Two Ways to Clarify Your Professional Passions

Have you ever noticed that highly effective people almost always say they love what they do? If you ask them about their good career fortune, they’re likely to advise that you have to love what you do in order to perform at a high level of effectiveness. They will talk about the critical importance of having a long-term perspective and real passion in pursuing a career. Numerous studies of highly effective people point to a strong correlation between believing in the mission, enjoying the job, and performing at a high level.

So why is it that people are often skeptical of the notion that passion and career should be integrally linked? Why do people often struggle to discern their passions and then connect those passions to a viable career path? When people hear the testimony of a seemingly happy and fulfilled person, they often say, “That’s easy for them to say now. They’ve made it. It’s not so easy to follow this advice when you’re sitting where I’m sitting!” What they don’t fully realize is that connecting their passions to their work was a big part of how these people eventually made it.

Passion is about excitement. It has more to do with your heart than your head.  It’s critical because reaching your full potential requires a combination of your heart and your head. In my experience, your intellectual capability and skills will take you only so far.

Regardless of your talent, you will have rough days, months, and years. You may get stuck with a lousy boss. You may get discouraged and feel like giving up. What pulls you through these difficult periods? The answer is your passion: it is the essential rocket fuel that helps you overcome difficulties and work through dark times. Passion emanates from a belief in a cause or the enjoyment you feel from performing certain tasks. It helps you hang in there so that you can improve your skills, overcome adversity, and find meaning in your work and in your life.

In talking to more experienced people, I often have to get them to mentally set aside their financial obligations, their role in the community, and the expectations of friends, family, and loved ones. It can be particularly difficult for mid-career professionals to understand their passions because, in many cases, the breakage cost of changing jobs or careers feels so huge to them that it’s not even worth considering. As a result, they try not to think too deeply about whether they like what they’re doing.

The problem for many mid-career people is that they’re experiencing a plateau that is beginning to alarm them and diminish their career prospects. This plateau is often a by-product of lack of passion for the job. It may be that the nature of the job has changed or the world has changed, and the mission and tasks of their career no longer arouse their passions. In other cases, nothing has changed except the people themselves. They simply want more meaning from their lives and professional careers.

Of course, these questions are never fully resolved. Why? It’s because there are many variables in play, and we can’t control all of them. The challenge is to be self-aware.

That’s difficult, because most of our professional days are chaotic. In fact, life is chaotic, and, sadly, we can’t usually predict the future. It feels as if there’s no time to reflect. So how are you supposed to get perspective on these questions?

I suggest that you try several exercises. These exercises may help you increase your self-awareness and develop your abilities to better understand your passions. They also encourage you to pay closer attention to and be more aware of the tasks and subjects you truly find interesting and enjoyable.

Your Best Self

This exercise involves thinking back to a time when you were at your best. You were great! You did a superb job, and you really enjoyed it. You loved what you were doing while you were doing it, and you received substantial positive reinforcement.

Remember the situation. Write down the details. What were you doing? What tasks were you performing? What were the key elements of the environment, the mission, and the nature of the impact you were making? Did you have a boss, or were you self-directed? Sketch out the complete picture. What did you love about it? What were the factors that made it enjoyable and helped you shine?

If you’re like most people, it may take you some time to recall such a situation. It’s not that you haven’t had these experiences; rather, you have gotten out of the habit of thinking about a time when you were at your best and enjoying what you were doing.

After sketching out the situation, think about what you can learn from this recollection. What are your insights regarding the nature of your enjoyment, the critical environmental factors, the types of tasks you took pleasure in performing, and so on? What does this recollection tell you about what you might enjoy now? Write down your thoughts.

Mental Models

Another approach to helping you think about your desires and passions is to use mental models. That is, assume xyz, and then tell me what you would do — and why. Here are examples of these models:

  • If you had one year left to live, how would you spend it? What does that tell you about what you enjoy and what you have a passion for?
  • If you had enough money to do whatever you wanted, what job or career would you pursue?
  • If you knew you were going to be highly successful in your career, what job would you pursue today?
  • What would you like to tell your children and grandchildren about what you accomplished in your career? How will you explain to them what career you chose?
  • If you were a third party giving advice to yourself, what would you suggest regarding a career choice?

Although these mental models may seem a bit silly or whimsical, I urge you to take the time to try them, consider your answers, and write them down. You’re likely to be surprised by what you learn. Each of them attempts to help you let go of fears, insecurities, and worries about the opinions of others — and focus on what you truly believe and desire.

Passion is critical in reaching your potential. Getting in touch with your passions may require you to give your fears and insecurities a rest and focus more on your hopes and dreams. You don’t need to immediately decide what action to take or assess whether your dream is realistic. There is an element of brainstorming in this effort: you don’t want to kill ideas before you’ve considered them. Again, allow yourself to focus on the what before you worry about the how. These exercises are about self-awareness, first and foremost. It is uncanny how much more likely you are to recognize opportunities if you’re aware of what you’re looking for.


Source: Harvard Business Review/ This article was adapted from What You’re Really Meant to Do, by Robert Steven Kaplan.

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How to Write a Resume That Stands Out

The resume: there are so many conflicting recommendations out there. Should you keep it to one page? Do you put a summary up top? Do you include personal interests and volunteer gigs? This may be your best chance to make a good first impression, so you’ve got to get it right.

What the Experts Say
“There’s nothing quick or easy about crafting an effective resume,” says Jane Heifetz, a resume expert and founder of Right Resumes. Don’t think you’re going to sit down and hammer it out in an hour. “You have to think carefully about what to say and how to say it so the hiring manager thinks, ‘This person can do what I need done,’” she says. After all, it’s more than a resume; “it’s a marketing document,” says John Lees, a UK-based career strategist and author of Knockout CV. Heifetz agrees: “The hiring manager is the buyer, you’re the product, and you need to give him a reason to buy.” Here’s how to write a resume that will be sure to win attention.

Open strong
The first 15-20 words of your resume are critically important “because that’s how long you usually have a hiring manager’s attention,” says Lees. Start with a brief summary of your expertise. You’ll have the opportunity to expand on your experience further down in your resume and in your cover letter. For now, keep it short. “It’s a very rich, very brief elevator pitch,” says Heifetz. “You need to make it exquisitely clear in the summary that you have what it takes to get the job done.” It should consist of a descriptor or job title like, “Information security specialist who…” “It doesn’t matter if this is a job title you have or ever did,” says Lees. It should match what they’re looking for. Here are two examples:

Healthcare executive with over 25 years of experience leading providers of superior patient care.

Strategy and business development executive with substantial experience designing, leading, and implementing a broad range of corporate growth and realignment initiatives.

And be sure to avoid clichés. Using platitudes in your summary or anywhere else in the document is “basically like saying, ‘I’m not more valuable than anyone else,’” explains Lees. They are meaningless, obvious, and boring to read.

Get the order right
If you’re switching industries, don’t launch into job experience that the hiring manager may not think is relevant. Heifetz suggests adding an accomplishments section right after your opener that makes the bridge between your experience and the job requirements. “These are main points you want to get across, the powerful stories you want to tell,” she says. “It makes the reader sit up straight and say ‘Holy cow, I want to talk to her. Not because of who she is but because of what’s she’s done.’” Here’s a sample mid-career resume that does this well (source: John Lees, Knockout CV).

After the accomplishments section (if you add it), list your employment history and related experience. See below for exactly what to include. Then add any relevant education. Some people want to put their education up top. That might be appropriate in academia but for a business resume, you should highlight your work experience first and save your degrees and certifications for the end.

And that ever-popular “skills” section? Heifetz recommends skipping it all together. “If you haven’t convinced me that you have those skills by the end of the resume, I’m not going to believe it now,” she explains. If you have expertise with a specific type of software, for example, include it in the experience section. And if it’s a drop-dead requirement for the job, also include it in the summary at the very top.

Be selective
It’s tempting to list every job, accomplishment, volunteer assignment, skill, and degree you’ve ever had. But don’t. “A resume is a very selective body of content. It’s not meant to be comprehensive. If it doesn’t contribute to convincing the hiring manager to talk to you, then take it out,” says Heifetz. This applies to volunteer work as well. Only include it as part of your experience — right along with your paid jobs — if it’s relevant.

So what about the fact that you raise angora rabbits and are an avid Civil War re-enactor? “Readers are quite tolerant of non-job related stuff but you have to watch your tone,” says Lees. If you’re applying for a job at a more informal company that emphasizes the importance of work-life balance, you might include a line about your hobbies and interests. For a more formal, buttoned-up place, you’ll probably want to take out anything personal.

Share accomplishments, not responsibilities

“My rule of thumb is that 95% of what you talk about should be framed as accomplishments,” suggests Heifetz. “I managed a team of 10” doesn’t say much. You need to dig a level deeper. Did everyone on your team earn promotions? Did they exceed their targets? “Give people a sense of your management style,” says Heifetz. Lees agrees: “Give tangible, concrete examples. If you’re able to attach percentages or dollar signs, people will pay even more attention.” Here’s a sample senior executive resume that does this well (source: Jane Heifetz, Right Resumes). Of course, you can’t and shouldn’t quantify everything; you don’t want your resume to read like an accounting report.

Make it readable
Stop fiddling with the margins. Lees says the days of a one-page resume are over: “It used to be that you used a tiny font size and crammed in the information to make it fit.” Nowadays, two or three pages is fine, but that’s the limit: “Any more than three and it shows that you can’t edit.” Heifetz agrees: “I’ve never met a resume that fit on one page, even for a recent graduate. If you’re going to tell a compelling story, you need more space.” You can supplement what’s on the page with links to your work but you have to “motivate the hiring manager to take the extra step required. Don’t just include the URL. Tell them in a brief, one-line phrase what’s so important about the work you’re providing,” says Heifetz.

And stick to the most common fonts. “It’s not how fancy it is. It’s how clear, clean, and elegant it is in its simplicity,” says Heifetz. Vary the line length and avoid crammed text or paragraphs that look identical. The goal is to include enough white space so that a hiring manager wants to keep reading. For example, the opening summary could be three or four lines of text or two or three bullet points. “It doesn’t matter as long as it’s easy to read,” says Heifetz.

Get help
It can be hard to be objective about your own experience and accomplishments. Many people overstate — or understate — their achievements or struggle to find the right words. Consider working with a resume writer, mentor, or a friend who can help you steer away from questions like, “Am I good enough for this position?” and focus on “Am I the right person for the job?” At a minimum, have someone else check your resume for logic, grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

Tweak it for each opportunity
Don’t think you can get away with having just one resume. “You can have a foundational resume that compellingly articulates the most important information,” says Heifetz, but you have to alter it for each opportunity. Of course, you may need to write the first version in a vacuum but for each subsequent one, you need context. “Research the organization. Talk to someone — or ideally two or three people — who’ve worked there before, work there now, or otherwise know the organization. Then tweak it for the position, the industry, etc.,” says Lees. Heifetz says to ask yourself: What words or experiences do I need to highlight? What can I get rid of because it’s not relevant? “They don’t have to be radically different but they need to do the job for each situation,” she says.

Align your LinkedIn profile
Your LinkedIn profile is just as important as your resume. Don’t have one? Put one up immediately. Don’t cut and paste from your resume, says Lees: “It makes you look lazy.” But do make sure you’re presenting yourself in the same way. “You don’t have to use bullet points; you can be more narrative, and even more casual,” says Heifetz. You also want to tweak the tone. “There’s a greater expectation that you’ll demonstrate personality,” she adds. “For example, the summary section should be written in the first person. It gives you the opportunity to present yourself as a living, breathing human being.” Here’s Jane Heifetz’s LinkedIn profile as an example.

Principles to Remember


  • Start with a short summary of who you are and why you’re the right person for the job
  • Emphasize accomplishments over responsibilities
  • Create a new version of your resume for every opportunity


  • Use clichés — explain what makes you a good candidate in concrete, specific words
  • Cram text in or use a small font size ­— it has to be readable
  • Cut and paste your resume into your LinkedIn profile

Case study #1: Tailor your resume to each job
When Glover Lawrence was searching for his next job in the fall of 2013, he started by dreaming up the ideal position. “I asked myself what attributes, roles, and responsibilities I wanted,” he explains. He even crafted a job description for that made-up role using snippets of actual postings he’d seen, then drafted a resume to fit it.

As a senior executive, he doubted he’d find work through help-wanted ads or job boards. “It was going to happen through my network,” he says. So he also created a one-page version of his resume to use in networking meetings and to send to contacts who had offered to help him. It included a one-line summary, five notable accomplishments, a list of the companies where he’d worked for and the titles he held at each, one line about his education, and then a brief “Career Focus” section that described the types of jobs he was seeking.

He also developed a longer, more traditional resume to use when he formally applied for a position. “I tailored it to the company based on where I was in the process, what I knew about the people there, and the company culture,” he says. “Having the right resume for each specific opportunity, as tedious as it was, was important to me.” For his LinkedIn profile, he created yet another version, presenting the same information but in a more conversational tone. Over his months-long search, Glover sent out over 50 resumes and met with over 100 people. In early 2014, he landed a job very similar to the one he’d dreamed about.

Case study #2: Get an outside perspective
Several months into her previous job, Claire Smith* realized that she needed a change. “The job, the industry, and the institution were not the right fit for me. It just wasn’t where I wanted to be in my career,” she explains. She started to look at job descriptions, honed in on positions or organizations that were interesting to her, then decided to work with a professional resume writer. “I tried to do a little changing and reshaping on my own at first but it didn’t feel all that different from where I began,” she says. Working with someone else helped her see that the resume was not about explaining what she’d done in her career but why she was the best person for a particular job.

Claire started with one resume and then tailored it to each position. “You have the same raw materials — the accomplishments, the skills, the results you achieved over time — but you have to pick and choose to shape those things into a different narrative,” Claire says. The summary, which on her resume consisted of three bullet points, was the element she tweaked the most. For example, when she applied to be an editor, the first bullet point read:

Versatile writer and editor committed to speaking directly to readers’ needs.

But when she applied for a marketing position, she tweaked it to emphasize her ability to recruit customers and be a brand champion:

Innovative brand champion and customer recruiter in marketing, product development, and communications​

Then, before launching into a chronological list of her jobs, she highlighted “selected accomplishments” related to each point in her summary. For example, under “writer and editor,” she included three achievements, including this one:

Based on customer data and email performance metrics, wrote new email series to provide prospective students with more targeted information about Simmons and to convert more of them to applicants. Improved performance over past emails producing average open rates of more than 20%.

Claire equates collaborating with a resume professional to working with a personal trainer. She felt challenged to keep rewriting and improving. And the hard work paid off. She recently landed a full-time job, which she starts next month.


Source: Harvard Business Review by Amy Gallo

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Hiring downtrend in second half of 2015

Employers in Malaysia are expected to reduce hiring of new employees in the second half of the year, citing a lack of right candidates for specific positions as the biggest hurdle, a survey by has found.

The Job Outlook Q2 2015 survey revealed that 41% of 930 respondents admitted they would be hiring less in the second half of the year, an increase of 27% from last year, when only 14% said the same.

Respondents of the survey were human resources personnel, managers and senior managers from 21 different industries and various company sizes.

“A staggering 69% disclosed that their biggest hurdle would be finding the right candidate for a specific position,” the report said when the employers were asked about their challenges in recruiting for 2015.

“Some 49% said that they would most likely face high salary demands. The survey results also showed that employers find it difficult to fill certain positions, primarily sales and marketing at 23%, followed by engineering at 21%.”

“Hiring the right employee is crucial towards the success of an organisation. However, finding an employee who is able to contribute to your organisation and embrace your work culture is a challenging process” said JobStreet country manager Chook Yuh Yng.

The latest Employee Confidence Index (JECI) survey for April also showed a drop in confidence amongst candidates in securing a decent job in Malaysia from 49 points last year to 43 points, the report added.

However, there is a healthy number of job openings, with an average of over 20,000 openings.

“The first quarter 2015 results also showed a growth in unique job postings and unique number of advertisers by 4% and 6% respectively, implying that the job market is still robust.”

“The manufacturing industry still leads the job market in terms of its number of job postings,” the report said, adding that the banking and financial services sector was another industry that continued to top the charts with its significant number of job postings.

“Specialisations that are on high demand include talent from sales and marketing, accounting, secretarial and admin and ICT, causing stiff competition for the employers.”

For this, Chook added that the results from the first quarter might imply differently from the downtrend revealed by the survey.

“There were also negative sentiments during the previous quarter but our results showed positive growth, so it might be the same this time. Regardless, it’s imperative for employees to strive for excellence which propels personal and ultimately national growth, said Yuh Yng.


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