When you hear the word integrity, you might think something like, “Well, of course, I care about integrity. That is a silly question.” But I challenge you to re-examine your relationship to integrity, especially if you are planning a career change or are strategizing how you can move ahead on your current career track.
We have all had moments when we had to choose between doing what has integrity and something else because it will help us in getting what we want – fast. The job market, like some office settings, can be cutthroat depending on your industry. There are many variables at play, working against us that seem to be out of our control (culture, gender, race, educational pedigree, etc.). And it isn’t fair. However, fair or not – I invite you not to sacrifice your integrity but rather instead to pull it towards you as something you personally value and use as a daily guide.
Here’s the thing, being honest with yourself and others is really important. In the moment, we think it will be ok, that the ends justify the means. But if you take the case that you are building a giant, beautiful house – you would want to lay a strong foundation from the very beginning.
Integrity isn’t going to make things perfect or even necessarily easy but it definitely plays a vital role in making your career plans a reality by setting the tone at the start.
So if you’ve found yourself wanting to cut corners or tell a tiny white lie, read on…
WRITING YOUR RESUME
Having a well written, results driven, professional looking resume is and always will be incredibly important. This is where you showcase who you are, what you have accomplished and what you are capable of. Yet it can be difficult to determine the best way to stand out amongst the crowd. Sometimes there is a pull to exaggerate or flat out lie on your resume just to get your foot in the door. Many people have had this experience and toyed with the idea to stretch the truth. DON’T DO IT.
I am not saying that you shouldn’t claim your accomplishments or that you are not that bright, shining star that any company would be lucky to have. This article isn’t meant to make you feel bad. However, I do want you to be honest and not misrepresent what you can be counted on for should get hired. There is nothing more frustrating for an employer than finding out that the applicant they were really excited about can’t actually perform what they are promising in their resume. It can cost you being hired. It can cost you your job should you get hired. In some cases, it can cost you your reputation and building a future for yourself.
There is a way to write your resume where you capture your strengths and abilities without falsifying information. In fact, ownership and personal accountability is a character trait that all employers are extremely interested in. For example, I was once part of a team that increased revenue and client retention by 5% over the same quarter in the previous year. This was a big deal and there were a lot of pieces at play. Since every sale went through the department I was accountable for, as well as including my management of those accounts post-sale, it was appropriate to claim this result on my resume.
What I am specifically pointing to is that there will be things in job descriptions that you might not have specific experience with, but you do have skills that will translate and that is what you want to work at crafting your resume to speak to. If you don’t know how to do this, you might want to hire an expert resume writer or run your resume by a colleague who has a senior position and can critique your resume for you.
Bottom line, do not put on your resume that you can code if you’ve only skimmed through a book on HTML Don’t say you worked for a company or went to an ivy league school when you hadn’t. Recruiters and hiring managers will ask you for specific examples once you start interviewing. They are trained to sift through the details and inspect each candidate. In addition, people can smell when something is off. They might not know exactly what it is, but if something were to show up for them as inconsistent or questionable, this could cost you the opportunity altogether.
Listen, it is ok to be arrogant when writing your resume because the resume IS supposed to represent how awesome you are and why employers should hire you. You don’t need to hold back and be humble. Just don’t lie about anything.
Again, hiring manager’s and recruiter’s jobs depend on their ability to find the very best talent for their companies and a hiring manager can tell the difference between a genuinely talented prospect and someone who is…let’s say stretching the truth.
Being caught in a lie during an interview or worse, after being hired, can greatly damage available opportunities, and rarely are worth the risk. Lying about skills, what you actually managed in your previous positions will only have you work harder to cover your tracks. We are saying not to claim your accomplishments, but we are saying that putting icing on a mud pie does not make it suddenly a cake.
Additionally, personal honesty can really help to ground you when you are interviewing for jobs. What I mean is your being honest with yourself about what worked and what didn’t work on your end. We have all had bosses that were frustrating or been on teams that didn’t collaborate well or found ourselves employed by a company that wasn’t what we had hoped it would turn out to be. This is all part of the game. However sometimes in our frustration, we will have all our attention on the circumstances and our opinions about it versus looking at where we were or were not being responsible.
Your ability to look back over your previous, or current, employment and acknowledge not only your wins but also your failures is critical to your professional growth. This is where you learn and expand yourself. You will never get better if you cannot come to terms with where you don’t hit the mark. Self-analysis includes both hard and soft skills. You might be someone who was very capable of doing the work but were weak in being able to transfer that knowledge to others. You might be great with people but lacking in organization. The more clear you are about your strengths and weaknesses, the more responsible you can be coming into a new position and the more grounded you’ll be in your interviews.
In interviews, it is more common for these kinds of questions to come up: What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? Tell me about a project you worked on, the results and what you would’ve done differently if given the opportunity. So how you answer these questions takes critical thinking on your part and you have to find that middle ground between being an Eyor and a Pollyanna. In your answers, you will create for the hiring manager how you think and how you approach problems. You will also demonstrate being someone who is constantly looking at how they can improve which only highlights more of the contribution you’d be to their team. Companies want people who can perform, but they also want people who are going to be accountable when they things don’t go well.
In order for you to answer these kinds of questions well, you must start with taking an honest look at yourself first. You could start by grading your own performance and then asking yourself if your manager would have said the same. If not, perhaps there is a blind spot here that would turn into an access to a whole new level of performance on the professional playing field.
WALKING THE TALK
In your resume, your LinkedIn profile page and your interviews, you are selling yourself to these potential employers – creating for them why you are the one they want to hire. This is obvious, right? What about after you get hired though? We can get lost in getting acclimated to a new position or when there are unexpected demands and interruptions, leaving us disconnected from what we were excited about in the beginning. We can also lose our connection to who we promised to be and how we promised to perform.
This might seem like a useless thing to bring up, but again, I challenge you to take another look. If you think about a couple when they get married, they are making vows to one another, a promise for their union. Some couples are very clear about what they promised and use that as a compass throughout their marriage to ensure they continue to be “trued up” to what they said. How often are we doing this with our jobs after we get hired though? If you said during an interview that you are very detail oriented and then two months into the job you are missing minor details all the sudden – you should have alarm bells going off in your head because this is now inconsistent with who you said you are. If you said during an interview that you love challenges and identifying solutions, but then you find yourself complaining to coworkers about always needing to put out fires…was what you said in that interview authentic for you or were you saying it because that is what you thought the hiring manager wanted to hear?
Every job has its ups and downs, the things you really love and the things you are not a fan of. This is the reality. Expecting things to be perfect all the time will only leave you and others upset. And what you say, as well as operating consistent with what you say is extremely important. That saying “talk is cheap” became a saying because of how little attention people pay to what is coming out of their mouths. Therefore you might want to start taking inventory of what “vows” you made when you interviewed because this is what your new manager is going to be expecting from you. This also includes what you are saying to your direct reports. If they hear you say one thing and then do something else (especially if this happens regularly), you will slowly lose their respect and loyalty. Then later down the line, you will be wondering why all these problems are surfacing all of the sudden. It is kind of like trying to drive a car and being oblivious to the flat tire and worn out breaks.
People take for granted how powerful their speaking actually is, and with that people usually take for granted that there are others listening to what is being said.
Integrity is the foundation for everything and must be continually tended to. Just like brushing your teeth, you will never be done with integrity. So when you getting yourself organized to make a career change or go for that promotion at work, I invite you to bring integrity into the mix. It is not going to make things go your way 100% of the time, but it will have you move faster in the direction you are going and it is worth the time spent.