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The Power of the Truth

Yesterday I helped an acquaintance, Bob, update his resume. Bob is 55 years old and looking for a job in general maintenance. He has over 25 years of experience in this field, but his former employer was cutting costs.

As we went step by step through his old resume, we finally got to his education. He listed some maintenance training he had had, along with the words “high school graduate.” He told me, “I fudged on that. I didn’t actually graduate. I got my GED.” (For those who don’t recognize the abbreviation GED, it stands for “general equivalency diploma.” A person with a GED has passed a test to demonstrate knowledge that equals a high school education.)

I fudged. That is an antiseptic way of saying “I lied,” “I did not tell the truth,” and “I faked it.”

I told Bob that if he had a GED, he should write GED–not “high school graduate,” which was a lie. He agreed.

Beyond the obvious ethical importance of telling the truth, the truth has power for the teller. Instead of telling himself “I fudged,” Bob can now say, “I told the truth.” That statement resonates with integrity, freedom, and independence.

Why be a slave to a lie? Why cover an employment gap by stretching the truth? Why disguise a low-level job with an inflated title? When we do these things, besides getting into ethical hot water, we send ourselves the message “I lied. I am a liar.”

It can be difficult to find a job, especially at age 55. But it’s much easier to find a job when one feels a sense of integrity, dignity, and personal pride.

Good luck, Bob! I am cheering for you!


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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.