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    Strategy and the Quandary of Sears ex-employees

    The other day I read that within this decade, experts expect that many American malls will be empty (and I think we can assume that the Canadian experience will be similar enough to take note).

    And who hasn't heard of the demise of Sears, with some 12,000 people across Canada soon losing their jobs?

    The truth seems obvious: brick and mortar retail isn't holding up against the likes of Amazon and other internet-based shopping experiences.

    If you know someone who is one of the 12,000 soon to be Sears ex-employees, do share this blog post with them. If there's a time a job hunter needed support, this is it: competing against a high influx of similarly experienced people is daunting.


    The resume of old was a historical document, listing each job held, responsibilities of each position, with no info eliminated; however, today's resume is a stategic document, still listing the positions one has held, but with a spin.

    What is the value of telling the reader that you used a point of sale (POS) cash register if the employer doesn't use one of these? Strategy means that info must be reinterpreted to demonstrate transferability or direct applicability. Here's what I mean:

    • Used advanced technology to process transactions - 12 different options - up to 100 times per day; over tenure, successfully learned 3 different versions and served as team's expert in each.

    This bullet, still talking about using a POS system, uses strategy to demonstrate adaptability, tech-savvy skills, and serving as a team's top user of technology. It showcases lots of transferable skills.

    However, if you're not applying to a position where using complex technology is useful, then you wouldn't use this bullet.

    Perhaps you're applying to an Account Manager sales position. Here's another way to use your retail experience to demonstrate your suitability:

    • Upgraded sales skills annually, attending weekend workshops delivered by noted sales leader "Top Sales Inc.," and reliably led in department of 20 sales associates with highest dollar sales, 3 out of 4 quarters over the last 5 years.

    Defining your performance with strategic content and context is what will get your foot in the door with an invitation to an interview. Strategy will distinguish you from your competition, whether you are in sales, customer service, procurement, training, people management, operations management, finance, or maintenance.

    As a resume writer I put myself in the employer's/recruiter's shoes to discern what the position truly needs from a potential hire. And as I write, I make it as easy as possible for the reader to determine that my client is an ideal applicant. This is what each job hunter must do to "cut through the noise" of many job applicants.

    It's not colour in your resume or delivering your resume to Human Resources with a box of chocolates that will distinguish you; it's demonstrating that there is real value in hiring you.

    P.S. Along with strategy, there is a second piece to a strong submission in today's recruitment process: knowing how to navigate applicant tracking systems. For lots of details info, search "applicant tracking system" in the search window on the right hand side of my website page.


    A question of using a P.S.

    Today a client asked an interesting question, one that I had not really considered before. The client's question was:

    I was hoping I could ask you a quick question regarding email etiquette.

    Is it OK to us a “P.S.” on an email?

    For instance:


    Sincerely, Ashley

     P.S.  I wish you a very happy Thanksgiving


     Or is it best to just include that in the body of the email and not use Post Script??

     Thank you Stephanie!!!

    To which I replied:

    Well, that's an interesting question and one I've not been asked before.
    Here are my thoughts on this:
    - marketing studies show that letters with P.S. get more responses than those without
    - my personal preference in using the P.S. in clients' letters is to a) add a teaser that begs further questions OR b) address a mundane aspect of the job posting, for example, I possess a valid driver's license with no demerit points in the last 10 years. (using precisely the phrasing found in the job posting)
    As for using it in email, as generally email is even less formal than a letter, I see no issue with it. Having said that, you're bound to run across a person, now and then, who detests the "P.S." and likely for personal reasons (someone s/he didn't like used these with wild abandon, for example!). But I've not read anything that should give you concern.
    Now back to the P.S. as a marketing idea: remember that your job search is a self-marketing exercise. Use the P.S. to your advantage by selecting a workplace accomplishment that would be intriguing to the reader. For example, aligned with your role and career goal, of course, a story about saving a failing account, restoring a failing or finding a lucrative new product line, achieving consensus where no one else had managed to do so, repeatedly supporting failing students to success ... these kinds of teasers are useful post scripts that will leverage the marketing tool to your benefit.
    Here's an example of one I used for a recent client:
    By the way, I would love to tell you the interesting details of how I conceived and led an initiative to save our company's most critical account, saving $Millions in potentially lost annual revenues. 
    Although this idea is not for everyone, and I don't actually use it for many clients, it can be a powerful tactic to generate interest and to differentiate you from your competition.
    All the best, Stephanie
    P.S. Last year I helped a European living and working in a war-torn country abroad overcome many odds to land his first Canadian job without having to move here first. Imagine what I could do for your job search! Just sayin' ... :-)

    Award of Excellence - a proud moment!

    Last week I found out that I had been awarded my 12th Award of Excellence, Outstanding Resume - Executive. I am grateful to Career Professionals of Canada for the opportunity to assess the quality of my work, year over year.

    This year there were nine submissions in the Executive Resume category.

    Here's what I posted on my LinkedIn profile:


    I am thrilled to share that my resume submission to Career Professionals of Canada's annual "Awards of Excellence" program has been selected as the winner in the Outstanding Resume - Executive  category.

    Submitting an actual client's document (a Fortune 500 President), the resume was recognized for cutting edge design and format, impeccable grammar, and exceptional content development skills.

    I'm honoured (honored for my American clients) to have my work recognized. Without a doubt, I champion the power of the well written word and simply love what I do. So grateful that I literally stumbled into a role that makes the best use of my own talents and skills, I am also tremendously grateful that I now get to help others achieve their own career goals.

    What a rush to enjoy repeated career successes through clients' milestones as they land interviews and job offers!



    Setting a new homework record

    As part of my client intake process, I ask  virtually every new client to complete a questionnaire. It's comprehensive, requires thought and review, and takes quite a bit of time.

    No question about it: it is homework.

    This pertains not only to new graduate clients, but also to my executive level clients. I compare my work to writing a university paper: it takes tons of research material to condense the info into a few short pages, rich with nuance and saturated in relevant, informative content. A resume must also have a strong ability to influence, that is, influence the reader to call my client for an interview.

    One of the questions in my homework is this "Do you have a favourite quote, philosophy of business or work, an oft-repeated saying?" The answer to this can give me insight into my client's working style, problem solving, relationship building, methodology, people management - I get a glimpse into what makes this person tick, and it helps me represent the person on paper with authenticity. 

    A recent client has outdone all my previous clients - 12 years of full time work, more than a thousand clients - with the volume of quotes that exemplify her approach to life and work. She now holds the record in this category! Here are a few of the wonderful quotes this client shared:

    "A dream doesn't become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work." - Colin Powell

    "Seek first to understand, then to be understood." - Stephen Covey

    "Pleasure put in the job puts perfection in the work." - Aristotle

    "Obstacles don't have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don't turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it." - Michael Jordan

    I counted 26 quotes. They came from philosophers, books on leadership from current or past "gurus," sports figures, politicians, and even a few of her very own.

    Not only are these useful for my own insight into my client, they will undoubtedly find their way into her resume. To facilitate her step up the career ladder - she is aiming for a role as an Executive Director - I will likely find parallels between a quote and her methodology and results, and include a select two or three in her resume and cover letter.

    I could even suggest to the client that she select several quotes and create an additional - and unique - portfolio document. (I have an idea brewing!)

    I stand behind my premise that it is not colour and whiz-bang design that will propel a job applicant to the forefront; rather, a job applicant will stand out by offering clear insights into how he or she performs, the results his or her performance has brought to a previous employer, and by inference, how his or her employment will positively impact the next lucky employer. (The exception may be for the client applying to a graphic designer job posting.)

    With this mindset, I have created interesting branding pages and addenda for many clients whether in technology, finance, sports, marketing, operations, etc., from entry level to executive. Whether or not I conceive such an addendum depends on each client's efforts in completing the homework fully, with enthusiasm. So much rests on the intake process.

    As one client put it, "There cannot be excellent output without excellent input." I am not a magician, conjuring up resume content out of thin air. I am a partner with each client, gathering information and transforming it from basic statement to influential - and completely truthful - marketing copy.

    There is much power in the written word. I love my work!



    Mixing the old with the new - screendoors and resumes

    A few weeks ago my husband, Richard, and I visited my mom. She lives on her own, although at 80+, it's getting harder and harder for her to do so without help.

    On this visit, I got my husband to replace the handle on her screen door. (I almost wrote "we replaced," but quite honestly, I didn't even watch, never mind help!)

    A visit to the local Canadian Tire, new handle, random tools, and assorted paraphernalia in hand, Richard began his work.

    By the end it was clear that not all of the old stuff would work with the new stuff and hubby couldn't use all the new parts. His solution was a hodge podge, but at least the handle was no longer a  hard to grip and uninviting looking handle, and the door could lock.

    So often it's best to replace something in its entirety.

    It's this way with resumes, too. An old version, maybe a template in its origins, with new bits and pieces added over the years, and perhaps more than one author along the way, often looks rather hodge-podgey. Rather than looking crisply designed, it feels random; rather than reading smoothly, it seems quite haphazard. It's like the difference between a fine, coordinated suit and tie versus your well-worn, at-home "comfies"; between a $40 and $7 bottle of wine; between a fun sundress from your local bargain shop and a custom made outfit.

    Not much of a first impression, is it?

    It's also this way with resumes that I first wrote for clients years ago. Recently a client from 2009 returned for a resume update. He said that he had added a few things over the years, but he now felt that it really needed my touch. And it did, from formatting to content, need my touch.

    Since our initial work about eight years ago software has evolved, and the recruitment process has changed. His old version was no longer compatible with today's norms, not in the version of Word nor in the need to appease applicant tracking systems.

    I overhauled it top to bottom, finessing even previously composed bullets (as many were shortened or even removed to keep his resume to two pages), ensured it met each of today's requirements. My client is once again ready to further his career as a top-notch Tool and Die Maker.

    If your resume is anything other than pristine and crisp in its appearance and ultra-influential and targeted in its content, might I suggest that that may be the reason that you are not landing interviews? Sometimes it's not because recruiters don't know anything; sometimes it's because we are unwilling to spend the money on an entirely new "screen door"!