CNBC make it 2024-02-09 20:50:57

The No. 1 resume mistake, says ex-Amazon recruiter: You see it ‘all the way up to the C-suite’

Lindsay Mustain has looked at a lot of resumes in her more than a decade in talent acquisition.

“Literally a million,” she says. The former Amazon recruiter is now the CEO of career coaching company Talent Paradigm and has seen candidates include some mind-boggling elements to their resumes — like stickers and a picture of themselves holding a shotgun.

But there’s one mistake she sees jobseekers make over and over again, what she calls giving “Miss America answers,” or ones she’d imagine hearing in a pageant. These are simple statements that don’t give much insight into what candidates actually accomplished on the job.

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It’s happening from the junior level “all the way up to the C-suite,” she says, and it’s preventing jobseekers from standing out.

Here’s what Miss America answers are and how to avoid writing them.

Don’t write ‘a glorified job description’

When it comes to your resume, you want to mirror the language of the job description to the extent that it portrays your experience accurately. As you do, however, avoid general statements about the tasks you took on.

“I had stakeholder meetings with people” is an example of a Miss America answer, says Mustain. These kinds of descriptions don’t give a concrete sense of how you were able to move your team forward. They’re “like a glorified job description,” she says, adding that, “you just look like somebody who’s filling a seat.”

Instead of listing the tasks you were given, quantify and list your accomplishments.

“If somebody is fixing tickets on a help desk,” says Mustain, as an example, “I’ve solved 30 customers’ problems a day” is a good metric to start with. You can take it even further, though, and think about what you were able to accomplish in a year. Thirty problems a day, 20 days a month, 12 months per year is 7,200 problems solved altogether.

The “more metrics and analytics you can add to your resume, the more impressive,” she says.

‘Your eyes go straight to the numbers’

Quantifying your accomplishments is not just a matter of looking impressive.

Recruiters only have a few seconds to dedicate to your resume. They’re likely “handling somewhere between 15 to 25” job openings at once, says Mustain. “The average applicants per job is 250, which means they’re dealing with tens of thousands of applicants.”

The benefit of quantifying your accomplishments is that recruiters’ eyes “go straight to the numbers when we’re reviewing,” Mustain says. They’ll know how much value you added to your previous employers immediately.

Bottom line, if you want to move forward in the interview process, your resume has “got to be results-based,” she says.

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How Vita Coco grew from $75,000 and multiple maxed-out credit cards into a $1.1 billion business

Vita Coco started with a leap of faith, a $75,000 investment and “several” maxed-out credit cards.

Today, the bestselling coconut water company is worth $1.1 billion. But it wasn’t born out of a Silicon Valley startup lab. Rather, co-founders Michael Kirban and Ira Liran first thought about going into the coconut water business after a chance meeting in a Manhattan bar on a cold night in 2003, when two Brazilian women told them the beverage was what they missed most about their homeland.

Liran ended up falling in love with one of those women, and moving to Brazil. When Kirban visited them, he realized just how popular coconut water — which has a salty-sweet taste and high levels of hydrating electrolytes — was in the Southern Hemisphere, especially compared to the U.S.

The two friends decided to jump on what they saw as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“People in Brazil were drinking it for everything,” Kirban, 48, tells CNBC Make It. “They were drinking it at the breakfast table. They were drinking it on the beach. They were drinking it after a workout … We’re like, ‘There’s got to be a consumer in the U.S.’”

Liran and Kirban struck a deal with a supplier in Brazil to produce their first shipment, for $75,000. They paid mostly with Kirban’s money, which he’d obtained by founding and running a real estate software business after dropping out of college. That software business still exists, and Kirban still helps run it on the side, he says.

The shipment got held up at the border by U.S. officials. The co-founders hadn’t realized they needed to register it with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which meant they had to divert it to the Bahamas, where Kirban says he “sold it door to door” at bars, grocery stores and even “people’s homes.”

It was only the beginning of Vita Coco’s long journey to financial success, with more stumbling blocks along the way.

‘We started maxing out credit cards’

In the Bahamas, the friends recouped “most” of their money and repeated the process with the proper regulatory registrations, Kirban says. Once Vita Coco hit U.S. shelves, they discovered a nearly identical coconut water brand called Zico, which launched at roughly the same time.

The two companies competed throughout the 2000s for shelf space in stores across New York. The prolonged battle was marked by dirty tactics on both sides, from bombastic marketing and price undercuts to sales representatives removing their rival’s products from store shelves.

At the time, Kirban desperately wanted to avoid taking on too much debt while funding Vita Coco’s early growth, so he developed a credit card strategy not for the faint of heart.

“We started maxing out credit cards … [to] operate the business,” he says, adding: “I would go get a new credit card with no interest for 90 days [or] six months, and just transfer everything to the new credit card. I did that several times.”

The tactic helped Vita Coco avoid business loans, which required immediate repayments with interest, and enabled the co-founders to delay seeking outside investments. That gave them more control of the business and helped them hold onto more of their ownership stakes long-term, says Kirban.

“We never paid any interest and didn’t need to start paying down the credit card until, I don’t know, a year or a year and a half into the business,” he says.

A risky strategy that paid off

Kirban’s strategy was incredibly risky, both personally and professionally. Even if you eventually pay off every card you’ve opened, you can severely damage your credit score, especially if you max out multiple cards, according to experts.

Eventually, Vita Coco did take on outside investors — starting in 2007, when Belgian investment company Verlinvest invested an undisclosed amount. When Zico sold a 20% stake to beverage behemoth Coca-Cola two years later, Kirban found a group of celebrity investors, led by Madonna, and signed a 2010 distribution deal with Keurig Dr. Pepper that still allowed the co-founders to keep a majority stake.

Vita Coco now controls roughly half of the U.S. coconut water market. Zico’s founder later expressed regret over selling the rest of his business to Coca-Cola in 2013, and bought it back in 2021.

Last year, for the first time, Vita Coco cracked more than a billion coconuts to make its signature product — a rate of roughly 3 million per day. Kirban hopes to keep growing his brand across North America, and soon expand into Europe and Asia.

“We see a big opportunity to continue to expand across the globe,” he says.

Want to land your dream job in 2024? Take CNBC’s new online course How to Ace Your Job Interview to learn what hiring managers are really looking for, body language techniques, what to say and not to say, and the best way to talk about pay. Get started today and save 50% with discount code EARLYBIRD.

I quit my dream job at 32 and spent $34,000 to travel the world—here are my 4 biggest regrets

I was 28 years old when I landed my dream video producer job at CNBC. I would throw off the covers every morning, excited to dive into the work I felt I was born to do. I flew through the days, but often woke up in the dead of the night with a creeping sense of dread. 

I imagined time racing by at warp speed until I suddenly woke up at age 80, regretting that I lived to work, instead of working to live. After all, I’d spent most of my adult life focused on the future. Burned out and chronically anxious, I’d lost my ability to live in the present. 

So I quit my job at 32, bought a one-way ticket to Peru, and spent a year and a half — and $34,000 — exploring 18 countries across South America and Asia. Every day was a “choose your own adventure,” involving choices good and bad. I learned lessons the hard way about balancing preparation, productivity and play. 

Here are the regrets that taught me when to prioritize happiness in the moment, and when to sacrifice it for a better future. 

1. I worried about money so much, I missed out on once-in-a-lifetime experiences 

When I landed in Rio De Janeiro in December 2022, I immediately didn’t want to be there. I wished I were still in Buenos Aires, celebrating Argentina’s World Cup victory in the streets with my friends.

Instead, I sat alone in my Airbnb watching Instagram Stories with a pit in my stomach, because I’d booked my flight from Argentina to Brazil weeks in advance, for fear of prices going up. 

As soon as I arrived in Rio, I booked the cheapest flight to Bogotá, Colombia. That meant I left Brazil on my birthday, three days before Rio’s famous New Year’s festivities, and watched my new friends partying lavishly via Instagram Stories while alone in my hotel.

I was so obsessed with planning ahead to feel in control that I missed out on major life experiences.

From that point on, I kept plans open-ended, allowing new connections and discoveries to determine how long I wanted to stay. Now I start each day with a loose vision for what I’d like to accomplish and flexibility to pivot in response to the unexpected. I learned to live my life guided by joy rather than anxiety.

2. I spent a lot of my life savings, delaying other goals  

The $34,000 I spent on my sabbatical was a significant portion of my life savings. Now, at 34, I have very little saved for retirement, I’m far from a down payment on a house in my hometown of Los Angeles, and I’m not ready to have kids.

While I don’t regret my sabbatical or even how much I spent on it, I do regret that a lack of preparation in my young adulthood landed me in the position of having to choose between personal fulfillment and financial security.

By the time I graduated from UCLA, I could decode Shakespeare but had no idea how to pay my bills. I spent much of my 20s either unemployed or working low-wage internships, and suffered anxiety and burnout trying to catch up.

Had I studied personal finance and started saving, investing and career planning in high school, I believe I could’ve taken my sabbatical without significantly delaying other life goals. 

3. I stopped investing completely  

I began investing in stocks in 2020, exuberant as the market hit one high after another. But after the market declined in 2022 and I lost all my gains, I was scared to lose more. 

I stopped contributing to my Roth IRA and my brokerage account as soon as I quit my job in August 2022, and missed out on an opportunity to build wealth.

I wish I’d continued investing throughout my travels, putting $200 each month into a large-cap index fund. I could have afforded it, since I had enough savings left over after my sabbatical. But to ease my fears of running out of money, I also could have spent less on nice restaurants, clothing, daily lattes and cocktails.

4. I was careless with my belongings

At the lowest moment of my trip, I was crying hysterically on the side of a busy road in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Two minutes earlier, I’d been walking through a touristy area with my phone in my back pocket, lost in the music I was listening to, feeling carefree and on top of the world. 

Suddenly, I felt a hand reach into my pocket and snatch my two-month-old iPhone 13. The culprit fled on a motorbike and chasing it proved futile. I broke down, feeling helpless, alone and scared without my phone in a foreign country. I lost all my photos. The next day, I paid nearly $800 for a new phone.

I lost my belongings on more than one occasion, and it cost me a lot of money, time and energy. While I was meticulous about my to-do lists and flights, I was sometimes careless in other contexts.

The mistakes I made while traveling taught me when to let go, but also when to be more in control.

Helen Zhao is a former video producer and writer at CNBC. Before joining CNBC as a news associate, she covered residential real estate for the LA Business Journal. She’s a California native and a proud USC Trojan and UCLA Bruin. 

Want to land your dream job in 2024? Take CNBC’s new online course How to Ace Your Job Interview to learn what hiring managers are really looking for, body language techniques, what to say and not to say, and the best way to talk about pay.

Founder of $1 billion startup: This harsh money lesson from my mom ‘forced me to start hustling’

When Gregg Renfrew was a year out of college and racking up credit card debt, she called her mom for help — only to be told, bluntly, “Well, it’s time to get a new job.”

The tough-love lesson in financial independence pushed her to be more mindful of her spending and income, says Renfrew, 55, the CEO and founder of billion-dollar clean beauty startup Beautycounter. “Living in fear of not being able to pay my bills — having literally no idea — it forced me to start hustling,” she tells CNBC Make It.

Upon graduating from the University of Vermont in 1990, Renfrew’s mother gave her two gifts, she says: a monogrammed black briefcase and a check for $5,000. The check was enough to cover “first and last month’s rent on an apartment in New York,” along with some work clothes and other odds and ends for someone just starting a career, she says.

Renfrew was free to do whatever she wanted with the money, but her mother was adamant that she wouldn’t receive any more financial support.

Less than a year after moving to the city, she “immediately racked up credit card bills,” owing more than $1,000 on her American Express card, she says. Her mother, a real estate executive at the time, “absolutely could have bailed me out,” she adds.

Instead, her mom instructed her to find a way to make enough money to pay off her own debts. While Renfrew was “frustrated” with that response at the time, she now says she was lucky to get any sort of head start from her parents.

“I was fortunate to have a debt-free education and to receive any money,” says Renfrew. “A lot of people don’t have either of those things.”

Learning to hustle

The reality check worked. Renfrew “immediately sought a [new] job,” leaving her gig at an advertising firm to join the sales training program at the Xerox Corporation. Soon, she was selling copiers to businesses across Manhattan, paying off her debts and eventually becoming one of the company’s top salespeople.

Renfrew was still working at Xerox when she started a side business with a friend selling bridesmaid dresses. In 1997, they partnered with Nicole Hindrich to bring the British bridal registry business The Wedding List to the U.S., landing a $1.5 million investment from Nordstrom three years later. 

That business, which sold to Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia in 2001, wasn’t Renfrew’s first foray into entrepreneurialism.

As a college student who wanted to enroll in a “Semester at Sea” program, Renfrew was told by her parents she would need to pay for it herself. During the summer, she started a house-cleaning service in Nantucket, Massachusetts — even hiring a team of employees — to make enough money to cover the program’s cost.

The experience fit right into her parents’ child-rearing approach: They pushed her to be able to stand on her own, independent of anyone else, including any potential future life partner. Growing up, whenever Renfrew wanted to buy “material things” like a pair of jeans, she needed to earn the money to buy them herself, she says.

Her ability to be self-reliant helped lay the foundation for her future career in business, she notes: “I think that is a really good life lesson.”

Want to land your dream job in 2024? Take CNBC’s new online course How to Ace Your Job Interview to learn what hiring managers are really looking for, body language techniques, what to say and not to say, and the best way to talk about pay.

I was miserable in my 30s. Then I turned 50, and I’ve never been happier—here’s the No. 1 reason why

What if the secret to being happier was purely just to get older?

It sounds absurd, but at 63 years old, I can say that the last few decades have been a tale of two midlives: one very dark from my 30s- to -40s, and one truly splendid … starting when I hit 50. 

The No. 1 reason? My emotional intelligence increased. And, as I discovered while writing my book, “Learning to Love Midlife: 12 Reasons Why Life Gets Better with Age,” high emotional intelligence is a crucial ingredient for boosting happiness and resilience.

Why higher emotional intelligence boosts happiness

Emotional intelligence, which is the capacity to understand and control our emotions, as well as being sensitive to others’ feelings, nurtures our relationships and boosts our empathy.

This can lead to stronger social connections. And as we age, our social bonds become even more vital to our well-being. With higher emotional intelligence, you’re also better equipped to grasp and empathize with the emotions of others, fostering deeper, more fulfilling relationships.

Here’s how my emotional intelligence has grown since I’ve gotten older:

1. I feel more compassion for others

As I age, I’ve softened … and not just around my belly. I experience less ego and more soul. I feel more deeply for others’ life circumstances.

Fortunately, I am able to direct some of that increased compassion toward myself as well.

2. I am less emotionally reactive and more emotionally fluent

When I was younger, I had a kind of emotional vertigo; my emotions constantly made me feel imbalanced and uneasy. I didn’t know how to dance with them. In fact, I often tried to outrun my emotions.

Today, I don’t sweat the small stuff. I’m able to positively reappraise negative experiences, like getting stuck in traffic in an Uber (interpretation: great chance to meditate).

Simultaneously, my enhanced ability to recognize my patterns, habits, and tendencies allows me to observe myself more effectively.

3. I don’t take things so personally

Don Miguel Ruiz, the author of “The Four Agreements,” says: “There is a huge amount of freedom that comes to you when you take nothing personally.”

This skill is particularly valuable in our polarized, “cancel culture” era.

4. I have a better understanding of how to create my ideal habitats

Social scientists call this “environmental mastery,” or the ability to determine which environments one will flourish in — and the capacity to adjust and adapt to changes in those habitats.

This also speaks to why, in the workplace, older people on a team have been found to create more “psychological safety” on teams: because their environmental mastery, combined with their compassion, helps them create the proper conditions for team flourishing.

5. I value relationships more

It’s been said that the two questions people ask on their deathbed are “Did I love well, and was I well‐loved?”

The longitudinal Harvard Study on Adult Development and the Blue Zones research conclusively show that the relationships we cultivate in our lives can actually increase our lifespan.

Of course, there are always outliers — Exhibit A: your perennially grumpy 75‐year‐old uncle. But he’s an exception, not the rule.

Chip Conley is the author of ”Learning to Love Midlife: 12 Reasons Why Life Gets Better With Age.″ After disrupting the hospitality industry twice, first as the founder of Joie de Vivre Hospitality, and then as Airbnb’s Head of Global Hospitality and Strategy, Conley founded MEA (Modern Elder Academy) in January 2018.

Want to land your dream job in 2024? Take CNBC’s new online course How to Ace Your Job Interview to learn what hiring managers are really looking for, body language techniques, what to say and not to say, and the best way to talk about pay.