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?

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, 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?

Post-Interview Wait-a-thon

A client this week lamented on the lack of post-interview manners (on the part of recruiters, alas!). Like being ignored after a date that "seemed to go well but who really knows because s/he hasn't called and it's been a week," being ignored after an interview feels awful, especially if you felt it went well.

The parallels between dating and job hunting are interesting. You put your best face on for both, you stick to safe subjects (maybe no religion or politics on the first date/interview), and then you wait.  A recent Globe Careers article, "Interviewed for a job? Prepare to wait" speaks to the hoops job hunters must be prepared to jump through in today's recruitment process. One line in particular jumped out at me: "... following up within 24 to 48 hours remains critical. Write a personal e-mail to each interviewer, keeping in mind that they may compare notes."

Yup! I agree. To capitalize on the opportunity to pen a potentially tie-breaking email wait until after the interview to see if there's a specific topic or question that requires clarification or amplification. (I had a client who admitted to snail mailing thank you notes BEFORE her interview, hence this clarification on the timing.)

When clients ask for my input, I offer the following ideas:

- a short but specific email is preferred to a generic, cliche-ridden one. Skip the reference to "insightful questions" in favour of "wow, I loved the question about how I handled a Help Desk disaster, and after thinking about it on my way home, it reminded me about the time I ..." You can see how this approach allows you to add valuable info that provides insight into your skills, knowledge, and value in this new position.

- write a separate email to the HR rep and the hiring manager. Each has a different agenda or "buying motivator," and thus your email message to each may differ.

- whenever you're writing a message that you want to be influential, you must account for the recipient's "buying motivator." (Google that! Business buying motivators usually relate to the bottom line: saving money, earning money, saving reputation, earning reputation, etc.)

And if and when they compare emails, rather than identical content, they will have messages that although customized to each reader, build trust by building your brand, reinforcing the overriding message that you are a great recruit.

Marie Burns of TalentAmp of Boston, the recruiter who in this article voiced the opinion of writing emails within a 2-day period, went on to say: "not writing a thank you can lose you the job."

Powerful reason to make the post-interview thank you email a routine in your job search strategy.

A new job in a new city

We are such a mobile society! My husband and I have moved across Canada and back. Once living in Nanaimo, we're back in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario. And we know of others who have similary criss-crossed or hop-scotched across Canada.

Recently I've had a few clients who are not only looking for a new position, but are also relocating, from Quebec City, for example, to Toronto and from Montreal to New York! In the past I've certainly had clients moving to Canada - from New Zealand, Switzerland, Germany, Ireland, the U.S., Saudi Arabia and so on.

It's a bit trickier to both find a new job and move, but there are a few strategies for making this an easier, faster transition. Consider the following:

1. Your self-marketing materials must be strong as anything less than remarkable, when considered along with the need to move, won't make the cut. Your documents must spell out compelling value to overcome this potential obstacle and make it a non-issue. This is not the time to go with mediocrity.

2. Be open about where you live. Yes, you heard me. It's not about covering up, hiding, confusing; it's about being open and explaining. A short explanation is all that's needed to quell worries about you changing your mind and not moving at all after accepting an offer. I like to add a P.S. to the cover letter, stating, for example, "My family and I are eager to relocate and have been planning this move, closer to extended family, for a few years."(The reason must be truthful and could be "to move to our dream province" or "to ski more than two months a year" etc. Keep in mind that there are factors to consider in being both truthful and strategic!)

Sometimes I tackle this in the cover letter's first sentence, for example: "You'll see by my phone exchange that I am not a local resident, however, I soon will be. My moving date is set for July 31st and I'll be in my new home, ready to work, by August 7. My new number is 555.555.1212."

Oftentimes I will add a little something in the resume as well, so that if the cover letter is not read, or if the resume is read first (as is often the case), there is still a reference to the relocation. It has worked well for my clients!

3. Please don't lie as you will surely be found out and if you've lied once, the recruiter or hiring team may wonder if you lied more than once. New hires have been let go for lies of any kind. Be open, show eagerness, and be happy to let what happens, happen. (Over-controlling any situation usually leads to disaster - if not immediately, with time, and this seems to be as true in recruitment as in relationships!)

It's also useful, and not only when relocating, to make a list of suitable employers and proactively introduce yourself. Again, mediocre documents or a mumble-jumbled "elevator pitch" won't cut it. You've got to be clear on your value and you've got to distinguish yourself - absolutely essential!

Instead of emailing a resume, a resu-letter or intro letter and key project profile would be different and thus, intriguing. Well written documents can overcome hesitation by drawing the reader in with info that totally speaks to employer needs (think performance as it relates to productivity and profits).

Lots of ideas on how to make things happen here! Happy moves, whether career, home, or both!

Top Jobs 2015

This weekend I read an article written by Russell Smith of The Globe and Mail. Titled "Who needs nagging parents when there's CareerCast?" it takes a dim look on CareerCast's scoring system of "desireable jobs." I quite enjoyed the article as Mr. Smith did a fine job of drawing a parallel between CareerCast's approach and a nagging parent's admonishments to "Do something a little more practical, call your cousin who works for that high tech firm, they pay well there" and other nagging bits of "advice." (I'll let you read it to see how he incorporated "tiger-striped spandex zentai suit" into the article!)

The jobs selected were scored points for income, environment, and stress. Apparently Newspaper Reporter scored low because of "negative growth outlook," which means that opportunities are shrinking. Because of physical danger, military personnel, corrections officer, and photojournalist also ranked in the bottom ten! (Obviously the scoring system was biased. I sure hope that impressionable folk don't get turned away from a job they'd love just because of such a post!)

CareerCast is a job search site, not a scientific research organization; their articles are meant to attract visitors. But Smith was not impressed!

Smith does make a good point, and that is that jobs, vocations, careeers, lifelong pursuits cannot be made according to someone else's scoring system. My own job, Professional Resume Writer, may also score low as there is no real opportunity for advancement, the pay is not as good as a lovely government job, it's really lonely working in one's office all day, and one really never knows when the next client will book. Lots of uncertainty, no security, but no danger!

The article brings to mind how I love when a client comes to me with a new direction, one that really excites them. I've had a few recently. A couple of reorganized executives, who, just shy of 60 have decided to take this opportunity to redirect their talents into an area that makes them feel fulfilled - into not-for-profits.

Another client was so very impressed by the care her dad received as he lost his battle to cancer, that she is now working her way through an online college program in medical admininstration so that she, too, can join a group of professionals whose work has deep meaning to her. She's already getting into the environment with a volunteer position.

You know that old saying about working at something you love and you won't work a day in your life? It's so true. I am at my desk by 8am most mornings, barely take breaks (my husband has to remind me!), and find deep meaning in helping people establish, grow, or completely change their careers!

Making a Major Career Move

A current client, let's call her Jackie, is asking wonderful questions. Without giving away any telling details (client confidentiality of course!) let me say that this client is a rennaissance woman, one of those people who have talents, interests, and a learning capacity that leave most of us speechless!

Today she asked about making a career transition. Although she has the capacity for Human Resource management, for example, she does not have HR-specific credentials. I agreed with her that going too far outside the scope of one's background - credentials, experience, skills - is not a move easily made.

After all, competition is tough and competing against well experienced, fully credentialed candidates does not bode well for an interview. Besides, it's experts who are paid well, so making some transitions would require a big dip in earnings if not a return to school. Sure, that's a possible decision, and one more likely made if you have a passion and hunger for that new role.

Here are Jackie's ideas for making a major career switch:

  • Work in the field or company you want to be in, and work yourself towards your dream job
  • Work in the position you want to be in, in another field, and this may land you a job in that position in the field you want to be in
  • Work with the mentor you want to ultimately work with, who has a lot of connections and can help you grow on a personal and business level so that you land a job in the field and position you want to be in

All good. And here are my additions:

  • Take courses - in class, online, formal or informal, or conduct self study - to demonstrate your commitment to this switch.
  • Set up a website or blog, to again, demonstrate your interest in, insights into, knowledge of the new field. Jackie shared an example of a friend who transitioned from a non-arts related field into professional photographer with this very strategy. And I suggested this to a client determined to be recognized as a children's author.
  • Website or blog too much? Join LinkedIn groups related to your new goal and begin posting comments, links to articles, suggesting books or other study materials, and buiding a professional presence. Recruiters reliably "google" candidate names before selecting the ones to interview, and this activity will build credibility (and if executed well, impress!).

Jackie and I finished our conversation with her remarkable story of how she came to Canada. After a visit, she was determined to come here to live and work. She set her intentions, set a date, and with full confidence began to work towards it. She gave notice to her employer as her departure date crept closer, purchased plane tickets, and patiently waited for her work visa, which arrived the day prior to her scheduled departure!

Wait, there's one more fact you must know and it will make you wonder: Jackie also landed a Canadian job offer prior to departing!

There you have it! Both practical and hauntingly mystical methods to making major career transitions!


What not to say when interviewing for your dream job!

I like to see what other blogs write about, and these often spur an idea of my own, which is precisely how today's blog evolved.

Although all 30 points are good, the one below reminded me of a client from years ago. (To read the article go to 30 Things You Should Never Say in a Job Interview.)

23. “What the hell!”

You’d think not swearing is Interviewing 101, but you’d be surprised how often people still do it. Even if your interviewer drops a few S- or F-bombs, you’re better off keeping your language PG.

Some years ago I worked with a Toronto-based headhunter, who has now changed vocations, but who back then recruited candidates for top Canadian employers, among these a well-known furniture store (the one that has the best commercials)! This company doesn't recruit much as turnover is low. It's an awesome place to work!

The headhunter sent a client my way for a strategic resume and cover letter, a young woman who was quite talented in terms of bringing value to the workplace, with quantifiable accomplishments. I gathered these, created her resume and cover letter, and you guessed it, she landed an interview.

And promptly blew this awesome opportunity by swearing in the interview!

My recruiter friend even got a call from the company's hiring manager, wondering what he was thinking, sending over a candidate that clearly did not fit the company's ideal staff profile.

Funny thing was, she dropped no bombs in our conversations, or I would have alerted her that she must not swear in an actual interview, nor did she swear when conversing with my friend the headhunter.

Go figure. Opportunity of a lifetime lost to poor judgement.

Contemplating Life and Career Changes

As the days grow shorter and darkness deepens, I find myself in a quiet state of mind. My thoughts turn to assessing the past and planning the future.(I love this photo of me nestled between the behemoth trees on Vancouver Island - it feels contemplative.)

Another year is soon gone and the new year, full of promise, hope, and possibility, beckons.

My introspection received a jolt from a book I just finished reading and am immediately re-reading, Anita Moorjani's "Dying to be Me." Aside from retelling her unbelievable, but fully documented return from death's door brought on by an advanced stage of cancer, the author's journey to the realm we might call "heaven" or "nirvana" or (insert your version of an afterlife) and what she perceived there is the more jarring aspect of this story.

I won't try to tell you what she returned to share, as I won't do it justice. But I will say that the way culture, religion, society and family impacted my life are being challenged! In a good way, a healthy way, in my opinion.

It's an amazing read, not daunting, not difficult, but compelling. I highly recommend it.

One thing the author says that I will share is her perception that we look too often outside ourselves for the answers. We read books, rely on talk shows, look to so-called experts, when all the while the answer resides within us. We need to relearn how to look within for answers to our big questions. Questions regarding love, our life's purpose, and yes, our careers!

If you cannot stand Sunday evening because it means you have to return to a job you hate on Monday, a job that drains your energy, batters your soul, and is likely hastening ill health, then you must pay attention! I did this about nine years ago, and gave up a corporate paycheque/pension/security for a fulfilling career as a resume writer.

I'll share a secret with you: many of my clients change their minds after working with me! Yes! Once they see their work well defined on paper, some decide that they have so much expertise to offer that they go into their own business! And others see that a well crafted resume gets results and this empowers them to begin reaching higher in their careers, establishing loftier goals, surpassing their self-limiting beliefs, striving to break through their own glass ceilings.

That's what I love about my work. It can have implications far beyond "getting a job." It allows people to dream, dream big, and supports career change and transitions.

I hope that each of you takes time to assess whether your job or career, where you spend so many hours of so many days, is fulfilling. If it doesn't fill your being with gratitude and anticipation, might I suggest that it's time to make a change? If you need a push, pick up "Dying to be Me." It might just propel you out of "stuck in a rut" into "moving on to a new goal."

Communicating Expertise and Brand

Once you've held a position long enough, you'll develop a level of expertise.  Malcolm Gladwell suggests that it takes about 10,000 hours to become an expert, or in his words a "phenom," or someone who delivers beyond typical expertise.

(After many years in a position, if you haven't developed expertise, I'd venture to say that you're in the wrong job)

This leads me to share a story of a recent client who wrote:

Hi Stephanie,

I had some feedback on my LinkedIn summary today that was less than complementary (sic). I was told:

The definition of an out-of-the-box creative, (I would reword this, as it sounds cocky)

Do you think there is another way of putting this?


Now, before I tell you how I responded and how this question played out, you need to know that this client is beyond an expert: he is a phenom. One of those people who is in the right job, using innate talents augmented by educational credentials and hands-on experience who over-exceeds expectations.

His accomplishments are in the remarkable if not legendary category. I wish I could give you details, but because of client confidentiality I cannot. Truly, he is outstanding in his field. And yet ...

He needs help landing a job. I'd say that the main reason he needs help is because he wasn't ready to "own" his awesomeness! He was hiding behind mediocrity to a degree, bringing his work down to a more common denominator.

Here's my response:

My question is - how do you feel about this? If you can stand behind it and feel that that is you, you likely don't need to change it.

I certainly don't mind changing, just want to make sure that you need to change it. One person's opinion is just that, one opinion!

Here are some alternatives;

- "Out of the box" solutions are my forte
- Known for arriving at solutions that escape others,
- Having developed a solid reputation for innovation

Do any of these resonate with you?

Our conversation went on a bit, and I presented the idea that when a company who needs a strong innovator, a company that is truly ready for change, reads his summary, that company will appreciate the language and reach out to him.

On reflection, he said that he is ready to embrace his value, and he doesn't feel that the orginal version overstates his abilities.

Disclaimer: To protect my client's privacy, I changed the actual phrase used in his LinkedIn. The phrase above is not as elegant as the one used in his summary, but it serves the purpose!

Magical Thinking

Seth Godin's blog on Avoiding Magical Thinking struck a chord. This happens all the time! Just think of the diet industry, the beauty industry, the "do this" and they will come business philosophy ... magical thinking abounds.

I think it must be a human trait to find the easy, no self-discipline needed,  sure thing "fix."

I see this as a business owner, for example. If I take "this" sales course, I'll land more clients than I can handle; if I sign up for a training session of writing LinkedIn profiles, I can charge clients $600 per profile; if I join a particular group of career professionals, I am bound to leverage the collective expertise and grow my business beyond my wildest dreams and earn over $100,000! Mmhmm. If it sounds too good to be true ..

And I see this amongst job hunters. Depending on what they've been reading they may latch onto an idea, and give it "magical" powers. If my resume is one page, they say, it will work; if I send out another 100 resumes, I'll land an interview; if I copy my friend's resume, I'll get a job.

Ignored are the facts: there is no "one-size-fits-all" resume length. A resume that hasn't landed an interview after 100 submissions is highly unlikely to land a decent interview in the next 100 submissions, and copying a friend's resume, even if s/he did land an interview doesn't guarantee anything, except that your resume won't be authentic to your own strengths, skills, and accomplishments.

There is no success without lots of hard work, learning, applying, investigating, self-reflection, and the investment of time and money. If the goal is important, that's what it takes! Even I have to admit this and I've been accused of living life with "rose coloured" glasses!

I do take courses, I do belong to professional groups, and I do invest in my business, but it's all incremental progress and improvement; truly there is no magic path to incredible success. However, without making some changes, without realizing when it's time to seek more in the way of self-study or professional help, no "magic" will happen! Things will stay precisely as they are.

Magic is the stuff of fiction, and although miracles or random acts can happen, they are improbable, not the norm. Relying on the improbable defies logic and stymies success!


Contemplating Changes for 2015

Here it is mid-October, Thanksgiving weekend in Canada, and as befits business planning, I am considering making some changes to my business in 2015.

Most significantly, perhaps, I am considering specializing for the first time. Now in the end stretch of my 9th full year of service as a Canadian resume writer, and having resisted specializing until now, I am 90% certain that it's time to do so.

Unlike most resume writers, I am not considering specializing in executive leve clients. Admittedly, that's where the money is, but money has never been my motivation. Sometimes I think that's unfortunate because it sure would be nice to be flush and take lots of time off! I've never been to Mexico, for example, or even the vacationer's "poor cousin," Cuba! But what can I do? Money isn't my motivator.

I love writing, and I love helping people land their dream job. So my specialization would be the true career changer. The cop who wants to be a social worker; the funeral director who dreams of being a number-crunching CPA; the Tool and Die Maker who exchanges his overalls for driving gear to drive a big-rig; the nurse who turns in her scrubs in favour of managing a health food store!

I cannot tell you the rush I get when a client emails me to say that s/he has landed her dream job, a job s/he thought was a long shot, a job s/he was told was impossible.

That's what motivates me!

The fees may stay pretty much the same, the packages might get tweaked, but I do think I'll specialize in the true career change resume, that most challenging of resumes! I love writing, appreciate the challenge of a true career change, and I will still serve the job hunter who is not making a huge change. I truly want to impact many lives with career support.

Your input is invited! What do you think I should change? What changes would you like to see?

Mark your calendars

Yesterday I devoted some time to listening to Career Professionals of Canada's incredibly generous presentations, recorded in celebration of this Canadian leader's 10th anniversary to coincide with Canadian Career Week 2014.

As one of the presenters, I got a sneak preview. And I was blown away by how comprehensive, generous, and useful the many presentations are!

From career management to job hunting to the job market scene, there are six broad categories in all with several presentations within each that develop the different aspects of the topic.

The three recordings in which I participated include:

Different People, Different Challenges - Stephanie Clark: Dealing with Barriers in the Resume

Generational Career Intelligence - Stephanie Clark: How New Grads Can Stand Out

The Resume that You Need Today - Stephanie Clark: How to Showcase Transferable Skills

These recordings will be available - free of charge - for the week of November 3rd.

Mark your calendars now! This link will provide you with more information:

"See" you there!

"Resurgent BlackBerry hiring 350 engineers"

So declares an article in Saturday's Waterloo Region Record! A BlackBerry user, I just knew that the company would recreate itself and rise from the ashes. It's good news for those of us who use the BB, and great news for Waterloo Region as well.

Along with the soon-to-be filled engineering positions, CEO John Chen said "We have a lot of openings right now."

The engineering positions seem to be focused on co-op and new grads, but I would venture to say that other engineers who fit the BB model will be considered. Prove your value and you've got a chance.

And the other positions are in "a lot of places," says Chen, "enterprise sales, software people." I bet there are a few admin positions and other supportive roles.

So, how's your resume looking? Is it top notch to compete with the other top applicants? BB is focused on growth and innovation; it isn't looking for slackers and run-of-the-mill applicants. Does your resume convey energy, quality, productivity?

If you're feeling like your resume murmurs "mediocre" rather than passionately proclaims "top-notch candidate," consider hiring a professional to kick that document up a few notches. New Leaf is available to support your bid, and knows how to take a resume from mediocrity to excellence.

Energize Your Career!

I often say that Canadians don't know much about career management. If I compare my U.S. clients to my Canadian clients, I find that Canadians are less proactive, do not consider strategy when navigating their career, are far too humble and thus don't "sell" themselves into a job ... this is troublesome!

There are definitely things that can be done to energize one's career. Which brings me to introducing you to a dear friend, Anne Carbert, a wonderful career cousnellor and coach. Anne believes in engaged living and is a fine model of living from a place of enthusiasm and wholeheartedness! And she loves to coach others to inspire them with concrete ways to make the most of their careers.

Energize Your Career

The link above will take you to Anne's flyer, announcing her October workshop. If you live near Stratford, Ontario, give this some thought. In fact, don't think too much, just do it! The fee is reasonable, the facilitator delightful and experienced, and the info will serve you well throughout your career!

If you don't live near Stratford, but would like to engage a career coach to help you through career snafus or tough decisions, Anne works with clients from acrosss Canada and from a wide variety of backgrounds, especially unconventional ones. Grab a friend or come alone .. you're certain to take away valuable information, perhaps even career changing information!

Why you didn't get an interview for an internal posting

You thought it was straightforward: you work there, they know you, you'll get an interview. But it didn't work out that way and you did not get a call to an interview. How can that be?

Some years ago, while still working in the corporate environment before I launched my own business, I learned of a new position that was being considered. Genuinely interested in it, I went to my boss for advice, asking what kind of training I might need to position myself as a viable candidate. Unfortunately he told me that this new position was unlikely to become a reality and that I shouldn't worry about it.

A year later another internal applicant landed the newly created, well-paying, create your own job description position. Mmhmm. Which brings us to reason number one.

1. An internal candidate is already pegged for the job. Sometimes it's obvious and other times, not at all obvious. I had no idea and quite honestly, to this day, I do not see a good fit between the successful candidate's personality and history, and the needs of the position. These things happen, though, as recruitment isn't always fair, equitable, or predictable.

2. Corporate policy dictates you have to have been in your position a certain length of time before you can begin applying to internal postings. Such was the case recently in a career chat. A fairly new employee, already showing promise in accomplishments, was not invited to an interview after applying to an internal posting. Often written in formal policy, perhaps sometimes in unwritten guidelines, it makes sense to keep a new hire in his/her position for a specified length of time, given the cost of onboarding/training and workload.

3. You may be working under someone who is threatened by your skill, doesn't like you, or has ego issues that don't support staff advancement. It happens. To circumvent this situation, join committees, be vocal in meetings, speak to HR about your ambitions in the company, and get to know those in other departments and your boss's boss, so that one person's lack of support cannot hijack your career.

4. It could be that your resume is so poor that you knocked yourself out of the race! I had a co-worker who confided in me this exact scenario. He'd been told that he didn't get the job because his resume was "mickey-mousish." Ouch. Even though his work was well regarded, a lot more goes into the recruitment process, especially where transparency is a requirement. The resume must be justifiable in case it is contested. There are lots of qualified applicants for most jobs, so why take the chance on a hire that might cause work later, in trying to defend the hire of Applicant A over Applicant B, equally talented and accomplished, whose resume positively sings out amazing value?

Do you love going to work?

I've written on this topic before, and likely will many times still, as it's a topic that speaks to my heart. It's about staying in a job that sucks your soul, your joy, your life. I've been there, and had I known then what I know now, I would have made a change so much earlier.

Today, as I opened the Brain Pickings newsletter, I read this passage from a letter written by a writer who worked for "the man" until he was 50 (which coincidentally is the age at which I finally left a job that wasn't "me" and launched my career as a resume writer, which is so "me"!). The writer's words are bleak, real and raw. Here's a snippet, the critical piece:

And what hurts is the steadily diminishing humanity of those fighting to hold jobs they don’t want but fear the alternative worse. People simply empty out. They are bodies with fearful and obedient minds. The color leaves the eye. The voice becomes ugly. And the body. The hair. The fingernails. The shoes. Everything does.

As a young man I could not believe that people could give their lives over to those conditions. As an old man, I still can’t believe it. What do they do it for? Sex? TV? An automobile on monthly payments? Or children? Children who are just going to do the same things that they did?

Early on, when I was quite young and going from job to job I was foolish enough to sometimes speak to my fellow workers: “Hey, the boss can come in here at any moment and lay all of us off, just like that, don’t you realize that?”

They would just look at me. I was posing something that they didn’t want to enter their minds.

These words brought back memories of empty, long, intolerable days. (Sorry, I can't seem to remove the italicization feature.)

This week I had two clients who prove, beyond a doubt, that the formula to success is changeable, flexible, unpredictable! One fellow was a manufacturing plant manager by his early 20s. Before you start claiming privilege, hear this: his dad did not work at or own the company, and he had no related or even unrelated formal education. Perhaps his advantage was to have parents that made him work for what he wanted, encouraged his exploring his talents from a young age, and fostered a fierce "go get it" mentality, facts that came to light during his resume fact-finding interview.

Another client, who trained in Print Journalism, rose to the level of VP with a well-known international company.  Her role has nothing to do with journalism and all to do with operations.

The similarity is this: both honoured their talents. They recognized their skills, nurtured these, and success came on the heels of wearing the right shoes!

Here's a link to a talent test that has been compiled by Gallup. With access to an astounding amount of data, the results are accurate, insightful, and useful. I get most of my clients to take this test. At under $10 and taking about 20 minutes, it's such a wonderful investment!

When you are ready to make a change, I'd love to help you with a career changer resume, cover letter, LinkedIn profile - although the most challenging type of resume to compose, because I am in my career sweet-spot, I am really good at what I do! I love this kind of challenge and am rewarded by helping people achieve their career dreams.


Job Hunt Woes and Wins

It continually surprises me how haphazardly most job hunters approach the job hunt!

Let me share an analogy. If you were buying a car, you'd research which manufacturer you prefer, narrow down the type of car, and then go find a suitable new or used actual car. Or, if you wanted to take on a craft as a hobby, you'd narrow down your choices and the ones you'd dabble in would likely have some commonality - perhaps requiring a sewing machine (or not requiring one!), perhaps requiring only a small investment in materials and do-dads, and then you'd select one to give a try.

And yet, when facing a job search, too many people launch a wily-nily job hunt with nary a thought of narrowing down options. It puzzles me.

I've had accomplished Operations Managers, for example, who, desperate to get out of their current positions, thought they'd apply to an Administrative Assistant job, or a Sales Rep job. Really? First of all the salary of the Admin Assist is nowhere near their current one, and secondly, without any real sales results to share (as in bringing in the bacon), their sales resume would reap them no benefits, i.e., no interviews, no offers.

It is critical to have a target. A goal. A focus. An end in mind.

Without knowing what you want - and keeping an eye on realistic expectations - your search will be long and quite likely unsuccessful. I suggest that the only way you can make an unusual change is through networking and even that's iffy.

Today's formula to a short job search is "who you know" and "what you know." To support the fact that you have the necessary credentials, you must add a context and key-word rich resume, a well-composed cover letter, and a LinkedIn profile and headline that support your other documents and continue building your "brand"; now you're on your way.

Yes, it's a lot of work, but taking the time to establish the above foundational steps will reap rewards in a shorter and more successful job search. And for those with no network to "work," a strong foundation ensures landing interviews with the resume/cover letter alone.

Besides landing interviews, going through the above process can help in yet another critical way: you can land much better initial offers. A higher starting salary and negotiation power (three or four weeks holiday to start perhaps?) is well worth the effort, don't you think?

Brain Changer - Your Narrative Script

I have finished reading David DiSalvo's "Brain Chnager," a book based on scientific research that teaches us how adapting can change our life! Change your thinking and change you life is what this book is largely about.

It's a fascinating read, and because it's based on research in cognitive psychology, neuroscience, behavioural economics, and communications, it is also a very practical read.

As I read through, I highlighted areas and added sticky notes to the little bits and bites that I wanted to find easily for more thought. One of these deals with how we think about things - our "narrative script." External scripting comes from employers, peers, parents and so on; internal scripts run through our minds as we process daily events. We tend to internalize external scripts, for example, when your employer remarks about your report not being quite to the quality expected (it may feed your feelings of inadequacy), when your friend asks if you stopped going to the gym (you feel unattractive), and when your mother asks why you haven't been over in three weeks (good old guilt!).

We interpret and internalize, adapt or don't, and thus wrestle with decisions and choices.

Here's a paragraph that hits home for the topic of employment:

The fact that our empoyer wants us to become more extroverted doesn't mean that we'll pragmatically adapt to meet that demand. Perhaps we will, but perhaps we won't. Perhaps, instead, the true meaning of pragmatically adapting in this case is to realize that we are in the wrong job. That may sound extreme, but think of how often we try to cram ourselves into a "scripted" situation that just doesn't work for us. Consider, for example, the person who values authenticity and straightforward dealing, but works for an organization that only pays lip service to those values. If we force-adapt to those situations over and over again, we'll eventually burn out. Aside from the psychological toll this takes, it could result in losing the job anyway.

Reminds me of a job I had where I was asked to enter an incorrect start date for a new employee's insurance policy. I refused. Two months later I was fired.Wasn't a good fit.

Also reminds me of something I read about neuroses - these arise when we are not in alignment with our own nature. Not a healthy place to be!

I have served clients who boldly put their true nature "out there." Their resumes proclaimed their recognition as a "communication queen," as a guru, a thought leader and other bold titles. They owned their true nature. Guess what? They land amazing jobs because authenticity hooks you up with the right environment and with an employer that values what/who you are.

- boldly proclaiming my goal to shake up recruitment with resumes that are not cookie-cutter and interview answers that smack not of canned responses, but of authentic self-assurance! - Stephanie

What have you got planned for 2014?

Making New Year's goals and plans are a western ritual. Perhaps they are rituals elsewhere; I don't actually know! But certainly in North America, it's expected that we will make plans, outline a tactical approach, and execute!

Well, I don't know about you, but that sounds like work, and it doesn't sound like much fun! And yet, truth is, if you don't have some sort of goal and plan, not much changes.

For about a year and a half, I stopped exercising. While living on Vancouver Island, I had exercise daily. Every time my husband, Richard, and I stepped out for our daily walk, there were major hills to go down, and climb back up - each way used new sets of muscles! And we made it a point to hike further on weekends, in wooded areas that required more attention (there were cougars and bears, oh my!) and yet more muscles. But once we returned to super-flat southern Ontario, our daily walks barely exert us!

And so finally, I began my favourite exercise last week. I am now on Day Four of my thrice-weekly regimen of jumping on my trampoline! I love it. It fits with my personality. (Not sure what that says!) Mostly I didn't like feeling clothes getting tight! (Ah, vanity!)

So obviously, exercise is top of my list.

Other than that, I have no big plans for my business. I will continue taking a few courses throughout the year, will keep looking for opportunities to speak, to be published, and to be of service, and hope to continue pleasing my clients with work that helps them achieve their career goals.

If I may be of service in your achievement of career related goals - to land a post-grad job, to make a major career switch, to make a lateral move, to step up your personal career ladder, or to try (finally!) for your absolute dream job - please do reach out. I love my work, am skilled in supporting career changes of all kinds, and would be pleased to assist you in achieving your goals!

- wishing all readers a Happy New Year - Stephanie