Having helped hundreds and hundreds of clients for two-plus decades, I have listened to hours and hours of client conversation, so not too much surprises or shocks me. Last month was a different matter when certain words were spoken by “John Q”, a business referral interested in professional résumé writing services. When he called about his revised résumé, his frazzled sounding voice blurted:
“I just thought you’d sex it up more.”
Me: "Sex it up more?"
John Q: “Yeah, you know -- sex it up more – that’s what I said.”
My mind immediately turned to a friend who is a sex therapist. Wonder what she would say to this?
Me: “So, what do you have in mind?”
John Q: “Well, you tell me – you’re the expert.”
Me: “Actually, I have not heard such descriptive words used in the résumé writing realm.
You mean you want more sizzle? More substance? More fluff? More bells and whistles? More graphics? More???? Help me understand your thinking."
While John Q was unable to provide any specifics of what he wanted, more than anything else, he wanted to talk and to vent and to ramble without interruption and to be heard unconditionally. What we finally discerned is that his frustration had nothing to do with his professional résumé. Instead, it had everything to do with his angst and fear over his pending in-limbo status. What was consuming him is the reality that he is losing his job in the next few weeks. What was scaring him is that he is a Baby Boomer who is “tired of the rat-race”, but can’t quit working (or retire) because he is the “bread winner with kids in college.” What was overwhelming him is the uncertainty and unknown of what’s next for him in a volatile, competitive job market.
Times are tough. The challenges are great for so many, many millions of job seekers. John Q’s call was a reminder – a valuable reminder that I need to be an uber-attentive, mindful listener, now more than ever before as a career management professional. And pay very close attention to what is and isn’t being said. And when someone tells me one thing, are they really saying quite another?