The Value of Narrowing Down Choices

Credit to Sue Stone, textile artist, Womanwithafish blog post.

Credit to Sue Stone, textile artist, Womanwithafish blog post.

Along with the craft of writing, I love to craft with a needle. In exploring various needle arts, I ran into a series of videos on a curious topic: the value of narrowing down one’s options. The videos were produced by the two sons of a textile artist from the U.K., Sue Stone. That is her work in the photo above.

Theirs was a compelling lesson in the trouble with overly broad choices. I shared that series with a friend who is a gifted fine artist and who finds it extremely difficult to focus on one medium. She sculpts, paints, faux finishes surfaces, and even crochets, taking that humble folk art form to a whole new level! But she cannot stick with one art form and thus brand herself and make her way as an artist.

There is a lesson here for today’s job seeker. Attempting to prove that you’re good at too many things is not effective today. The reason is simple: software is programmed to look for words - key words - related to one type of job only. Thus, if you can be a scientist, a researcher, or a supervisor, you’ll need three resumes. Each of these roles has a different set of key words/phrases typically associated with that role.

For those clients who could go in one of two or three ways, I suggest that to narrow down the focus - and save tons of time in job searching too - a prudent move is to select one. The choice can be based on fiscal need (lots of opportunities = faster time to a paycheck), great for an unemployed person. Or, it can be based on the desire to finally go for that “dream job.”

With my skill behind the resume’s content, my client can land more interviews for that quick turnaround job offer or finally land an interview for that career change or step up “dream job.” A well written, strategic, custom, and targeted resume simply gets results. It cuts through the applicant tracking software system “gatekeeper” role and cuts through the noise of the many applicants today’s job seeker is usually up against.

Since 2007, I recall only a few clients who elected to have me compose more than one resume, with two distinct targets. One client, as I well recall, had a resume selling her into a nurse educator’s role as well as a medical equipment sales professional/account executive role. She was equally qualified. But it was her choice to immediately go with both. Others, who have taken a chance on landing interviews with one resume only have not returned for a second version. They invested in one quality resume. In so doing, they invested in themselves, in their career, their earnings, their potential, their contentment.

Yes, narrowing down options is a good thing.

If you need help, New Leaf is here to be of service.

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!)

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!

When your resume lands no interviews

Resume magic is doable! Read on.

Resume magic is doable! Read on.

The flipping of a calendar to a new year inspires us to make changes. Aside from annual renewed vigour to lose 10 or 20 pounds, stop smoking, leave the junk food at the grocery store, and call mom more often, few think to revisit their resume.
My last blog gave you ideas on what kinds of updates you might add to your resume, and how to phrase these. In this blog, I offer a few more ideas for those with resumes that constantly fail. Fail to ignite interest, fail to generate any calls to an interview. 
Know Thyself
Perhaps your resume has been cobbled together with bits and pieces from here, there, and everywhere in an attempt to fix what's wrong, cover all the bases, saturate it with key words? It could be such a hodge-podge of writing styles and formatting issues that when it's shared, it fails. The reader could be confused by the jumble, its lack of flow, absent context, and non-existent overall brand and message. And the formatting could recreate a resume into a haphazard mess.
If the resume's message is unclear, it is unlikely to gain traction. My suggestion is to start fresh, and with a focus on being authentic to who you are and how you work, begin anew to build a strong presence.
Ship It Out
Job hunting is a numbers game as well as a strategic one. Yes, your resume must sell you, but you must share that resume a lot. Some job postings are bogus. I'm not suggesting a conspiracy theory to perplex and confound the beleagured job seeker, but I am suggesting that not each job posting is current or valid. Sometimes, for example, an incumbent has already been selected, and the job posting exercise is simply playing out an internal policy.
For this reason, don't ever put all your effort and hope into one job application. Keep applying.
Verfity and Validate
Jim Rohn says it like this: “Failure is not a single, cataclysmic event. You don’t fail overnight. Instead, failure is a few errors in judgment, repeated every day.
Theres' another saying about stupidity as repeating the same action while each time "hoping" for a different result. 
If your resume is not working, do seek help. It truly doesn't have to be a never-ending cycle of click "send" and wait for a response that never materializes. 

Setting a new homework record

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

No question about it: it is homework.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Mixing the old with the new - screendoors and resumes

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not much of a first impression, is it?

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

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

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

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


Bad Advice from Career Professionals

Twice in the last two weeks, I have had inquiries from people who have worked with career coaches. Each one, as advised by the career coach, ended up with a resume that would not perform well where the recruitment process included the use of an applicant tracking system or ATS (enter "applicant tracking system" in my website's search window, "free career advice" in the right hand column, for lots more info).

Now, if these clients lived in rural or town environments, where the employers were likely small employers with no need for ATS-assisted recruitment, this would be fine.

Shockingly both clients had had help from Canadian university career centres and each one lives in a different, large metropolitan area.

Here's what not to do.

1. Do NOT create a functional resume. These don't perform at all where ATS are used to evaluate submissions. They don't even perform well when human beings review this type of resume! ATS are programmed to "read" and score reverse-chronological resumes only. And as for recruiters, they like to know specifics of what level of responsibility you held, what you did, and your impact at each position you held, not that overall you have great relationship building, leadership, and communication skills.

2. Do NOT use a fancy templated resume format. The advanced programming in some of these - tables, columns, page border, text boxes, shading, etc. - is not reliably, 100% ATS-friendly. Stick to "best practices" as described in the blog posts you'll find when you search "applicant tracking system" on my website.

It amazes me that the ATS continue to "hide in plain sight."

Does it matter where you get your job search advice?

Sometimes I am booked a few months in advance and must refer clients who prefer more immediate assistance to colleagues. I have sourced only two resume writers whose writing quality - grammar, strategy, composition - I admire. These two also have "high touch" client service similar to my own. And their resumes "look nice" too, with pristine spacing and formatting. :-)

Last week, one of these referred clients, whose resume was written by one of these colleagues, reached out to me. "I'm not landing any interviews" was his message, and he asked if I would review the document.

Now, in the past, I've had a few of my own clients contact me with a similar lament. In each case I was able to identify what the actual issue was and was confident of doing so for this referred client.

Here's the story.

The original resume was strategized to land the client entry into an MBA program, which it did.

Post graduation, the client sought out input from the MBA program's career coach, and then launched his job search.

On opening his resume, I immediately saw an issue. Knowing my colleague's style, I had a hard time understanding why he would have elected to do this one particular thing, which was problematic in today's recruitment process. You see, page one had no name and no contact info.

Probing the client, I discovered that it was the career coach who advised him to make room on page one to add a few lines of content by removing his name and contact info because, after all, "your name, phone, and email are on page two and three."

What this career coach wasn't aware of is the implications of the use of applicant tracking systems (ATS), so prevalent in today's recruitment process. He wasn't aware that ATS have certain formatting as well as content requirements.

I suggested to this client that once he amends this issue, he will likely see an immediate relief from his non-performing resume.

Also, because the original resume was strategized to the MBA program requirements, not this new job search, I made a few suggestions for "tweaks" that will quickly fix that issue too.

The lesson here? It does matter where you get your job search input. Although I do not give "advice," I do advise with reasoned and seasoned insights into questions of resume strategy, interview coaching, and job search tactics. Not all resume writers are equal in their own pursuit of professional development and thus not all information is accurate.

When looking for expertise, be sure to consider more than price point; you must look deep into credentials to determine whether you can trust a professional's credibility.

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 ...)."


Student Summer Employs and Co-ops

I've had a rash of parents contacting me for help as their university kids seek either summer jobs or co-op placements.

This is a case where "one size does NOT fit all" is important to remember. My answer to one dad explains why. I've renamed his son, Jasper, for confidentiality. The suggestion of a Day Camp Team Leader builds on Jasper's past summer employment experience. Here's what I wrote:

Is Jasper in need of a resume to find summer employment or to land a co-op post? The resume's content and focus would differ according to its goal.

If the resume is for non-education related summer employment, it would not need an expanded Education section. Rather, I would want to incorporate transferable skills. Let's say Jasper was applying to be a Day Camp's Team Leader. I'd need to find examples of leadership, good judgement, reputation for ethical and safe choices, great relationship building, listening skills and so on. If, however, he was planning to apply to a construction position, I would find examples of resilience, hard work, working in all weather, good attendance, record of safety, use of tools and machinery, and so on. Each position has different "buying motivators."

And if it's for co-op placements, then the Education section gets to shine as his recent studies hold relevant knowledge. In past employs I would still find transferable skills along the lines of dependability, good work ethic, getting along with people, taking direction well, showing initiative.

So, you see that there's a great deal of strategy that goes into content! That's what creates an effective, influential resume that lands interviews.

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"

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



Military Transition Resume Strategy

Over the last few years I have written a number of resumes for people planning to transition from military to civilian careers.

It's not an easy change if you think about it. No more uniforms or numerous ranks, different expectations, and fewer training opportunities, at least not at the standard offered by the Canadian military. (As a learning "junkie," I admit I am envious of the quality and quantity of training one can pursue with the military.)

There's also the issue of jargon. Military resumes are almost incomprehensible to civilians, as from rank to duties, a military career is steeped in a language all its own.

In a recent  overhaul of a military to civilian resume, I stripped away words such as heavy machine gunner, combat tour, heavy enemy engagement, private, corporal, battalion, platoon, regiment, warrant officer, and others. But I did leave terms that were relevant to my client's intended job goal in security - safe weapons handling and maintenance, radio communications, conducted operations, and patrolling. I also added a great deal more, selecting jargon, or terminology, appropriate to civilian security duties.

I changed the language to make sure the resume does not bamboozle the recruiter, translating into plain language for readability and sale-ability. I could hardly "sell" my client into a new role with words alien to the reader's comprehension.

It's a delicate balance, keeping info real yet understandable.

My strategies also include finding title equivalences. For example, I helped the recruiter understand my client's title like this:

Manager-equivalent (Master Corporal)

And under the title I offered proof of management level accountability, selecting what defined his role with information that sells him into his preferred, advanced role in security.

Creating a resume's strategy can be a challenge, especially in a major career transition!

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.

How to Impress Your Interviewer without Saying a Word

This post is not about how to impress with clothes, shoes, or style; it's not about how to impress with great answers to interview questions.

This post is about how to impress your interviewer with the written word.

It's about a leave-behind document.

A long-time client, currently working in a great role for a leading financial service, let's call her Jill, needed help. We've been working together for 8 or 9 years now, during which time she has transitioned through three positions. 

Jill recently found out her position was being reorganized and was given a few short weeks to find another position within her firm. Thankfully her resume was up-to-date and we only had to tweak it a wee bit to get her ready to apply for a couple of suitable postings that came available. Contacted with an invitiation to an interview, and wanting to make sure she did everything she could to land the job offer, she asked whether I could recommend anything else to help her stand out.

I suggested creating a T-chart, which lists the position's requirements, as taken from the job posting, and matches the applicant's corresponding experience, skills, and knowledge.

Having created one, Jill asked for my feedback on her draft. Here's what I told her.

Make it easy to scan: Keep your info in bullet form. Start with a strong and accurate verb. Rather than "assisted," pin down exactly what you did to assist - organized, researched, took notes, kept team members accountable. And keep the verb tense consistent as much as possible. Usually the past tense, unless it's very much a present and ongoing example where the past tense would be potentially confusing or an outright lie.

Give it oomph: If you want your information to have impact, add context. Maybe numbers, maybe name dropping, perhaps outcomes or results - there are tons of ways to ensure that the reader truly understands what your contributions meant to a division, to business, to a project's success, to the bottom line.

Get specific: Now's not the time for generalities. Rather than referring to "communications," narrow it down. Blog, news release, user instructions, meeting minutes, executive report - these are all communication pieces but each is appropriate for a different kind of job. Select your specifics strategically, according to what is needed in the position to which you are applying.

This kind of document serves a few functions.

1. It shows the interviewer (or hiring manager) how serious you are about the position. You put in the time to communicate exactly how you are well suited for the job, and by extension, how fast you're likely to become fully productive.

2. It distinguishes you from your competition. How many job hunters are going to go to this trouble? Very few.

3. Going through this exercise will help you interview well because relevant info will be top of mind. You'll spend less time fumbling and you'll be more confident as you'll be well prepapred. 

Standing out is not about bringing copies of your resume on fancy paper, it's not about having a graphic resume (unless you're in an artistic field), it's not about impressing with flair, pizzazz, or smoke and mirror tactics. It's about knowing exactly why you'll be great in the job and being able to communicate it.

Give it a try.

Resume Strategy - Perception and Influence

It's funny how perception works. I have to admit that I'm impressed by the quality of goods conceived and manufactured in Germany. I noted that about myself just the other day when a friend told me about amazing wall mounted beds she had seen decades ago while visiting relatives in Germany. Apparently wall bed features that I had seen on a current youtube video, which prompted our conversation and which I thought were so terribly clever and modern, she had seen way back when.

Who knows where my perception began? That's what makes us all so unique and so human.

Everyone can be influenced, and no less so recruiters as they review resumes.

In a recent resume, I influenced perception with simple phrases that prefaced bullets that addressed the skills or knowledge to which I wanted to draw to the recruiter's attention.

Given that the resume skim-through lasts only 15 seconds or so, I also bolded these phrases for an easy scannability factor. And, these phrases echoed language from the job posting, which would impress the non-human applicant tracking software that increasingly has "first dibs" on reviewing resume content.

In this client's case, as a Director if IT, the phrases included the following:

Risk Aware/Averse Methodology - and the rest of the bullet gave specifics to how this candidate identifies risk, along with an example of how his method saved hundreds of thousands of dollars

Market Competitiveness - important to his field of expertise, this bullet demonstrated how the projects he had worked on ensured his employer's competitiveness in the market

Unprecedented Projects - this bullet, which anchored the page as the last bullet, would sell almost anyone on his value as it focused attention on the unique and special projects - as well as their results -  that he had worked on

There were others, but this gives you an idea of how the simple use of job-specific words can have the desired influence on an important reader's reaction.

As for the wall mounted bed, in the linked youtube video, you'll see that it's not only practical, but also has fine benefits in terms of space saving and time saving features. The amazing engineering allows a room to have double-purpose and eliminates the need to rearrange adjoining furniture or other paraphernalia. Easy peasy and good for those bedtimes where you're too tired or too lazy to rearrange stuff to get your bed out.

BTW, how influential is your resume? Are your features and benefits immediately visible?

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?