Career Matters

By Lily Whiteman

Power of validation can lift you above the rest

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Which of these statements is more persuasive and impressive?

  • “I am an excellent swimmer. I know you will be impressed by how well I swim when you watch me.”
  • “I won an Olympic gold medal in swimming.”

The first statement — unsupported by any objective validation — could easily be dismissed as self-serving propaganda and an empty, presumptuous promise. By contrast, the second assertion is impressive because it incorporates objective, inarguable, universally respected validation: an Olympic medal. The second assertion meets the gold standard, literally.

You can similarly use the power of validation to prove that you have met the gold standard of your profession and thereby impress your boss, hiring managers or others who will judge your background when you apply for annual bonuses, jobs, admittance to the Senior Executive Service, promotions, awards, grants, academic programs, speaking engagements or other honors. Do so by incorporating into written and spoken descriptions of your achievements your own personal versions of Olympic gold medals: solid, objective, inarguable, universally respected evidence of your stature and success.Some potential examples of your personal gold medals:

  • High academic grades, high grade-point average, merit-based scholarships or fellowships.
  • Positive annual evaluations.
  • Praise you’ve received from professors, supervisors, senior officials, clients, contractors, customers, staffers or mentees.
  • Bonuses or other awards, including team awards.
  • Security clearances.
  • Grants.
  • Publications in professional journals or popular press.
  • Positive media coverage of projects that incorporate your contributions.
  • Improvements in survey results that you helped generate.
  • Promotions and rapid advancement. For example, “I advanced from a clerk to a program manager in six years.”
  • Your years of experience.
  • The size of audience of a document or event you produced or the prominence of your audience. For example, were your work products distributed to senior managers or Congress?
  • The size of your budget.
  • Repeat requests for your services from senior managers or stakeholders.
  • Position on a management team, acting positions or prestigious details.
  • Record of meeting non-negotiable deadlines and completing projects on budget.

You may generate other personal gold medals by asking yourself: What proof do I have that I have been successful? How did I improve the operations of my organization? What evidence shows that I wield a lot of responsibility? How have I saved time or money for my organization or improved its reputation? Why is my work important?

See the power of validation in action in the two real-life openers from cover letters:

  • “I am writing this letter to express my sincere interesting in obtaining a writer/editor position with the United States Mint. I am completely confident in my professional abilities and I am certain that my employment would benefit your company as well as myself.”
  • “I would be eager to contribute my 15 years of experience as a writer/editor to the United States Mint as a Public Affairs Officer. My credentials include two awards of Excellence from the Association of Government Communicators, two recent merit-based promotions in four years and a security clearance.”

The second opener belonged to the winning cover letter, largely because it incorporated impressive validation.

One way to brandish your gold medals in your résumé is to copy a technique evident in ads for movies that splice together praising quotes from good reviews they have received. Similarly, consider splicing together quotes from oral or written praise you have received from bosses, managers or other stakeholders in your résumé — either in a summary of qualifications or under the appropriate job description in your résumé.

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