Your Unique Problem-Solving Abilities: The Cornerstone of Your Value

Problem-solving is listed first here because it is the most important skill anyone has. In fact, when you are hired for any job, as a professor, a president, or a custodian, you are hired to solve problems. And if there is one thing scientists and engineers excel in, it is solving problems. This is not to be taken lightly. Most people don’t realize that their foremost skill of importance is problem-solving, and as a result they don’t articulate that to potential collaborators and employers. They don’t discuss their problem-solving agility in detail on their CVs, they don’t verbally communicate it when they are at a networking mixer and they certainly don’t clarify it during a job interview.

But if you can clearly enunciate your value, in part as a function of your unique problem-solving experience, expertise, and savvy, you will unlock hidden career opportunities and you will be more able to access advertised openings. This is the essence of effective networking.

This task of precisely expressing your value is not that difficult to do (especially once you realize the extent of that value). And when you start doing it strategically (or even passively), you will find that hidden opportunities will pop up in surprising places. Years ago I was flying from Dallas to DC and as I was boarding the airplane I noticed my seatmate’s shoes. They were just so beautiful and one-of-a-kind that they easily stood out. As I sat down, I couldn’t help but compliment this stranger on her colorful choice of footware. She smiled and I soon introduced myself, and before long we were just chatting away at 30 000 feet. We both became so immersed in conversation that by the time we landed, two hours later, we could hardly have guessed the time went by.

As it turns out this woman was the wife of a very well-known senator and as we conversed she asked me about my work. I told her that I was a professional speaker and comedian. She seemed engrossed by this and asked me a lot of questions about it. She soon revealed that she does charity work which requires an abundance of public speaking and is driven to enhance her speeches. But injecting them with humor was a challenge – “do you think you could help me with that?” she inquired. And of course I said yes, and gave her some tips right then and there. I got her business card and gave her mine, and later sent her a thank you note. I also emailed her to stay connected and offered to assist her further with her speechwriting needs.

This is a classic example of my point – if you can plainly articulate that you can solve the other person’s problems, this will entice them to want to learn more from you, which will most likely result in them offering you access to the Hidden Platter of Opportunities. Perhaps you will make the opportunity yourself or the other party will customize one just for you, as the senator’s wife did for me. Or maybe in the course of the conversation the person will realize that you can solve certain problems in x or y fields or departments within their organization, and they press you for more information that ultimately helps them make a decision about whether to engage you further. Just remember – everyone has problems that need solutions. By networking strategically, you can begin to communicate that you can provide those valuable solutions.

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Using LinkedIn to Find A Job Fast

Your LinkedIn Profile – Sections

Before we begin our discussion on building an impactful profile (“optimization”), let’s briefly introduce the major components of your profile.

1. Photo

Your photo is important. It shows that you are a real person. Since LinkedIn has a professional focus—and you are looking for a job—it is recommended to have a photo taken at a studio by a professional or, at a minimum, a close-up photograph of you professionally dressed. According to experts, “profiles with a photo are fourteen times more likely to be viewed.” Moreover, having a photo makes you thirty-six times more likely to receive a message on LinkedIn.

Here are some Dos and Don’ts when it comes to your LinkedIn photo. Many of these have been cited in a study by PhotoFeeler, while others should be common sense considering that LinkedIn is a professional networking site.


Be professionally dressed

The photo should be of your head and shoulders

Look directly into the camera; make eye contact



No sunglasses (clear eyeglasses are fine)

No fish

No pets

No golf course photos

No family portraits

No kids or grandchildren

No shopping mall Glamour Shots

It is highly recommended that your LinkedIn profile photo be professionally taken.

2. Name

Use the name you commonly go by. If your given name is Richard, but you go by Rich, use Rich. It is permissible to put both your given name and the name you use in quotation marks or parentheses. If you have a common name, you may want to add your middle initial.

What the Pros Say:

What is your opinion about the name a client should use on their LinkedIn profile? Should they use their birth name, the name they go by, or their birth name with the name they go by in quotation marks?

Most often, the name they go by. But distinction is important. For example, there are many Kim Bakers, so even though that’s the name I go by, I use my full name Kimberly Robb Baker so that there is only one of me on LinkedIn and other online platforms.

Kim I recommend that the name used on a LinkedIn profile should match how the individual is known in the workplace so the profile is easily found when doing a search. For consistency, that form of the name is also the one that should be used on the resume.

James Moore

Professional designations appearing in the name field. There is a difference of opinion among commentators on this topic. However, it can be to your advantage to put one (maybe two) notable professional designations behind your name. Designations should be significant to your industry, add to your credibility, or create a competitive advantage in the job market. Using one notable designation could increase the odds of having your profile viewed.

What the Pros Say:

What is your opinion about including one or two professional designations in the last name box of a LinkedIn profile?

For job seekers who have industry-specific designations that align with their job search goals, it is imperative to include them in the name and/or headline sections of their profile, since these two locations are prime real estate on LinkedIn.

James Moore

I recommend listing a law degree (JD), relevant master’s, MBA, or doctorate after the last name. You want those professional designations to stand out. They can also be used strategically to position yourself in certain industries. For example, someone may have a JD but may not actively practice law. However, a JD is a very valuable educational tool that can position someone in business consulting or management work. So, definitely stand proud of your educational achievements and don’t be afraid to boast about them in your LinkedIn profile.

James Moore

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Testing the Impact of Your Resume

After your resume is complete, see if it makes the initial impression or impact you want. Give your resume to two or three objective colleagues who you can trust. Ideally, you want colleagues from the business world who hire as part of their job. Ask them to take ten to fifteen seconds to look at your resume. What do they remember?

If the “impact” points of your resume are not what you want them to remember, you may need to revise it. On the other hand, if your review group remembers what you want to communicate with your resume, it’s ready for use! Have your “quality control” group do the same for your other job-search documents or online profiles.

QR Codes

You can add a QR code to your resume (a QR code is a static-like barcode found on many contemporary advertisements). They can add a unique visual appearance to your resume and be a differentiator. They have faded in popularity, but can be effectively used in some industries (e.g., marketing, advertising, etc.) Generally speaking, QR codes tend to appear on a resume either in the upper right hand corner of the front page or bottom of the second page, but there is no placement rule. Use discretion and make sure the code does not distract from your resume’s overall appearance.

What the Pros Say:

What is your opinion about adding a QR code on a resume?

I think they are a bit of a fad. Personally, I have never put one on a resume. I could maybe see a case to put one on for someone in marketing because they want to demonstrate their knowledge of digital marketing. I will say that if you do include one, the site you lead the reader to better be impressive.

Dealing with Employment Gaps on a Resume

Employment gaps on a resume can create anxiety. Fortunately, most employers understand the difficulties of the job market, the negative employment dynamics of a particular industry, or have experienced a gap in employment themselves.

Judgments regarding employment gaps have eased. According to a study conducted by CareerBuilder, 85 percent of hiring executives and human resource professionals are more understanding of employment gaps than they once were. While there is an understanding that bad things can happen to good people, there are limits. If your gap is reasonably short and you have been productive in some way using or enhancing your skills, the gap is generally overlooked. But the longer the gap, the more negatively an employer views that gap.

Studies indicate that once your employment gap exceeds six months, your job search can become precipitously more difficult. The unstated reasoning is if you have been unemployed for over six months nobody wants to hire you (especially when you have been actively looking for a job).

So, how can you get around this potential judgment and frightening statistic? Take comfort—there are ways:

• On your resume, list your dates of employment in years only, not month and year. It is honest and can cover your gap. However, if asked about actual dates of employment, be forthright with your answer.

• Use a Showcase resume. Do what you can to emphasize your strongest selling points up front on your resume. Hopefully, this will focus the employer on your skills, knowledge, and achievements and not on the employment gap.

• Become a consultant. You obviously have ability, so try to secure some paid opportunities to advise and consult with companies in your areas of expertise. The key is to show that you have remained active and are using your skills.

• Volunteer to offer your services for a worthy cause or association. It may not be complicated work, but it is using your skills in some capacity. Examples: As an accountant, do the bookkeeping for a nonprofit which you are passionate about. As a sales professional, volunteer to do fund-raising.

• Continue your education. This does not necessarily mean getting an MBA (although, clearly, that would be advantageous), but begin working toward a substantive industry designation.

• Be very cautious of the word “sabbatical” on a resume. It is an unusual word to the commercial private business sector. It raises the suspicion of long-term unemployment.

• Depending upon the circumstances, briefly address the employment gap in your cover letter. It could be that you chose not to look for a job, but you must have a very good reason. This information would come under the “Additional Information” section. (See Cover Letters and Other Written Communications.) Keep it brief.

• As a last resort, use the Functional resume format.

• Above all, never sacrifice your integrity.

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How important is it to quantify accomplishments on a resume?

Very! In today’s times, the readers of resumes want to see what differentiates one candidate from another. Job tasks and responsibilities will not vary much. However, the key accomplishments and achievements allow the job seeker to stand out more.

James Moore

Absolutely imperative! Without quantified achievements a resume is no more than a list of jobs and cannot position a candidate to compete in a tight job market.

James Moore


Provide educational background starting with your most advanced degree or major, and the university or college name. Abbreviations are fine: BS, BA, MS, MBA, and PhD. Use the same fonts for school and company names. If you do not have a full degree, include those details by mentioning what degree you pursued and the amount of years or semesters attended (or percentage completed, if available). Include your education at the bottom unless you feel there are grounds to move it up or if it is customary in your industry to have it appear early on a resume.

What the Pros Say:

Do you have any unique techniques in writing the Education section?

I will ensure either the degree or the name of the institution stands out—depending on which one is more powerful and/or relevant to the job search. For instance, a degree from Harvard stands out regardless of the focus of study, as does a master’s in information systems for someone gunning for a CIO role.

James Moore

When writing the Education section, the focus can be either on the degree, the major area of study, or the college/university—whichever piece would best support the job seeker’s target. If the Education piece is the job seeker’s main qualification—such as a recent college graduate or someone who is changing careers and has earned new credentials—the Education section should be listed under the Summary section rather than at the end of the resume.

James Moore

Other Credentials

The following sections can add depth to your resume. You may not need every section below—just those representing strong qualifications for you.

1. Affiliations/Associations

Affiliations and associations can be impactful on a resume by indicating your involvement in your industry and the community. Include groups of which you are a member. An Affiliations section may look like this:

American Marketing Association

Society for Human Resource Management

Health Care Administrators Association

American Red Cross

2. Appointments

Appointments are a list of offices you held (generally in the last five years) and demonstrate involvement in both professional and civic organizations. Include only professional or significant charitable organizations. An Appointments section may look like this:

Chairperson, American Management Association, 20XX–20XX

Paul Harris Fellow, Rotary International, 20XX–20XX

Regional Director—Rapid Response, American Red Cross, 20XX–20XX

3. Awards/Honors

This section reveals achievements, awards, and honors not connected to your career. Include accolades from college activities, professional service organizations, volunteer work, and so on. Examples include:

Team Captain, Central Minnesota University Softball Team

Up and Comer Award, Rotary International

Volunteer of the Year, American Red Cross

4. Languages

The world is getting smaller. Being fluent or proficient in a foreign language can be a significant differentiator, depending on the kind of positions you are pursuing. A Language section generally appears this way:

Fluent in Portuguese

Proficient in Italian

5. Licenses

List all licenses relevant or required in your industry or the job description for your desired position. Don’t list a real estate license if you aren’t seeking a position in that industry.

6. Professional Training and Designations

Continuing education in your chosen field is important. It’s a clear indication to future employers that you stay current and are improving your skills and knowledge. List noteworthy workshops, seminars, and other continuing education you have completed in the last five years. List only those seminars that pertain to the type of position you are looking for. A typical professional training section will look like this:

Dale Carnegie Corporate Strategy—20XX

Managing for Excellence, sponsored by the American Management Association—20XX

Selling!, a five-day program sponsored by Kaufman and Gentry Sales Training—20XX

If you’ve attended more than five courses, just note the types along with who sponsored them, such as:

Completed sales, management, and computer skills trainings sponsored by the American Management Association—20XX

7. Technical

Understanding technology is becoming indispensable in today’s world. Include your proficiencies with technology here. A Technical section generally appears this way:

C++, Cisco UCS, Commvault, VMWare, Windows Servers, Microsoft Active Directory, WordPerfect, PowerPoint, Microsoft Office, Microsoft

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