; and yes, confident. But his arrogance turned so many people off that he lost the loyalty of his team (and ultimately his position).

 

5. Strut or swagger when you walk into a room.

The best way to describe arrogant body language is “dominating.” Examples include pointing a finger at someone’s chest, hands on hips or waving someone off with a flick of the finger. Confidence is open and less intimidating.

 

6. Interrupt conversations … frequently.

Since arrogant people are only concerned about themselves, they’re not really listening to you. Not only are they always on the lookout for someone else to talk to, they interrupt the conversation frequently

7. Have an answer for everything..

Psychologists say that arrogance is a compensation for insecurities and weaknesses. An arrogant person will rarely say, “I don’t know the answer, but I’ll find out.” Confident people admit mistakes and learn something from those experiences.

 

10. Always one-up the other person.

The other day I was speaking to someone who has a reputation for arrogance, and I noticed a common theme in his conversation with me — he always tried to one-up everything I said. For example, when the conversation turned to a documentary that I had recently seen on sharks, this man said, “That’s nothing, I swim with sharks.” This trait in arrogant people is so common that the famous Dilbert cartoon strip has a recurring character named “Topper.” Confident people don’t feel the need to brag. Their accomplishments do it for them.

 

11. Blast competitors.

Arrogant people can’t see the strengths in their competitors, and if they do, they seek to minimize those competitors by bad-mouthing them. This simply makes the arrogant person look even smaller. I recently overheard a woman talking to a recruiter and saying vicious things about her former company as well as other companies in the industry. The recruiter listened patiently. When the woman left, I leaned over and asked the recruiter what he thought. He simply rolled his eyes. Take the high road so you don’t get the eye roll.

 

12. Blame someone else.

Arrogant people can’t ’fess up to their own mistakes. Watch America’s Top Model with Tyra Banks. The most arrogant young wannabes are the ones who blame others for not taking a good photograph — it’s either the fault of the photographer or the makeup artist. Needless to say, they don’t last long, even in an industry that has more than its share of divas.

Some famous business leaders are unquestionably arrogant — people about whom you may have heard or for whom you work. But the vast majority of inspiring leaders are confident, not arrogant. Be a leader people want to follow and not one people would rather avoid.

IF THIS CONFUSES YOU PLEASE CONTACT ME

More forms to file. New and expanded credits and deductions.

When taxpayers sit down to file their 2009 returns, they will find plenty new — some the result of adjusting for inflation, and others changes passed by Congress last year to try to bring the country out of recession.

“Depending on their individual situation, there could be good news and there could be bad news,” said Amy McAnarney, executive director of the Tax Institute at H&R Block.

Some things affect all taxpayers. The personal exemption, for example, has increased, to $3,650 each for the taxpayer and dependents, up $150 from 2008.

And tax brackets have been adjusted upward by about 5 percent since 2008, said Greg Rosica, tax partner at Ernst & Young and a contributing author to the “Ernst & Young Tax Guide 2010.” That means you might not jump to a higher tax bracket if you earned more.

“Certainly there are benefits there for all taxpayers,” said Rosica. “There are ones that span the entire income spectrum out there.”

Others revisions are more likely to affect low- and moderate-income workers. Income limits for the earned income tax credit have been raised and there’s a new category — families with three or more children. The Internal Revenue Service says one in six taxpayers claim the credit.

Still other changes affect those at higher income levels. The exemption for the alternative minimum tax has been increased once again, this time to $70,950 for joint returns and $46,700 for individuals. If your income is higher than these amounts, you could be subject to the AMT tax.

These changes are among those that happen every year, to keep taxes in line with inflation. But there are a host of other revisions, new for 2009, that will make filing your tax return this year a little more complicated.

For one thing, the standard deduction for taxpayers who don’t itemize has become a little less standard.

The standard deduction itself has increased, to $11,400 for married couples filing jointly, $5,700 for individuals and $8,350 for heads of household. As before, it is even bigger if you are blind or 65 or over.

But new this year, you can take more of a standard deduction if you paid state or local real estate taxes, bought a new car and paid sales or excise taxes and met the income limits, or were a victim of a federally declared disaster.

If you choose to increase your standard deduction by one or more of these items, you’ll have to file a new form Schedule L. Otherwise, you can just enter the standard deduction on Form 1040.

The three deductions — for state or local real estate taxes, sales or excise taxes on new car purchases or net disaster losses — also can be taken by people who itemize.

There are expanded tax credits for home purchases and education. And a tax credit for making your home more energy efficient has been reinstated.

Tax experts caution people to be careful that they’re claiming every deduction and credit to which they’re entitled. A credit reduces the amount of tax you owe; a deduction reduces the income on which taxes are assessed.

You’re likely already receiving the benefit of the Making Work Pay credit under the stimulus bill that Congress passed last year. However, you may have to pay a portion back if you’re a married couple and both spouses work, or if you have more than one job. If you’re a low- or moderate-income worker, you might have some money due to you. A new form, Schedule M, will have to be filed to claim the credit.

“Each year carries with it changes in the tax law. It’s important that people understand what has changed in their personal situation,” Rosica said.

Did you get married or have a baby? Did you buy or sell stock? Did you inherit money, property or other goods?

Jeff Schnepper, MSN Money tax expert, recommends that people sit down with a tax professional at least once every three years to review their life changes and financial situation.

“First of all, it’s deductible,” he said. “Second of all, if you’re not a professional, you don’t know the minutiae. You don’t know all the things you can do right and you don’t know all the things you’re about to do wrong.”

Experts point to common mistakes that people make, which could delay a refund.

According to the Ernst & Young tax guide, some of these errors are mathematical. Others involve omission — like failing to include your Social Security number or those of your dependents. Make sure you pick the correct filing status — head of household or surviving spouse vs. single, for example. And don’t forget to sign your return.

Last year, the IRS received more than 141 million tax returns. Of those, about 70 percent were filed electronically. More than 110 million filers were due refunds, averaging $2,753 each.

The IRS encourages people to file electronically, saying it reduces errors and enables people to get their refunds more quickly. People who file electronically and use direct deposit can get their refunds as soon as 10 days after they file.

This year, the agency estimates that it will take taxpayers using form 1040 an average 21.4 hours to complete their taxes. That includes record keeping, tax planning, and completing and filing the return. The more complicated your return, the more time it will take to complete it.

One major thing that taxpayers will find different this year is the homebuyer tax credit.

“It’s already gone through three iterations,” said Mark Luscombe, principal analyst for CCH’s tax and accounting group.

In 2008, the credit was actually an interest-free, long-term loan. For people who purchased a home in 2009, the credit is a true credit — it only has to be paid back if you stop using the home as your principal residence within three years of purchase. The credit is $8,000 for first-time homebuyers, defined as those who haven’t owned a home in the last three years.

Congress also added a credit for long-time homeowners who purchase a new principal residence — $6,500. To qualify, a homebuyer would have had to live at least five years in a previously owned home.

There are income limitations for both.

There also is an expanded credit for college education.

The new American opportunity credit provides a maximum annual credit of $2,500 per student for each of the first four years of college. The Hope credit that the new credit replaces temporarily covered only the first two years and for most people was smaller. To be eligible, taxpayers would have to pay $4,000 or more in tuition, fees and course materials.

The credit, which phases out at higher incomes, is 40 percent refundable. “This means that even people who owe no tax can get an annual payment of the credit up to $1,000 for each eligible student,” the IRS said.

What about those students who take more than four years to finish college? “If you’re in your fifth year, you’re out of luck,” Luscombe said.

However, there is another credit — the lifetime learning credit — that may be available for students in their fifth or sixth year of college, or in graduate school.

Other changes include the reinstatement of the credit for making your home more energy efficient. The maximum credit has increased, to $1,500 for $5,000 in expenditures on things like insulation, storm windows or an energy efficient furnace.

For people who lost jobs, the first $2,400 in unemployment benefits is not taxable.

To benefit from most of the tax breaks, you would have had to take action before the end of 2009. But there are a couple of exceptions.

You still might be able to claim the homebuyer credit if you have a signed contract by April 30.

And, if at the end of the day you find you owe the IRS money or want a bigger refund, you may be able to contribute to an individual retirement account until April 15 and take a deduction on your 2009 taxes.

If you’re covered by a plan at work, you may be able to deduct a contribution of $5,000 — $6,000 if you’re at least 50 — if your modified adjusted gross income is less than $65,000 if you’re filing as an individual, or $109,000 if you’re married filing jointly

SAP TAXES, www.saptaxes.net, 972.569.7938

TREASURY OFFSET PROGRAM

Please let me know if you are in need of a tax professional.  Visit us at www.saptaxes.net or call at 972.569.7938.  Thanks!

If you call the treasury offset program call center, (1800-304-3107),you can put in your social security number and the automated voice will tell you if you have been “flagged” and if your income tax refund will be offset.Has anyone called this number before, and does anyone know if the information provided is accurate.Also, can anyone tell me when (what month) DOE submits defaulted student loans to the treasury offset program.

Good Information, email the author for questions.

Personal BrandingBusiness sucks.
Layoffs abound.
Job stability is wavering.

Will you panic or prosper?

If you want to accomplish the latter, remember this three-word philosophy: Anonymity is bankruptcy.

That’s why we’re going to explore three tactics for elevating your visibility:

  1. Exert your distinctiveness.
  2. Prepare to be vulnerable.
  3. Be smart, not a smarty-pants.

When executed consistently, these practices will capture the attention of potential employers, thus contributing to a greater awareness of the value you bring to the company.

1. Exert your distinctiveness.

As an executive, the net worth of your human capital is a function of your expertise. So, the three questions you need to ask yourself are:

  • What are you known for knowing?
  • Who is already attracted to you and sees you as a resource?
  • What have you done, specifically – in the last 24 hours – to amplify that expertise within your company?

Once you’ve identified and evaluated your true expertise and inventoried your negotiable personal assets, the next challenge is to assert that distinctiveness in every possible personal-branding touchpoint: questions you ask, answers you give, e-mails you write, meetings you attend and conversations you hold.

The cool part is, asserting your distinctiveness elevates your visibility. Elevating your visibility attracts more responsibility. More responsibly increases the net worth of your human capital. And an increased net worth of human capital compels potential employers and solidifies your job security.

Remember: If your presence makes a difference, your absence will make a different. You want people to start asking where you are when you’re not around. You want to become so invaluable that you become noticeable in your absence. Executives like that get hired and rarely get laid off. What are you known for? What are you known as? And what hard-to-copy capabilities do you possess that position you distinctively, effectively and continuously?

2. Prepare to be vulnerable.

Vulnerability is attractive. Vulnerability is approachable. Vulnerability is strength. Even President Obama – during his first month in office – recently owned up to the media for his poor appointee choice.

“I’ve got to own up to my mistake,” Obama told NBC News. “I’m frustrated with myself, with our team. … I’m here on television saying I screwed up.”

Look, we’re all a bit nervous. And we’re all a bit vulnerable. The danger is when we’re not willing to disclose that vulnerability by practicing radical honesty. So here is my suggestion: Dare to be dumb.

In my workshops and seminars, I challenge people to increase their usage of the phrase “I don’t know.” It cuts down on the pressure to know everything. Plus, pretending like you do know when you don’t cracks your foundation, your integrity.

It’s a falsehood in your personality, and during interviews employers can smell it. Being vulnerable, however, means being secure enough to be who you are, even if who you are is wrong. What’s more, in a sea of gargantuan professional egos, your vulnerability will stand out as a refreshing change. Are you willing to admit your ignorance? Are you someone others can feel dumb in front of?

Remember: When you maintain this attitude of approachability, your employees and your potential employers will respond to (and have more respect for) you. How are you branding your honesty? Are you willing to take the lead with your integrity and become someone others can be vulnerable in front of?

3. Be smart, not a smarty-pants.

Yes, human capital is a function of knowledge. At the same time, there’s a fine line between being smart, and being a smarty-pants.

Here’s the difference: Smart people attract others; smarty-pants people alienate others. Smart people are trusted with greater responsibility; smarty-pants people are avoided.

Next time you attend a department meeting, consider this three-step, unforgettable strategy:

  • Bite your tongue. Don’t say anything until the last five minutes of the meeting. That way you can collect you thoughts, clarify your position and speak confidently. By looking around, listening and learning first, your comment will contain its maximum amount of brilliance.
  • Come out of nowhere. When the meeting leader says, “Does anybody have any questions?” or “Any final thoughts before we finish?” you raise your hand and say: “I had an observation …” All the people in the room will turn their heads, rotate their chairs and look in the direction of the one person who hasn’t said anything all morning – you.
  • Articulate your idea. This is the best part. See, if you only say one thing, it becomes more profound because scarcity creates a perception of value. What’s more, the longer you wait to say something, the more everybody else will want to know what you’re thinking. Ultimately, your calmness, patience and quietude will draw them in. In the words of our mistake-friendly president, “Power grows through prudent use.”

Remember: Let go of the need to prove how smart you are by always adding some super-intelligent comment or asking some super-tricky question. You can still be smart – and be perceived as being smart – without looking like a know-it-all jerk. Are you sharing your knowledge or showcasing it? Are trying to elevate your visibility or be the center of attention?

Look, times are tough – tougher than they’ve been in a long time. But you’re tougher. And I’m confident you’re going to make it out alive!

Challenge: Pick a few of the strategies from this list that work best for you. Customize your visibility plan according to your unique skills and passions. And remember those three crucial words … Anonymity is bankruptcy.

Let me ask ya this: How are you elevating your visibility?

Let me suggest this: For the list called, “30 Ways to become the Most Interesting Person You Know,” send an e-mail to me, and I’ll send you the complimentary list!

Scott Ginsberg, a k a, “The Nametag Guy” is the author of eight books and an international professional speaker. He’s been recognized by The Wall Street Journal and 20/20 as “The Authority on Approachability.” And, as the producer of NametagTV, he teaches professionals how to GET noticed, GET remembered and GET business. To rent his brain, email scott@hellomynameis scott.com.
 

If you are doing this, then STOP

Personal BrandingIt’s so easy to get your name out these days. But to what end? Just like all corporate-branding plans, your personal-branding activities need to be a part of a well-conceived strategy — one that will help you achieve your goals and increase your professional fulfillment.

As I watch people build their personal brands on the Web, I see a lot of personal-branding disasters — efforts that detract from brand value rather than increase it. Here are the personal-branding mistakes I see repeated over and over. Avoid them to build a powerful and compelling presence that increases your brand equity.

1. Be fake.

Personal branding is not about fabricating a persona; strong personal brands are based in authenticity. You can’t start building your brand until you understand who you are, what you want and what makes you exceptional. What are your superpowers? What do others think about you? Don’t create an image; be yourself — your best self. As writer/aviator Anne Morrow Lindbergh once said, “The most exhausting thing you can be is inauthentic.”

2. Be wishy-washy.

Trying to be all things to all people is the opposite of branding. Strong brands take a stand and often repel as many people as they attract. You need to know what you want to communicate and how that message differs from what your peers are communicating. What’s your area of thought leadership? What’s your position? How do you want to express your personality? Answer these questions, and stick to your guns.

3. Act before you think.

Thanks to the availability and ease of social media, you can increase your visibility very quickly. But visibility is not the same as effective personal branding. If you don’t have a clear plan — a message that you want to communicate consistently along with a strategy for expressing yourself — you will create confusion rather than build a fan club. Personal branding requires thinking before acting. What’s your overall communications plan? Which communications vehicles are the best for you? How will you link your communications activities? Answer these questions before putting finger to key!

4. Talk just for the sake of it.

I see some people tweet multiple times an hour — re-tweeting anything they see, reposting their own tweets — just to seem like they have a lot to say. And I’ve seen similar misguided fervor on blogs. People can see through this. It’s better to make a few high-quality posts to your blog or tweets that add value to your brand community than to be associated with content that is vapid, regurgitated or stale. Create content when you have something thoughtful to say that is valuable to your brand community and reinforces what you want people to know about you. Quality trumps quantity.

5. Aim for as many contacts as possible.

Branding is not about fame; it’s about selective fame. The only people who need to know you are those decision-makers and influencers who can help you reach your goals. Trying to be everywhere with your message will exhaust you without adding much value to your brand. Think about your target audience, then research the best places on the Web to express yourself. The scattershot approach isn’t very effective … and it isn’t very fulfilling, either.

6. Switch tools often.

Social media is attractive. So attractive that some people jump onto the latest social-media tool with reckless abandon. I was speaking with an executive the other day who told me that he was a big fan of social media. When LinkedIn came along, he worked hard to connect with everyone he ever met. After time, he lost interest. Then Facebook gained prominence; he began “friending” all his LinkedIn contacts, and he updated his status hourly. He became tired of this as well and switched his attention to Twitter. This approach will not only wear you out, it will do little to build brand value. Choose the social-media tools you are going to use and commit to using them regularly.

7. Forget traditional vehicles.

The ubiquity of social media has convinced some that personal branding is an exclusively Web-based activity. Sure, social media has made it much easier to express yourself to a much larger audience, but it doesn’t replace real-world relationships and communications.

I started my personal-branding business, Reach, almost a decade ago — long before Facebook, blogs and Twitter existed. Before social media, personal branding was focused on real-world activities, like public speaking and publishing books. A lot has changed in the world of personal branding since I founded Reach, but the core principles remain the same.

Those who are most effective in building their brands combine the real with the virtual. They continue to write and provide content for traditional media; they speak publicly, attend professional association events, volunteer for professional organizations, sit on boards and so on. The trick is to connect the real and the virtual — expanding what you are doing locally by making it visible on the Web.

8. Do it yourself.

If you think people who are making decisions about you are impressed by the photo your mother took of you at last year’s family picnic or the poor-quality video you posted to YouTube, you’re fooling yourself. You need to invest in services and tools that will help you present your best self. The New York Times said it best in its article about video resumes: “A well-produced video can send the message that the applicant is both professional and on top of new technology, while something that looks like a home video can send the opposite message.”If it’s really important to you, invest in the right resources — career coaches, resume-writing services, Web designers, video producers and more. Sure, there are costs involved in these services; but what’s the cost to you of damaging your reputation with poor-quality copy, images and video?

9. Talk about yourself

Personal branding is about giving to your brand community — value, insights, feedback, recognition. I see so many people confusing social media with billboard advertising — blatantly promoting their services 24/7. As social media expert Chris Brogan says (I’m paraphrasing) : Use the 12:1 ratio — make 12 posts about your brand community for every one that is about you. Just as people use TiVo to skip TV ads, people will start to tune you out if you come across as an immodest self-promoter.

10. Don’t measure your efforts.

Are you spending a lot of time implementing your personal-branding plan without asking yourself, “How is this helping me reach my goals?” I spent 20 years in corporate marketing and branding, and one of the most important parts of any campaign we launched was metrics. You need some way to evaluate your progress and see if your efforts are paying off. Decide on what metrics you will use up front (onlineIDCalculator .com, Klout.net or another tool), and establish a baseline. Then remember to measure progress along the way. Have you increased the volume and relevance of your Google results? Are you growing your brand community with the right people?

If you avoid these brand-busters and focus on being your best (high-quality) self — on- and offline — you’ll bolster your brand with everything you do.

William Arruda [www.williamarruda. com]is a personal-branding consultant and public speaker. He is the founder of Reach Personal Branding [www.reachpersonalb randing.com] and coauthor of the bestselling book, “Career Distinction: Stand Out by Building Your Brand” (J. Wiley).
 

Why Not Brand Yourself!

Personal Branding

Job seekers think they need to be salesman, never storytellers. Nevertheless, storytelling is part of every job search. How well you tell your story in cover letters, resumes, networking meetings, interviews — even negotiations — will directly affect your success in the job market.

Storytelling doesn’t mean telling tall tales! It’s amazing how many people ask for help with their resumes by saying, “I’ve got to find a way to make this look better than it really is.” Exaggerating accomplishments and misrepresenting facts is never an acceptable approach. Nor is it necessary. Instead, when people take the time to remember the actual details, a more compelling and truthful story almost always emerges.

The problem is that people don’t naturally think about telling their story.

Your challenge is to find a way to describe your involvement so potential employers clearly see the before and after. In other words, how did you make a situation better because you were there?

You can’t get there simply by rattling off a list of accomplishments; by themselves, accomplishments rarely tell the story. Knowing how much time you saved or how much money you made for the company is of limited use if it isn’t presented in context. To appreciate the importance of your work, the scope of what you did must be clear. Here are a few questions to get you started:

  • What problem were you solving?
  • How long had it been a problem?
  • How many people were affected by the issue?
  • What was the cost of not solving the problem? (e.g., lost revenue, frustrated customers, low morale)
  • What, specifically, did you do to address the issue?
  • How did you get involved?
    • Were you asked to address the issue? If so, by whom?
    • Or was your involvement the result of your own initiative?
  • Did solving the problem require an investment of time, money or resources by the company?
    • Were you the person who convinced management to invest in the solution?
    • If so, how did you sell them on the idea?
  • How long did it take to solve the problem?
  • Were there any unexpected results?

Good stories surprise you

Once you have answered these questions, be sure to include the most surprising and memorable details when you tell the stories behind your accomplishments. This is the key to being remembered at the right time for the right reason.

Sadly, few people manage to include these crucial details.

Rather than tell memorable stories that might get people interested in their backgrounds, they rattle off job titles, responsibilities and other unrevealing aspects of their past.

For example, I vividly remember “Eric” (not his real name), a client who had a long-winded, fluffy summary statement that could literally apply to anyone. In it, Eric described himself as an “innovative problem solver.” Unfortunately, this was not supported anywhere in his resume or cover letter. Nor did he spontaneously offer any examples during the course of our mock interview.

Only when I probed extensively did Eric reveal a fantastic example to support his claim:

In his most recent position, Eric worked at a data center that handled transactions for financial institutions. At the time, the company was actively acquiring other data centers. Eric’s job was to help merge the operations of the various data centers the company acquired.

Throughout the process, Eric’s company relied on several highly paid consultants from a well-known firm to evaluate the acquisitions and make recommendations regarding the best ways to merge the technologies. In one case, the consultants concluded that the technology of a recently acquired company was incompatible with the firm’s operations and recommended running the data center separately. Eric didn’t accept that as an answer. Instead, he spent the next month researching and examining alternatives on his own, outside regular working hours.

Being quite resourceful, Eric networked his way to a person overseas who had successfully solved a similar challenge. By taking the time to learn how the other person solved the problem, Eric devised a way to implement a workable solution. Within a few weeks, Eric successfully converted the new data center to the company’s technology.

This is a great example of innovative problem-solving. It wasn’t one Eric had ever thought to share on his resume, in interviews or in any of his networking efforts. Nevertheless, it remains among his most memorable and compelling experiences. That’s the goal of storytelling. You want people to think of you and make the connection between what you have done and what they might need you to do. Potential employers and networking contacts should look at you and think:

“I remember her! She’s the person who _________.”
(Fill in the blank with whatever experience powerfully demonstrates your ability to excel in a particular area.)

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