Cheeky Resume Content

Photo by Fischer Twins on Unsplash

I often provide a prospective client with a complimentary resume review - a free critique. Sometimes I see things on a resume that I guess the writer didn't see.  And as things so often happen in twos and threes, recently I had two such resume "oopsies"!

There is a popular resume template available on MS Word. It offers the job seeker a spot to prominently display his or her initials in a large circle on the left side of the page. On the right side go the name and contact details. Well, this particular client's initials did not lend themselves to an initial-only short-form. Let's just say that the two letters spell the rather less refined version of "baloney." 

Yes, big, bold, front and centre - well, left justified, but you get my drift. (It reminds me of someone I know who didn't consider that their daughter's initials spelled a most unfortunate disease abbreviation.)

Now, if this person was in marketing, maybe it would have tickled a funny bone or two and been a "plus." But aiming at a C-suite position, I have no doubts that even if the reader prided him or herself on being an enlightened sort, I am of the opinion that most humans have little control over subliminal impressions.  

If this client chooses to work with me, I will not be referring to the client as "BS." 

Now, the second takes us from business into the realm of medicine. 

I am working with a young doctor on the other side of the border. This physician is employed with a gastroenterology unit. Gastroenterology, in case you're drawing a blank, has to do with esophagus, stomach, small intestine, colon and rectum, pancreas, gallbladder, bile ducts and liver.  All those lovely innards that keep us going.

This particular physician chose to shorten the workplace title to read as follows:

Medical Staff, Gastrointestinal Ass., Name of Hospital, Name of City and State.

Hopefully you see the "cheeky humour" in this statement. Once I pointed out the link between the area of focus and the short form, this newly minted doctor had a good laugh. S/he will be changing this immediately. 

Funny stories, but the point is, proofreading is important. And it's not always spelling or a misused comma that is at fault. Sometimes, it's in the "oops" oversight category. 

Love my job, love writing resume, and if you don't, do let me help you out! 

 

Automation Job Losses vs New Growth Opportunites

 Taking a Break from Writing Resumes with Some Tree Love

Taking a Break from Writing Resumes with Some Tree Love

Human Resources Director Canada today announced that Manulife is cutting 700 jobs as part of its digital business transformation. Most of the losses will be absorbed through attrition, but not all.

The automation of services, such as access to your own information, has long been moving away from the need to phone in. On-line self-help services are not at all new. But with the sophistication of Artificial Intelligence or AI, more and more types of information can be at one's fingertips.

Even in my own small corner of the business world, AI is making an impact. The newest versions of Applicant Tracking Software, the systems that many companies rely on to help automate parts of the recruitment process, are AI-enhanced. Progressing from the archaic "ASCII" resume version, an unattractive, plain-text, Courier font document, today's ATS-friendly resumes look positively radiant in comparison! Shaded lines and colour are fine, as are some enhanced features.

On the other side of the job search spectrum, I see that marijuana is having quite an impact. In my boutique resume service I have had two clients in one week - and more in the last year - seeking to apply to a few medical marijuana facilities. (On another note, I have a neighbour who has made an obscene amount of money from purchasing medical marijuana stocks, but that's a topic for an investment blog!)

From "field hands" to senior execs, there's a living to be earned in this employment newcomer.

That's me. I love tree hugging and getting "grounded." We all need a break!

Whatever your situation, New Leaf Resumes would love to help. Give me a call at 778 269 5627 and let's talk. 

Should you be worried about cultural fit?

 Add personality to your resume and inspire an interview! Read on to find out how.

Add personality to your resume and inspire an interview! Read on to find out how.

Today I am prepping for tomorrow's client who is a Client Services Supervisor/Manager. His preferred realm is in IT, and his preferred employer, PeaceWorks Technology Solutions. 

This company wears its heart on its sleeve. The name artfully blends the social conscience with the service delivery.

And, as serendipity is at play today I read an article that explains how skills alone don't tell your story. I shared the link to the article below. (It's exceptionally well written with nary a grammatical error or syntactical stumble to be found. I so appreciate good writing!)

https://work.qz.com/1232692/the-resume-of-the-future/

The idea of integrating personality, motivation, inspiration, social conscience, and more into a resume is one that I've espoused since I began this business in 2007. I firmly believe that everyone deserves meaningful work. In my mind, this means that the working environment must also match the job seeker's own values and preferred environment.

By subtly adding language that defines a person - and sometimes not so subtly, but boldly, it all depends - my clients land interviews with companies in which they are more likely to succeed because the company culture matches the person's own preferred style.

What good is a resume that sticks to skills only? At best it only puts the job seeker on par with her competitors. (At its worst, it leaves the job seeker suitable only for those jobs that might be characterized as "low lying fruit.")

Yes, those skills will impress the applicant tracking software systems (ATS), but the same list of skills will inspire only a ho-hum response from the human recruiter. The human reader needs to understand "the why, the how, to what result" context of work. The human reader is best if he finds himself admiring the job seeker's values - commitment to quality, unflagging championing of safety, sustained attention to improvements - as well as the job seeker's methodology.

What's wrong with adding a few words that give the human reader a genuine sense of the applicant's personality, values, motivators, strengths, talents, etc.? 

For resumes that ring with sincerity, beam with earned pride, and inspire with hope as the "perfect" candidate, contact New Leaf Resumes. I'd love to motivate your resume's reader to call you to an interview! newleafresumes@gmail.com

Satisfying Fullness

Yesterday I visited my mother. As usual she cooked up some lunch and I brought the dessert. And although usually I bake, this weekend was exceptionally hot and without air conditioning, I did not want to heat up my home. So I purchased a European style cheesecake at the Kitchener Farmers' Market. (I will note the vendor's name this coming Saturday and post it for those in the Waterloo Region.)

Oh my goodness. Oh my. Oh! It was beyond delicious - creamy, rich, flavourful, absolutely heavenly. My mother and I enjoyed it, small bite by small bite, with nary a word exchanged after the initial oohs and ahhs!

The secret is not in sugar or fake flavours, but rather in the full-fat ingredients. It is fat that makes a meal satisfying, not salt, sugar, or other add-ins. (Do some research and see if I'm not right!)

It got me thinking of resumes, this satisfying nature of a product. (What can I say? My mind finds correlations in the most obscure things!)

I can easily take a three page resume and distill it to a full, savory, filling two pages - without losing necessary information, key words, or context. I know which ingredients satisfy, like fat, and which are nothing but filler fluff.

With this ability, my clients launch successful job searches. See for yourself.

On a side note, the cheesecake transported my mom and me in time, back to the days we lived atop my dad's Queen Street TV store near Niagara Street in Toronto. Now a trendy area, back in the late 1950s it was a transitional ethnic area, full of Ukrainian shop owners, who like my mom and dad, were establishing themselves as Canadians. It was a gift of memory that reminded us of the delicious staples we purchased weekly from Pawych's Meat and Delicatessen. Memories! Yum!

 

Do cover letters really matter?

Today I listened to a webinar offered by US-based National Resume Writers Association. The topic was a recruiter study with 273 responses - including two Canadian sources - from recruiters and hiring managers.

One of the questions, of many (and I plan to address others in the near future), was on the cover letter's importance.

Guess what? As I've been telling clients throughout my 11 years in full-time service, some recruiters will read it, some won't, but you need a good one just in case your dream job's hiring manager does like to read cover letters.

The survey did find out a few interesting points, though. Apparently recruiters/HR hiring managers will read the cover letter IF a) it's targeting the specific job posting AND b) it's not fluff. LOL No definition of fluff was provided, but I'd hazard a guess that if you provide "a)" you're okay and are not being fluffy.

So how do you target the job posting? These ideas have been sourced from the two books as you see on this blog.

1. Customize each letter. I cannot stress this one enough. Match the requirements, echo the company's values, saturate with keywords (hard skills, soft skills and attributes, educational credentials, and employment details).

2. Speak to the decision maker. Every piece of writing, to be effective, must speak to an audience's "buying motivators." (Hint: in hiring, buying motivators are related to the bottom line or to reputation in not-for-profits.) If you don't demonstrate that in the past you've not cost your employers' money, but helped them earn or keep revenues, you're not "selling yourself" and not likely to outperform other interviewees. And yes, the cover letter is an ideal place to sell you as a candidate. Every step of recruitment is about you, as a job seeker, conducting a self-marketing project.

3. Deal with obstacles. I have done this successfully for clients, from those with disabilities to those who job hopped a bit too much. Either be up front and refer to an accommodation that has worked, or turn the perceived obstacle into a great advantage. Perception can be tweaked!

Of course, good grammar and a clear writing style are also necessary.

BTW, you'll find my sample letters in these books! Eleven are now in the Best Canadian Cover Letters series and I have three in the newly published Modernize Your Job Search Letters, a US publication.

TIP: Please check that your cover letter isn't saturated with "I" statements, a common trait of many cover letters. Replace a few with phrases such as "You can count on me to," "Past supervisors will vouch for my (work ethic, ability to ...)."

 

The Strategic Resume

Google tells me that one of the definitions of "strategic" is carefully designed or planned to serve a particular purpose or advantage.

As a Master Certified Resume Strategist through Career Professionals of Canada, this well describes how I compose a resume: I carefully design each client's document to achieve that client's particular purpose. My work gives each client an advantage.

Misconceptions about what a resume is and what it is not continue to plague the job hunter. For great, detailed information, check out Modernize Your Resume, which holds one of my submitted samples. It's one of two resumes that hold a special place in the legacy of my work as they helped two European clients land jobs in Canada in the same field and in a unique geographic region. The clients are friends and their lifelong dream was to do what they did: land jobs in Canada's far north!

But back to strategy. The strategic resume's content is carefully selected, which means that I consider what to include and what to exclude.

Let's say a client who works as an administrative assistant by day wanted to add a seasonal, part-time retail position to fund a special holiday plan. That resume would not speak to filing, emails, creating supportive documents, or using Excel spreadsheets, as these are not part of the retail vocabulary. Rather, I would zero in on transferable skills and knowledge - communication, establishing rapport and building relationships, ability to learn new software (for Point of Sale training), and personal interest in fashion, kitchenware, hardware, whatever the product of interst may be. I'd refer to training in conflict resolution, to proof of productivity in a fast-paced environment, to reliability and stamina perhaps.

Strategy is customized according to the goal. If a client wishes to step out of the ranks and into management, my work is to uncover proof of leadership, which has countless examples - critical thinking, taking calculated risks, making tough decisions, committee membership, etc. Each person has something for me to build on, and I have many ways of unearthing these, if the client him or herself struggles with self-awareness.

If you are looking to make a transition, a strategic resume is critical. Without one, you'll waste your time applying to job after job without making progress. If you need help with this, New Leaf Resumes would love to support your goal!


New Year, New Job? 7 Steps to Ease the Way

Our fellow here may be reacting to stepping on the scale after a final New Year's Eve binge! Along with getting healthy after what seems like non-stop indulgence from Hallowe'en on, many folks consider transtitioning to a new job as a goal for the new year.

Or the fellow may be reacting to the thought of looking for a new position, as a job search can be quite daunting. It's a lot of work, takes a whole lot of time, and many are not sure how to begin, where to begin, what the heck to do! Here are 7 steps that will help.

1. Build your network - Actually, it's best if this one is an ongoing career management tactic as beginning networking just as you start a job search is a bit late for much effect. But, with perhaps 40% - 80% of positions not advertised or secured through networking, it's still worth a try.

2. Define your goal - You cannot get to a destination without a goal. As Alice famously said (the Wonderland Alice), "If you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there." You need to know what kind of job you're going after before you can write your resume, for example. There's no such thing as an effective "general" resume. If your resume doesn't immediately proclaim precisely which position your applying to and support your candidacy with a strong overview of why you're a great fit for that position, it's worthless.

3. Update your resume - Before you make any attempt at networking or applying to job postings, tackle your resume's update. Give yourself a challenge: try to make the content, every line of the resume, address the requirements of your job target. The profile, skills, experience, and education must all bring attention to actual or transferable skills, knowledge, and experience. The tighter your target, the less work you'll need to put in to "tweak" your resume and cover letter as you begin applying.

4. Update your LinkedIn - Not everyone must have a LinkedIn. Teachers do not. Nurses don't. But most professionals do. The LinkedIn profile doesn't replace the resume, at least not yet! But it must build on the same "brand" or message found in your resume and cover letter. An optimzed LinkedIn profile can actually attract recruiters/job openings to you! It's well worth the effort.

5. Know what you're worth - Conduct salary research to be prepared in case you're asked about salary. If the job posting asks you to state your salary expectations, you should do so.

6. Manage your online reputation - Every few months, conduct an internet search on yourself to ensure there is no "digital dirt" hiding in plain sight. Last statistic I read suggested that at least 90% of recruiters conduct such searches of the short listed candidates before selecting interviewees. Don't be out of the running because of a dumb Facebook post or nasty internet comment you forgot to delete.

7. Create an ideal target - Along with knowing the position you're aiming for, it's best to create a target list of companies you'd like to work for. Do you prefer established or start ups? Procedure- or creativity-driven? Traditional or fun environments? Will you commute or not? Does the company need to be green, ethical, have a community responsibility vibe?

This step will eliminate the work of applying to too many openings! Remember, it's a lot of work to apply to job postings; narrowing overly-wide options is a great time saver. Spend your time customizing each resume and cover to positions you want in companies you admire.

And there you go! You're all ready to launch your search. If you need more help, consider engaging a professional service to further ease your way into a new job, doing what you love, in a company you admire, and earning what you know you're worth! Happy New Year to all!

p.s. pop the phrase "applicant tracking system" into the search window to the right to make sure your resume is meeting these requirements"

Attention HR and Interviewees: Great Behavioural Interview Questions

I have some wonderful clients. Once client, let's call her Monique, stays in touch and sends me random info or updates. She is a true networker. Her name stays in my mind even though it's been about two years since I revamped her job search documents.

Last week she sent a LinkedIin message to share an interesting new group. You'll find it at www.disrupthr.co. I've long said that the recruitment process is broken and this group is setting out to improve recruitment. I'll see if I can join one of the sessions in the future, out of curiousity.

And then Monique shared with me a site she found with great samples of interview questions. Meant for the recruiter, they are excellent behavioural questions. And, I can actually see how someone being interviewed could use this info to his or her benefit, which I will be sharing with interview coaching clients.

You'll find the list at this URL: http://www.va.gov/pbi/questions.asp

Exciting News to Share

September was an excellent month for recognition of my work, and I would love to share the two stories with you.

I have belonged to Career Professionals of Canada since 2007. As a fledgling writer, in my very first year as a full time, self-employed resume strategist, I was recognized with four awards - three for resume categories and one for professional contributions. Although I skipped a few years, not submitting any resumes for adjudication, since that time, I have earned another five awards for both resumes and employment interview coaching.

This year I once again won the best technical resume category. I am grateful for having my work recognized.

 

The second story again begins in 2007 when I submitted a technical resume to an opportunity to have a resume included in a soon to be published U.S. book, "Directory of Professional Resume Writers" (published by JIST Works and written and compiled by Louise Kursmark). Still a newbie, I fought with myself for a few days, alternating arguments of  "who do you think you are?" with "if you don't try you won't know." Thankfully the optimistic voice won out and my sample was accepted as one of only 40 or so resumes in the book

Since that time, Louise and Wendy Enelow, who often partner on projects, have been the source of more opportunities. I've had my resume samples included in their training packages and had a resume included in their first major publication, Modernize Your Resume (early 2016).

Early last week I learned that three of my cover letters were accepted into their next publication, Modernize Your Job Search Letters, due out in December. Here's part of the email content:

We are delighted to tell you that we’ve chosen to feature your work in our upcoming book, MODERNIZE YOUR JOB SEARCH LETTERS: Get Noticed … Get Hired.

Our decision was not easy because we received about 4X the number of letters we could publish! We made our selections based on your creative approach, powerful language, and spot-on strategy for the letter(s) that we will be featuring.

I have to admit that the recognition is important to me. I love to write and I am thrilled that my work  significantly impacts my clients' job searches.

Along with hearing back from clients with individual success stories, the recognition from impartial sources, industry leaders, also validates my efforts, reassuring me that my ongoing training - reading, self-study, webinars, conferences - is well worth it.

Thank you for letting me share! With gratitude, Stephanie

Interview Follies

I've heard it said that the job search is a numbers game. I believe it was Tony Beshara in the Job Search Solution.

It's not enough to send one resume; you must send many. You can't count your success just because you are prepping for two interviews; you must keep applying, as a recent client confided.

My client emailed: "

Wrapped up my interviews (whew). I did well but not sure that I am what they are looking for. One job isn't what they advertised (they are basically looking for a graphic designer) and the other, well the manager who interviewed me was totally disorganised, and made it pretty clear that i wasn't what she was looking for but she wanted to meet me (and then proceeded to read through my resume and writing samples while I sat there)."

I cannot justify why a job posting would claim the department is looking for a Manager of Digital Marketing when the team needs a graphic designer. It doesn't make sense from any point of view.

The second scenario I can explain to some degree. Perhaps there were few good candidates and the recruiter expanded the parameters so that at least five or so candidates could be interviewed. It's a bit of a "job security" strategy.

Sure it's not fair, but it's reality. And hey, it gave my client an opportunity to practice her interview skills (once the manager read through her submission).

It's a similar case with resumes. Not all land in bonafide opportunities. Some jobs are already pegged for an internal (or external) candidate, but to meet corporate policy, the recruitment process must be adhered to. Other job postings are ongoing recruitments for job pools or positions with exceptional turnover; you might hear in six months and you might not hear at all. Others may be "fishing expeditions" by companies who want to see what kind of talent exists out there.

Such is the way of recruitment. Unless you want to don a cape and take on the role of crusading for reform, there's no point in getting upset. Remember that recruitment is a numbers game and keep on going!

Of course, if you are not landing any interviews at all, perhaps you need a champion in your corner. If so, New Leaf would be honoured to work on your behalf.

The value of keeping your resume up-to-date

I am currently working with a digital marketing professional. She contacted me about a month ago. We've been taking our time with her resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile as she wasn't expecting to begin her job search for awhile yet.

You probably see where this story is going. Yesterday Joanne, as I'll name her, emailed that in a downsizing exercise, she was one of several to be let go.

With a new career portfolio well under way to completion - we're just finalizing tweaks - Joanne can skip the panic associated with updating an outdated resume, without which networking or a job hunt cannot begin.

Did you know that September is International Update Your Resume Month?

I've had other, potential clients, who contacted me a day or two before the close of their dream job posting, which they'd just noted online, panicked to get something together so as not to lose the opportunity.

Given that I prebook, sometimes up to two months in advance (and other times able to take a new client immediately - there's no predictability in resume writing), that quick a turnaround is impossible.

It's also impossible as quality work takes time. Gathering the information and composing a strategic resume, and other self-marketing documents, is perhaps equal parts analytical and creative efforts. I won't charge good money for a slap-dash, mediocre effort, and thus I have to turn them away.

Here is a list to get you started on your resume update, as per my own list of potentail sources of great resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile content.

- performance reviews

- talent, skills, personality, leadership, 360 feedback, and other assessments

- emails of thanks, awards of recognition, informal "attaboy/attagirl" corporate motivation strategies

- job postings: existing and new job prospects

- your "brag" or "me" professional file that hopefully you are compiling on a regular  basis

In addition, I often request that clients complete a homework questionnaire. (This helps me build the resume, but also prepares the client for a job interview.)

That's the list of documents my clients share with me before I begin working with them. And after I review their documents, I prepare more questions and conduct an intake interview that takes from 45 minutes to 1.5 hours.

I ask questions until I have the details that I know I can spin into gold on their behalf. No lying, no exaggeration, no embelishment, just an objective perspective and an expert's eye on how to showcase each client's skills in action.

How's your resume these days? Outdated, not touched in 10 years, lost in a computer crash, still on paper? Don't wait and risk applying to your dream job with a sad, neglected resume that gets you nowhere rather than a strong, competition-busting resume that lands you an interview, get on it now.

After all, your earnings, pride, family security, comfort, and happiness are often tightly linked to your career.

If you need help, give me a shout! Email me at newleafresumes@gmail.com.

 

 

Musings on a Resume with Wings

When a client returns to me for a resume update, I have each complete a catch-up questionnaire to begin the process.

A recent client wrote this in his homework questionnaire:

"Work willingly at whatever you do as though you were working for the Lord." (Colossians 3:23)

This was in response to my question "Do you have a quote by which you live?" It sure explains this client's amazing ability to conduct his work on his employer's behalf. His resume gently proclaims his exceptional performance.

Now, I am no longer a religious person, but I remain a strongly spiritual one. I believe, to the core of my being, in the existence of God. My God happens to be non-denominational and I'm quite willing to accept that in God's heart,each faith and denomination are equal, and even those who proclaim to be agnostic, still welcome in Heaven. (My proof comes from a personal experience and no amount of religious dogma will ever sway my conviction. Besides which, my logical brain will not accept the argument that one denomination has it "right" at the expense of all others.)

Today I read Seth Godin's blog, which speaks to the marketing dilemma of shouting louder as in more ads, using more power, vs taking a lighter touch and a more elegant approach by using wings.

And some of his words - Wings use finesse more than sheer force ... Wings work with the surrounding environment, not against it. Wings are elegant, not brutal - spoke to me. Stay with me as I muse aloud.

As a job hunt is a self-marketing exercise, I find many parallels between advertising and my work. I help sell not products, but skills and knowledge. In writing people's resumes, I have to connect their work to the bottom line. In order to get a prospective employer to pay attention, my client's resume must demonstrate how his or her productivity and performance helped in the chase for revenue creation and retention.

However, my constitution bristles, at times, on this results-focused, money-dependant attitude. I know that business depends on profits, but more and more we hear how employers are looking for employees that "fit the culture." Values that come through in personality, motivation, and methodology ... these are equally important (or should be, I would suggest).

For many years I have ensured that each client's ideal employer's values are refelcted on the resume. I want to help each client not only land "a job," but a great-fit job! That way the client is more likely to succeed and to be happy.

Yes, it means that some employers will pass my client by when they note a discrepancy between my client's values and their own, but that's fine! Another and more suitable employer will select my client's resume for an interview, sensing some sort of connection, as well as appreciating the client's skills, knowledge, and proof of productivity and performance.

I feel that adding touches that are super-authentic to the client adds the wings as described by Seth Godin. The "heaviness" that I sense from the focus on "bottom" line results is balanced with the lightness that comes from infusing the values that bring the client joy and give his or her work wings.

Is your resume flawed ... or could it be your perspective?

As a young person, I was often certain that I was right. Now on the wiser side of life, I am quick to consider that I may have something to learn, or at least another point of view to consider. (I find that age, or perhaps wisdom, has drastically reduced my need to  almost always be right. There is something to be said for ageing!)

I realize now that I simply didn't know what I didn't know back then, and didn't even know to consider that something might change my perspective and my mind. Today, however, I seek to discover whether there is something I don't know that could change my mind.

Consider optimism. I am an optimist.

I like the perspective my "rose-coloured" glasses provide, but I am quick to point out that my optimism is tempered with realism.  Seth Godin's blog of the day, The possibility of optimism, adds another layer of consideration to optimism and I quite like it.

Imagine that your resume has not worked for you, that it has not landed any calls or interviews. Based on that track record, you might feel pessimistic about your prospects. However, you've based your sad assumption on the past, that is, your past/existing knowledge of resumes, cover letters, and perhaps LinkedIn strategies.

What if, as Seth points out, you acknowledge that yes, your pessimism was appropriate according to the past, but that yes, optimism may be appropriate in the future?

To quote Seth:

As soon as we realize that there is a difference between right now and what might happen next, we can move ourselves to the posture of possibility, to the self-fulfilling engine of optimism.

I have paraphrased this quote to capture the experience of a thus far unsuccessful job hunter (I will refer to my job hunter as a male in this sentence):

As soon as the struggling job hunter admits that his knowledge of resume strategy may be outdated and less-than effective, he can move himself to the posture of possibility, that is, to seek out a career-fulfilling, optimism-inspiring, modern and effective resume.

Here's another way to approach this: a few job hunters landed an interview for the job you applied to. You know you are qualified, so all things being equal, what's the differentiating factor?

It's in the written word: the successful person used it wisely and the unsuccessful one did not.

The question you must answer is whether you want to be right and potentially jeopardize your career to remain right (and pessimistic), or whether you might be ready to explore a new perspective and embrace realistic, optimistic possibility?

Tooting My Own Horn

There was a time when I worked evenings and weekends, rarely passing up the opportunity to land a new client. Part of the motivation was financial, as building a business has lots of ups and downs for what seems to be a long time, but part was simply because I have a bit of a competitive edge to me!

Today, however, I cannot land every person who reaches out to me as I am simply too busy and receive too many inquiries. I think that there are several reasons why I attract potential clients.

The first is my 10-year track record as a full-time career services provider. In this decade, I built a clientele of thousands and many return for resume updates and refer family, friends, and co-workers.

But lots of businesses do not survive past the first or second year.

I attribute a great deal of my success to the fact that I embrace a "high touch" customer service ethic.

Most clients work with me virtually: we never meet other than in emails or telephone calls. I feel it's important that they have confidence in me as a reliable, trust-worthy partner; hence, I reply to emails as quickly as I can and correspond generously.

Here is a list of what my clients can expect:

- I answer each and every email. If I don't, please email again. Occasionally folks provide me with an address that has a typo (email generated from my website) and I am unable to reply. Sometimes, rarely, but I am human, an email gets buried and I simply forget. Know that I want to be supportive and responsive, not avoidant.

- I also reply to voice mails, typically on the same day.

- I like to surprise repeat clients with a little something - a discount or the odd "freebie."

- I've yet to miss a deadline. If we agree to a date, you can bank on it. Now I did have a colleague for whom I took a last minute client when she ended up in the hospital. I don't promise I'll write from the hospital if this happens to me, but, like my colleague, I'll try to find a replacement! (Knock on wood, I am from hardy stock!)

- I support my clients with loads of additional info - white papers or "how to's" on all kinds of job search topics. Many of these have helped my clients distinguish themselves from the competition and land great jobs, overcoming obstacles like ageism, no Canadian experience, no relevant experience, a gap due to maternity or paternity leave, and more.

- I won't argue with my client. If I disagree, I will share my knowledge and recommend a "best practice" option, and then I, of course, allow my client to make the final decision. After all, the documents do belong to the client who must share them in full confidence. If something doesn't feel right to the client, then by all means, s/he has the right to proceed as s/he prefers.

I often say that I have the best clients. In 10 years few have elected to not pay, perhaps five, and hundreds have sent referrals. I've "fired" only one client out of more than a thousand.

I'm grateful for my clients - for what I've learned, for what they've shared, for how I've been able to be helpful. My job is rewarding and sustaining.

The Importance of Continuing Education in Today's Recruitment

I've been called a "knowledge junkie" by a colleague! Yes, if there's a hot-topic course coming up in my community of private career practitioners, you can almost bet I'm registered.

Last month I took (online) courses to get updated on LinkedIn, ATS, and SEO in the job search. And because I am both a resume writer and small business owner, the last two (onsite) workshops have been more about business.

Last week, for example, I travelled to Toronto to learn "how to write killer web copy." I'm ready to do some website rewrites and updates. And I'm fresh from attending a Monday morning Facebook event, #shemeansbusiness. 

The photo is of me at the event. They had a "photo booth," without a booth, and with state-of-the-art equipment took a mug shot, emailed it to me, and handed me a print photo as well, all in about 60 seconds or less. Amazing.

Continuing education is important not only to me as a service provider, self employed, but also to your employers, however small or large, simple or complex, local or international. As work, products, and services evolve at break-neck speed (that's how fast it feels at times), so too must our skills and knowledge improve and increase.

Those job hunters whose resumes demonstrate a continual evolution of skills are more likely to get short-listed for interviews than those who finished their formal education and then let their education stop.

Sometimes clients claim they haven't had time or just didn't think of it. But, it's never too late to start! I often make recommendations in continuing ed to clients who either need to fill a gap in bonafide skills or who would benefit from pursuing a related designation.

Here are a few ideas to populate the Education and Professional Development section of your resume:

1. In-house training. Lots of employers offer in-house workshops and maybe you've taken a few? Rather than titles - if irrelevant - list the category. Communication, Leadership, Report Writing can cross many fields.

2. Self-taught. Do you wait eagerly for the next book, do you head straight for university bookstores when travelling, or do you stay on top of your field of study in some other way - professional associations, conferences? A simple list the books you've been reading either on your field of knowledge or on business, leadership, communication will speak volumes to a passion for your work.

3. Sign up - NOW! There are tons of on-line courses, some free, some inexpensive and some expensive and fully accredited. Sure, a Harvard education is important to some employers, but to most, where you have chosen to study is less important to the fact that you did choose to study. Try Udemy, Great Courses, OntarioLearn.com for starters.

If you're not sure what to study, ask your boss, ask a friend with a history of promotions, ask a manager you've connected with on LinkedIn, or ask a career coach! But don't let uncertainty stop you.

It's your career to manage after all. If you do nothing, guess what? Ain't nothin' gonna happen is my prediction. No step up the career ladder for the ambitious, no lateral move made easy if you find yourself let go, no transferability if you find your job obsolete, and no dream job for those who dare to dream.

If tomorrow the bottom dropped out of resume writing, I have tons of skills to leverage to find a job. How about you?

Conducting Resume Research

I am writing this blog not in my office, as per usual, but in the dining room where the room is flooded by sunshine. As a bit of a sun worshipper - not for the tan but for the vitamin D and mood-boost - it's a lovely way to switch up the routine.

And for whatever reason, as I considered a few blog options, the idea of what needs to be gathered to compose a solid resume came to mind and I loved it!

I recall a time, long before I launched my business 10 years ago, sitting in front of a computer and not knowing what I should write for my resume! Without training, I was lost. Today knowledge is at your fingertips - too much and sometimes confusing, admittedly.

Hopefully some of your own research on how to write a good resume has included info on how to prep for this otherwise daunting task. Here's my process.

Before I compose a client's resume, I will gather all or some of the following:

  • existing resume or resumes for a skeleton outline of the client's work history
  • cover letters the client has written as these often contain nuggets worth including in the resume and also provide me with insight into the client's writing style, which I will emulate to some degree
  • performance reviews, if available, as some are excellent sources of major projects, ongoing training, the skills important to the job, and the skills the client excels in
  • a client questionnaire that asks the client to flesh out details such as projects, assignments, committees, recognition, problems solved, contributions made
  • an intake interview that follows my review of all of the above, asks many more questions, and takes an hour to an hour and a half - and sometimes ends with a wee bit more homework for the client!

A recent client exceeded a long-held record of 70 pages of information gathered; along with the four pages her intake interview generated at my end (I type with fury!), she shared more than 80 pages. I am certainly glad that most clients send only 10 to 20 pages, otherwise I would be spending a lot more time preparing, and I already spend from 45 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the client's role, number of positions held, and whether s/he is a new grad or executive.

This level of info is critical for me. Depending on the client - entry level or executive - I won't take on a project in which the client is unwilling to commit to providing me with info. After all, I cannot conjure up specific-to-the-client details out of thin air. I won't lie and it's best not to assume more than the most basic details that are common to certain positions.

(An entry level client's resume doesn't require the pre-interview questionnaire, but an exec-level definitely does as positions at that level are distinct in accountability and expectations.)

It's important that you gather info before writing your own resume. Sure, it's your career and you figure the info is in your head, but it's amazing how much we forget, how a bit of pressure seems to erase ideas and details, and how lack of detail diminishes a resume's strength and influence.

Try this test. Remove your identifying info - name, address, email, etc. If the content now could be used by almost anyone applying for the position, or by almost anyone with a similar background, your resume will not distinguish you from your competition. You've got to include singular information, details that speak to YOUR achievements and impact, language that defines your personality, motivation, methodology, strengths, and talents. Without that level of content your resume will continue its sad journey through many applicant tracking systems, generating not a ripple of interest.

For those who see value in engaging the services of a trained professional, do consider New Leaf Resumes.

P.S. I am also active on Facebook. I'd be thrilled if you wandered over, checked it out, and "liked"my page!

 

Empowering All Through Career Management

The photo is one of me, conquering my fear of heights while scaling Mount Benson in Nanaimo, B.C. Although that time I didn't make it to the top, I did make it a third of the way up and one day I WILL make it to the top, and back down again. It's the return that is scariest as that's when you see how high you are and how far you can fall. But I am determined.

Today a LinkedIn connection, Sunitha Narayanan, a Career Coach based in Cinncinati, challenged me to reply to a question posed on LinkedIn. She wrote:

"So, I am borrowing the ice bucket challenge concept and calling out to Linda Tefend, CMF, Morgan O'Donnell. Katherine (Kit) Prendergast and Stephanie Clark BA, MCRS, MRW to respond to the What If Wednesday post by PROMARK Company. Ladies, I am counting on you! Thanks."

And I replied:

"I love TED talks - what an honour that would be and how lovely to daydream about this "What if" scenario! Thank you Sunitha Narayanan!

I would talk about career management - resume, tracking accomplishments, specific tactics to take at work, interviewing - the whole kit and caboodle of proactively, honestly, authentically, whole-heartedly managing one's career.

No tricks, no pretense, no putting anyone else down, as I don't like that, but easy-to-use ideas that empower the average working person and contribute to his/her sense of worth, and also while respecting others.

Thank you again, Sunitha Narayanan for challenging me to this - it was rewarding to put my thoughts into words!"

That is what I am about; that is what I strive for when serving my clients. It feels good to see it in print! If you have a career challenge that you want to conquer, I'd love to be of service.

Giving Job Search Advice to an Engineer

About five years ago I adopted a new personal mantra: do NOT give advice. A few pieces of "advice" I'd given family members had not panned out quite as I thought they would, and although nothing bad happened, the spectre of a bad outcome lurked in the shadows, making me aware that I'd dodged getting over-involved that time, but I should not tempt fate.

(It reminds me, too, of a time when I took a curve very quickly, too quickly, and almost lost control of my car. I was young at the time, but I realized that I'd best not tempt fate and never did that again.)

Every once in a while it seems that I am tested. Have I truly stopped "giving advice"? And this case, the test of resolve came in the form of an email from an engineer in another country:

I am an Industrial Engineer with around 10 years of experience in the manufacturing field, I have always been working in the field of Continuous Improvement, and I must admit that I feel stuck doing the same thing for so long. Actually, now I have the opportunity to study in Canada (I am from - name of country) and eventually migrate and work there. My big doubt is, should I continue my studies in my field in order to take advantage of my vast experience? or should I study another thing that I am more passionate about and start from scratch in the canadian workplace? I really hope you can help me out to dissipate this doubt. Thank you!

I removed the name of the country simply to ensure that no one could jump to any conclusions.

There is no way that I would  give potentially bad advice or suggestions that could be misunderstood. Here's my reply:

An interesting question, but not one that I could answer for you - that's a large responsibility that could have life-altering consequences, which is a responsibility that I would not take on.

But I can offer a few questions that you could ask yourself that may lead you to a decision.

1. What is this more passionate path that calls to you, and what is the usefulness of this new career within the Canadian context? You could set up a job search (using an aggregate job board, perhaps, like Indeed.ca) for Canadian jobs with the job title of that exciting field that is calling you. You can narrow it down to a geographic location as well. This would give you some hard data and this knowledge may help you decide to stick with the tried and true or to strike out for the new.

2. As you conduct this study, explore too the salary expectations, if earnings are a consideration or concern. Conducting research for both - your current and your proposed - will give you an indication of salary ranges, perfect for contrasting job a with lots of experience and job b as a newbie in that role. Here's a link to Canadian salary information:

http://www.jobbank.gc.ca/wage-outlook_search-eng.do?reportOption=wage

And once here and ready to look for your first position on Canadian ground, if you need a professional's help with the resume, I would love to be of service! Exciting times for you!

The closest I get to advice is "reasoned and seasoned suggestions, tips, and insights."

I am making an effort to build my Facebook readers. If you're so inclined, please check out my FB posts, and if you like what you read there, please do follow! Thank you.

The Number One Issue with Cover Letters

I write tons of cover letters. Each client's basic package includes a cover letter, and oftentimes professional and executive level clients return for additional, highly customized versions.

And I see a lot of "before" version cover letters, those written by the client. There is one issue I see in these that would be easy to fix. It actually surprises me that the job hunters themselves don't see this as the overuse of the personal pronoun "I" pops out from the page immediately.

Yes, way too many references to "I." In a current client's cover letter I counted 16 sentences that began with "I."

You might be tempted to ascribe this to an overabundance of personal pride or even boasting, but I can vouch for this client and say that she is not at all puffed up with pride. She is quite a down-to-earth, normal sort.

I think that it's more a case of not knowing how to compose  or proofread effectively.

Here are a few ideas on how to clean up your cover letter's "I's."

  • Switch up the order of the sentence, moving the "I" within the sentence structure. (As a productive team member, I've been known to ...Delegation is integral to my methodology, and I further support successful outcomes with mentoring.)
  • Let one of your colleagues begin the sentence. (Recently a colleague mentioned something I've been told before: You are the most organized person I know."
  • Give credit to your team and let it take centre stage for a sentence or two. (My team, of whom I am quite proud, are reliable, consistent, and productive, for example, rising to the challenge of meeting a critical timeline with time to spare for not only one, but two run-throughs. We delivered what is now called "the smoothest lauch" in the company's history.)
  • Integrate the opinion of industry experts you follow. (In October's issue of The Economist, author --- cited statistics that back up my own methodology ...)

Those four ideas will help you remove several "I" sentences. As for my clients new cover letter? Not one sentence begins with "I."

Staying Positive in the Job Search

It seems to me that each time I read a career-related article lately, it laments a group's limited, dwindling, or seriously compromised prospects in securing employment.

Women have trouble getting ahead, new Canadians struggle to land jobs in their fields, young people cannot gain traction, and in this weekend's Globe Careers the title reads "The plight of the middle-aged white guy."

Apparently no one is landing jobs or is happily, productively employed.

Obviously I am exaggerating and the articles all have sound statistics to back up the proposed premise. But one cannot help but wonder how so many sectors struggle.

My suggestion is to not allow yourself to dwell on the many limitations and restrictions that might impede your job search; rather, keep those rose coloured glasses firmly perched on your nose and to quote a popular British saying, Stay Calm and Carry On.

Along with the above-mentioned demographic challenges, my clients often admit to feeling "less than" due to any number of challenges related to having "enough" education, experience, skills, knowledge ...

Truth is, many people achieve than 100% employability perfection - however one defines this word. Nonetheless, Canada is built on a strong workforce and there are many young people, old people, new Canadians, women, and "middle-aged white guys" gainfully employed.

Yes, there are strategies that one can and should use to overcome barriers to employment - for one's own self-confidence as well as a way to get beyond flaws in perception of perfection. If you need help with these, New Leaf would love to be of service. We balance our rose-coloured optimism with practical steps.

If you're in a job search, it's a good idea to ignore those "dooms-day" articles that tell you why you might not land a job. You can choose to join the ranks of successful job hunters. Let New Leaf show you how!