Lots of people say they don’t like numbers, but I think that’s because they don’t realize how useful they are. I liked math class until about seventh grade. That’s when something changed. It seemed to get a lot harder and a lot less fun.
I think this might have been because up until that point, my teachers were generalists. They had to teach every subject, and so they knew a little about a lot instead of a lot about a little. They certainly knew a lot more math than I did, but they usually saw math as something you use to make your life better, rather than loving math for math’s sake.
In the higher grades, I had math teachers – people for whom math was inherently fun, and to whom it came easy. I was in a “smart kids” class but still felt stupid most of the time because the answers were so obvious to them. The right-brained people like me lost all sense of math’s usefulness in everyday life.
Now I use math every day. Not tangents, cosigns, and pi, but definitely percentages, percentage change, and averages. I don’t mind it most of the time because I am applying them to something real, like measuring improvement or change from the previous year. Sometimes it can actually be kind of fun.
I tell my kids, “Numbers are your friend.” Math gives you power because it allows you to measure and prove your work. Because of this, many of the highest paying jobs are in math-heavy fields. Some of the highest paying jobs in other fields, from education, to health care, to government work, also require math skills, but they are the practical everyday math skills of administrating.
Numbers are also your friend in the process of getting that job in the first place. In the classes I have taught on career development, I refer to them as the secret weapon of resume writing. It is numbers that give your resume or cover letter its power, and allow it to function as a proof point for your value.
Let’s look at an example. Say you are writing a profile statement on a resume, an introductory paragraph for your cover letter, or working on an elevator speech to share when networking. You might start with something like this:
“I’m Maryanne Jones. I am a product/marketing manager with experience in managing products, services, and staff for a corporation. I directed a staff and managed the marketing of all company products.”
It gets the point across, but doesn’t have any teeth. Now let’s add some numbers (and a little branding) and see if we can improve it.
“I’m Maryanne Jones. I am a sales-oriented ambassador for companies. For over 17 years, I have created an optimal mix of people, process, and products for company success. I have developed marketing programs for more than 50 new products, more than doubled the top and bottom line revenue of my division at two different companies, and increased customer satisfaction with my current division by 50 percent.”
Makes a big difference, doesn’t it? When you are preparing a resume, don’t just give a bullet list of the responsibilities in your job description, but use numbers to quantify what you have accomplished and the results you have produced. In fact, don’t wait until you are writing a resume. Start now with the work you are currently doing and keep a list of the projects you’ve completed and the essential statistics – how many people you served, how many tasks you completed, how much revenue you generated, how much you saved the company, how much you increased effectiveness, etc. You never know when you’ll need them! Numbers are your friends, so keep them close at hand.