Early one morning a few years ago, my father asked me to take him out to get a roll with butter and a cup of peppermint tea. He wanted to go to the bodega by Flatbush Junction.
As we stepped inside Nostrand Avenue Deli Express, we were greeted by a short Spanish cook wearing a hat. My father replied, “Como estas mi amigo?” The cook smiled and said “Muy bien.”
Next we approached the counter to pay. Before the cashier could say anything, my dad said with a smile, “Allahu Akbar.” The cashier started laughing and replied back with a smile, “Assalamu Alaikum.” My dad and I laughed and smiled. The cashier said, “It will be $2.75 for everything.” My dad checked his pocket, and to his surprise, realized he had left his wallet at home. Sadly, I had also left the house with no money. We apologized to the cashier, saying we would have to go home and come back. The cashier told us, “Don’t worry; pay me next time.” We humbly thanked him and went on our way.
Rewind to the year 1990, when I was 9 years old. At the time, my father was a thriving entrepreneur and proud owner of Brown’s Auto Repair, located on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, NY. My parents ran the business together, and I would help out after school. My responsibilities included answering the phones, giving customers receipts, sweeping up, and parking cars at the close of business. As an individual with insatiable curiosity, I always found myself outside observing my father’s interactions with prospective customers.
On one particular day, a brown 1988 Dodge Caravan pulled up. A guy stepped out of the car, professionally dressed. With an accent, he asked to speak to the owner. My father said, “That’s me.” The gentleman proceeded to explain his particular needs, and my father listened carefully. When he finished, before launching into Brown’s service offerings, my father said to the man with a smile, “Sak pase?” The customer chuckled and said, “Oh man, n’ap boule.” My dad laughed, then detailed his credentials. The customer decided to move forward with the transaction…and that was the day my dad landed a $20,000 auto job in less than 10 minutes. This was for the customer's other vehicle, a Mercedes Benz that crashed two weeks prior.
Fast forward ten years, to the day my dad and I visited a vegetable and fruit stand called Yellow Market. We were there to buy saltfish, ackee, hard dough bread, grapes, bananas, and bulla cake. My father greeted the cashier saying, “Zao shang hao, ni hao ma?” The cashier chuckled and replied, “Hen hao.” She told us the total, $23.59. My father only brought $20 in cash, thinking that would be enough, and unfortunately the store did not accept cards. He asked the lady, “Please take off the hard dough bread, because we are short.” She waved off his concern, and told us to keep it. We thanked her humbly and packed up our goods.
Did you notice a common variable in these three stories? Are you pondering how and why my father won favor in each of these situations? Let me explain how the answer translates into smooth as Casanova career switches – and show how Brown Resumes clients use this secret to ease their professional transitions.
The case study of Mr. Brown: My father had these sorts of interactions ALL THE TIME! It was such a normal occurrence that I became obsessed with him, and tried to emulate everything he did. I wanted to figure out why people were always so kind to him, so generous, and in some cases, wanted to be his friend after just one interaction. It blew my mind.
The art of persuasion: It would take almost three decades for me to figure out that what my dad was doing all those years was exercising the art of persuasion. Are you an engaging person? Do you know shape situations in your favor? The reality is, our daily choices are molded by influential factors, events, and interactions. You may think you have total control of your behavior, but there is more going on than meets the eye.
In business, a company persuades you to purchase their wares. In life, a man or woman persuades you to become their partner. In your career, you have to persuade an employer to offer you a job, especially when you are switching gears!
You may be thinking, “Kesha, how do I become more persuasive? What techniques can I use to win over potential employers?” The answer is simple: you cannot persuade anyone of anything without creating interest. Interest is the reason anyone listens to you. If you want to be persuasive, develop interest right away. Otherwise, the conversation is over as soon as it begins.
What creates interest? What does interest look like? People and employers are most interested in things that benefit them. For example, for-profit companies are interested in continuous improvement and increasing their market share. Non-profits are interested in driving community engagement. This means you must highlight elements on your resume that SPEAK THE LANGUAGE of these interests.
In the stories I shared with you, my father spoke the language of the people he encountered. He took the time to embrace their culture. We wear what matters to us most – our roots, our culture, our language – like a badge of honor. These elements make us special, and it makes us feel special when other people embrace us in a way that we understand and appreciate. In each interaction, my father softened the person’s heart, and they received him with equal kindness. He identified something of interest to them, and in turn, it was easy for them to be kind and generous with him.
This lesson applies in professional interactions as well as personal. Business guru Tim Leberecht writes, “The heart is central to the survival of human beings. If our heart stops beating, we die…So what about the heart of a business? Where and what is the heart of a business?” His answer is PEOPLE, and he is right. If YOU are the heart of a company, that means YOU hold the key to the company’s continued success — and their interest. You simply need to communicate your skillset in these terms.
Now, what does this look like with respect to developing your job application? Read on for real stories of Brown Resumes clients who successfully launched career transitions. These clients came to me insecure about their abilities and their futures, and left with the skills and confidence necessary to tackle the next stage of their professional life.
Meet Edgar. He wanted to transition from sales to the non-profit industry. He generated millions for international Fortune 500 companies, but felt that his work was not purposeful. He wasn’t sure how to present his accomplishments in a way the non-profit space would appreciate. I put together a shiny new CV, resume, LinkedIn profile, and cover letter package for him.
We opted for a functional style resume, which emphasizes accumulated skills rather than sequential work history. Here is an example bullet point from his new resume, showcasing how we translated his sales experience into a language that the non-profit space would appreciate.
FUNDRAISING & SALES: High impact interpersonal skills. Sustained relationships with intentionality, which led to $500K+ in new business. Orchestrated heavy B2B and B2C transactions, building domestic and international partnerships. Made presentations to decision-makers.
*Retained 70% of revenue post Hurricane Maria with reduced staff; quickly redesigned disaster recovery and sales process flows.
The for-profit space is interested in sales, while the non-profit space is interested in fundraising. What are the interests of the industry that you want to step into? You have to speak that language on your resume, or you will never persuade them to invite you for an interview.
Meet Neisha. She wanted to transition from healthcare to public health. Her experienced was limited to working as support staff in hospitals along with a few public health internships. Before she came to me, like many others, she used a resume writing service that was not able to communicate in the language of the industry she wanted to pursue. They produced a resume with a few updated words that resulted in a fruitless six-month job search. Three months after using my service, Neisha sent me the following email.
Subject: Job search update
How are you? Hope all is well with you and your Dad. Just wanted to give you an update. So, I received a job offer and will be starting in another two weeks. I am super excited and nervous at the same time. This would not have happened without you. Thank you so much for the great services you offered.
Neisha successfully transitioned careers. How did she do it, with only internship-level experience? She used the language that was important to the public health space. What matters most in this space is community awareness and outreach engagement. Here is one example bullet point from her new resume.
OUTREACH MANAGEMENT & COMMUNITY AWARENESS: More than two years of experience educating and engaging the community; spearhead “Skin to Skin” initiative for new mothers; reached 90% of mothers who planned to bond with their newborns; collected and distributed100+ baby blankets; executed “Annual Back to School Health Fair”; seated 200+ community leaders, members, and children; conducted assessments and outreach; coordinated linkages.
Aside from highlighting target skills that speak the language of your prospective industry, you can also frame roles and job titles in terms that appeal to the new hiring manager’s interests.
As a resume writer who specializes in helping folks make career transitions, I could share stories like these all day. Another client effortlessly moved from working as a nanny to a role in corporate America. The list goes on. Brown Resumes exists to smooth your professional moves.
I do hope this article helped shift your perspective on speaking the language of your prospective industry and employer. All the skills and experiences you have accumulated up to this point make you unique and special. Figure out a way to sell that on your resume. Everyone wants something that is one of kind. Rare and exceptional. The moment something becomes rare, it gains value and persuasive power.