Decode Job Search Jargon

Before Pinterest, to create a bulletin board, you had to cut out magazine articles and photos. I used to stuff these clippings into folders and when recently cleaning out a closet came across a job search folder from 2007. In it was the above gem.

While the original article in the November issue of Self Magazine by Janene Mascarella translated five of the most common corporatese into plain language was directed at interviewing, you can use the same tips and suggestions in your cover letter. Keep the job description in hand when you write the letter and underline key phrases and repeat them (if applicable). Then if you do score an interview, get out the job description again and review it once more.

In case you can’t read the scan, the details are below. Italics are additions to the original reporting.

  1. Meticulously detail-oriented means “you always follow through and not just follow up,” says David Nour, a consultant in Atlanta. Think: putting ideas into action after a meeting. Prove you’re it by asking about the company’s challenges in the interview, explain how you’ll meet them.
    This is still really good advice. By asking about the challenges and providing solutions or at least how you’ll work within those challenges means your interviewer will be picturing you in the company. 
  2. A team player means you care less about personal glory than about seeing the company succeed. If someone is slacking, you’ll forgo blaming and offer to help. Prove you’re it by including a collaborative project in your portfolio and specify how you contributed to it.
    You can also explain how you work with different personalities and contribute to the team environment in your current or past positions. 
  3. Strong analytical ability means you can glean valuable insights from raw data and use them for the company’s gain by, say, seizing on a trend before the competition. Prove you’re it by describing a work situation in which you brilliantly solved a thorny problem or blazed a new trail.
    It’s finally cool (at least in most circles) to be good at math and analytics (thanks to social media!), don’t be afraid to show how you created a spreadsheet that displayed a trend or gave you the proper insights to make a decision. You don’t have to be working on a budget to use numbers.
  4. A dynamic go-getter means you’re high in stamina (but not hyper), motivated and focused. You will channel your energy to the work hustling to get it done. Prove you’re it by underscoring your drive by describing how your responsibilities have grown with each position held.
    Don’t be afraid to say you look at deadlines like a challenge and always strive to meet expectations. Explain how you find workarounds for the inevitable roadblocks that come up in projects. You can also give examples of how you work well independently or with minimal supervision. 
  5. Superior interpersonal skills means you’re ubertrustworthy and intuitive. Understanding a client’s needs and collaborating to meet them come naturally to you. Prove you’re it by showing stellar people smarts on the interview by asking at least two sincere questions.
    You can start with the challenges question from the first tip. You can also reiterate how you’ve worked on sensitive (without divulging too much information) projects or with a large team. This is really code for minimal drama. The company wants to hire someone who won’t make interpersonal waves and will strive to get along with everyone.

What do you think? Are these tips still relevant?

That’s not my job

Image from:
Image from:

The phrase you should never, ever utter, even under your breath, in the workplace is, “that’s not my job.” Regardless if you’re the newest or oldest employee, boss or intern, this is a phrase you only say when you no longer want to be employed with your present organization.

Now, granted if your employer is asking you to do something illegal or immoral, you have bigger issues and should consider perhaps finding a quicker exit. But this post isn’t about those kinds of situations. This post is about those every day requests that might not be officially in your job description.

While filling the copier, fetching the mail and answering the phones while the administrative assistant is at lunch isn’t likely outlined in your job description, the phrase, “other duties as assigned,” probably is. And that’s the catch.

To be a team player, the other duties as assigned portion might mean getting coffee, refilling toner and running a few errands.

As this February 2013 article from Forbes indicates, saying that’s not my job to a coworker asking for help makes you seem uncaring and like your job is better, they are beneath you and lots of other inferences you might not have meant.

“Therefore, as a contributing member of the team, a top priority is to care about the success of others (or at least act as though you do),” Darlene Price, author of Well Said! Presentations and Conversations That Get Results says in the article. “An unconcerned, detached and self-serving attitude quickly limits career advancement.”

Don’t limit yourself. Instead of saying that’s not my job, follow Price’s advice and instead say,”I’ll be glad to help. Given my current tasks of A, B, and C, which one of these shall I place on hold while I work on this new assignment?”

This phrase or something similar, communicates teamwork and helpfulness and reminds your boss of your current work load and the need to set realistic expectations, Price says in the article.

What are some other career killing (or moral killing) phrases?

Interview help: Do you have any questions for us?

If you’re applying for jobs or will in the future, go read this Lifehacker article, The Interview Question That’s Always Asked (and How to Nail It) by Jefferson McDowell, now.

You should memorize and practice these responses.

In addition, before the interview, review what’s important to you. What do you need to be fulfilled in a position? Autonomy? A team atmosphere? A place to grow with potential for internal advancement? Scheduled feedback? The opportunity to continue learning? Mentors? There are no right or wrong answers. The easiest way to figure out your priorities are to think about why you are leaving your current position. Or if you’re a new graduate, what you loved or hated about your pre-professional jobs.

Now look at those priorities and match them up with the job description and what you know from your research about the company.

Is there a way to convey your priorities while also, as the article points out, meeting the needs of the organization? The more prepared you are for your interview, the more you will appear as a strong candidate and increase your chances of being hired.

Cleaning Out Your Desk

Photo from:

If you’ve been thinking ahead, you have probably been taking non-essential items home with you since you put in your official two-week notice (more details here). If you haven’t, there is still time to catch up.

The most important thing to do first is see if you can get your hands on one of the most coveted items in the office: a copy paper box. If you can get the lid too, take it. You won’t regret it, especially if it is raining.

Non-essential desk items should be going home with you every night. This includes any knickknacks or personal items you don’t use daily. For me, this includes the snowman coffee mug (with top hat lid!) and the birthday hat from Chevy’s. Use your judgment here. It is easier to take a few little things home every night than it will be to pack everything up on the last day.

Make a list of every place in the office you have items. Don’t forget the refrigerator and any common areas. I still miss the lunch box I left behind a few years ago. Please, don’t repeat my mistake.

On the last day, pack stuff into the copy paper box as you use them for the last time. If you are able to, try and do a majority of this while everyone else is at lunch so as not to cause too much of a distraction.

Your desk was (hopefully!) clean and empty when you arrived. Try to at least leave it in the same condition. 

Fair warning: Do NOT, I repeat, do NOT take office items that are not yours. Do you really need another stapler or tape dispenser? I think not. This theft reflects poorly on you and may leave your past employer with a bad memory. After all the hard work you’ve done to leave on a good note, don’t ruin it all by taking something you don’t really need.

Answering the Why Are You Leaving Questions

Cartoon from:


As word spreads around the office, there are going to be the inevitable questions. I suggest being positive and honest, again without being cruel. 

The most common questions I’ve encountered recently are: 

Why are you leaving?
Where are you going?
When is your last day?
Why didn’t you tell me you were looking elsewhere? 

Make sure you can answer at least this in a professional, encouraging way. 

If you have followed the previous advice (here) for how to best give your two weeks notice, then the core people who need to know already know. If you haven’t and they’ve heard it through the office gossip mill, try and pull them aside and have a one on one conversation with them. 

Now is the chance to say, I am so sorry you didn’t hear it from me. I was waiting to tell you until everything became concrete. I am sad to be leaving you, but I’m excited for this opportunity to take my career in a different direction. 

You will likely have lots of these one-on-one conversations and if you are lucky. This is a chance for you to tactfully explain your reasons for leaving, but I urge you to remain positive. Don’t complain and don’t air dirty laundry. 

You may be asked questions about who will be taking over your responsibilities and projects. If you don’t know, find out as soon as possible. Reassure our co-workers that you aren’t abandoning them and value them even though you won’t be working side by side anymore.