Sunday, April 29, 2007

Embellishing Your Resume

On Friday, April 27th the MIT Admissions Dean, Marilee Jones, was forced to resign due to lying on her resume. She didn't just bend the truth, or change dates. While she did attend Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1974 as a part-time student, she did not receive a bachelor's or master's degree as she claimed. She also never received the degree from Albany Medical College that was on her resume.

Back in 1979 she first embellished her resume when she was hired in MIT's admissions office. From her fudged resume, she went on to be a leader in her profession, and sat on many higher-education boards. Ms. Jones was a well respected advocate for easing the college admission process. Being the Dean of Admissions, Ms. Jones was in charge of standardizing the college's application process and maintaining the integrity of the admissions system.

Did lying pay off for Ms. Jones. Since 1979 she has worked at MIT and moved up through the ranks, becoming the dean of the department. She also earned national recognition for her work to ease the college application system. She even co-authored a book for parents of college applicants. Most of this would not have been possible for her if she hadn't of created her credentials.

But where is she today? She has been publicly humiliated and outed for lying on her resume. Her reputation is tarnished, affecting her future career opportunities. Could she have gotten into a similar position through her intelligence and hard-work? Probably not one in academia at least. Hard work and intelligence go far in the school of hard knocks--but it takes longer to get to the top rung.

I have found out that trusted employees were embellishing their resumes. One government expert said he had an MBA from Harvard, and a Master's in Computer Science from Florida Tech. When I had to do an educational background check for a government contract that he was on, all of his school information came back blank. When I asked him what was up, he claimed he was put in the US Government's Witness Protection Plan for Top Secret military knowledge he had. His whole previous life had been "erased". While this may have been true, I could not vouch for his education level or his expertise. I asked a private investigator who I had worked with on background checks how plausible his answer was. The PI flatly dismissed this "expert's" story.

Once you lie on a resume, it's hard to rectify it later on. I have had Ph.D's hide their education level to avoid being seen as over-qualified. I can understand their idea, but always counsel them that it's a big decision. Any college degree is a milestone in a person's life. Hard work went into obtaining that degree. Will it be easy to swallow your pride and continually downplay your education. What if you are hoping for a promotion, and your competitor has a higher degree? Will you be able to hold your tongue? Keep that in mind.

For more advice on what to do if you've lied on a resume, check out the Wall Street Journal article that accompanied their MIT Admissions Dean story on Friday.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Top 12 Resume Blunders

Just caught this press release, and thought you might find it funny. Surprisingly, many of these types of resumes do show up on my desk--so edit your resume before submitting it to a recruiter or a potential employer. (For complete press release click here)

Hiring Managers Share Top 12 Wackiest Resume Blunders in New Survey
CHICAGO, April 25 /PRNewswire/ -- You've used all your creative juices
to build a resume that stands out in the crowd -- but have you gone
overboard? Hiring managers and human resource professionals nationwide
shared the most unusual resume blunders they came across in a recent survey:
1. Candidate included that he spent summers on his family's yacht in
Grand Cayman.
2. Candidate attached a letter from her mother.
3. Candidate used pale blue paper with teddy bears around the border.
4. Candidate explained a gap in employment by saying it was because he
was getting over the death of his cat for three months.
5. Candidate specified that his availability was limited because Friday,
Saturday and Sunday was "drinking time."
6. Candidate included a picture of herself in a cheerleading uniform.
7. Candidate drew a picture of a car on the outside of the envelope and
said it was the hiring manager's gift.
8. Candidate's hobbies included sitting on the levee at night watching
9. Candidate included the fact that her sister once won a strawberry
eating contest.
10. Candidate explained that he works well nude.
11. Candidate explained an arrest by stating, "We stole a pig, but it was
a really small pig."
12. Candidate included family medical history.

Current Reading (or listening to books on tape)

I just found in my local library the book Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream by Barbara Ehrenreich. While it doesn't give the most flattering view of the white collar job world, it does give some interesting insight into the job search process, interviewing and the work world.

There are discussions about career coaches, counselors, networking and other related topics that you might find interesting, or even better, helpful.

Luck and Coincidence

I believe in luck. I also believe in golfing great Ben Hogan's famous quote that "the more I practice, the luckier I am".

Luck comes to those who are ready for it, and possibly to optimists who can see positive results in almost anything. I am guilty on both counts!

Throughout the years I've stumbled upon plenty of lucky situations. From my first job out of college where the company owner had gone to my alma mater and also lived in the same southern town where I briefly lived, to my recent encounter with a talented winemaker, these connections would only have happened if I had been getting the word out about myself and my company.

Put yourself in a position where you can see opportunity (or luck) when it arises. If an old colleague calls up for lunch, go. If a new customer calls to explore your company's wines, invite them in. Take a chance and answer that knock of opportunity. You may be surprised what doors might open.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Do One Thing Everyday That Scares You

From Baz Luhrman's song "Sunscreen" he advises the class of '97 to Wear Sunscreen. With global warming, this is a great bit of advice. Another piece of advice he relates is to "Do one thing everyday that scares you". For the complete song, click here:


I've just finished up my PowerPoint presentation for the upcoming Vineyard and Winery Management Seminar for Managing the Winery Laboratory. Why am I presenting at a laboratory meeting. Because I secretly love public speaking and know that seminars are in need of industry specialists. My presentation deals with employment law for lab managers, and hopefully will be a bit more fun than a law seminar. I'm already getting butterflies in my stomach, imagining the room I'll be presenting in, thinking about where I might mess up---and the meeting is 3 weeks away.

Why do I do something that scares me? Because I need to push myself constantly to try new things, ask the delicate questions that need to be asked, introduce myself to a new company or call an industry heavyweight. From my past experiences, going that extra distance and pushing the envelope has paid off. I've had great life experiences, found out the true reason behind a looming issue, met new clients and learned from some great wine insiders. If I hadn't done something that scared me, I'd most likely be sitting in a cubicle somewhere in a job I hated.

So, my advice to you, class of 2007 is to Wear Sunscreen--and a hat if you're out in the sun for a long time. And do something everyday that scares you. The initial fright is well worth the pay off.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Beware the Gilded Cage

"I've got a great opportunity for you. You can be the right-hand for the owner of the ultra-premium estate winery in Santa Barbara. The winery property is first class all the way--with an office and tasting room with panoramic views of the valley. With the cult status of the wines, your job is pretty much done for you already. All you need to do is show up at work, support the owner in his day to day operations, and work at a fabulous winery."

Easy sell isn't it. When you hear about an opportunity that is too good to be true, it probably is. Every position has drawbacks. While this position sounded great at first, upon learning more about it, it became harder and harder to place someone there in good faith. And selling the position was the easy part--getting someone to stay in the position was the hard part.

When you are looking for a job, make sure you kick the tires and do a gut check before signing on. Even though it may feel like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work at--are there are questions that haven't been answered to your satisfaction? This winery position had lots of red flags. The property was very remote--meaning that you would be working alone for the majority of the time, and getting out for lunch or errands would require planning. The property was spectacular, but the job was a bit tedious. So while you're looking out over the vineyards, you'd be thinking about your next spreadsheet to rework. And then there were the co-workers.

So get beyond the beautiful setting or name of the winery, and make sure you are comfortable working there. The views will get old--and so will the drudgery if it isn't what you wanted to do. This gilded cage is still vacant. Interested?

Friday, April 6, 2007

Money, Money, Money

Proper etiquette both at work and at home is to not discuss salaries. While it is always nice to have good manners, not talking about salaries can leave you in the lurch when it comes time to address your own compensation. Here are some resources to use the next time money is brought up with your present or future employer.

Every year Wine Business Monthly publishes their salary survey which is the best one out there. Click here for the 2006 survey,.

Another tool to review your salary and calculate your possible compensation for different geographical areas is and also have salary information.