What a ladder, hammer, and resume writer have in common


Once again, a pearl of wisdom from uber-marketer, Seth Godin.

In today’s blog, Go Find a Ladder, link above, he posits that it is more useful to use a ladder than no tool at all to scale a height and more useful to use a hammer than a rock when nailing. Even if you have to invest in the tool.

If I apply this maxim to my own work, it’s more expedient to hire a writer of resumes than try to cobble one together on your own - especially, I will add, if you have no training in the art and science of resume content development. And even more critically, if you have an obstacle that you feel is holding you back or has the potential to impede your job search. Obstacles like a gap in employment, a lack of “expected” educational credentials, a mix and match list of employments, “too many” years with one employer, a recent employment that feels like a step back rather than forward, or completely unrelated history of employment (as in military transitions).

You’ll note that I placed a few phrases in quotation marks. This is because these are not issues that I myself see as insurmountable, but many do feel their stigma. My experience has been that there are fewer insurmountable issues than most believe. But as the saying goes, “as I think, so I am” (or something along those lines). If you think something is hurting your career, your belief has a good chance of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.

You may be feeling that I know something you don’t.

It’s true; I do know something you most likely don’t.

I know resume strategy. How to overcome “stinkin’ thinkin’” that thwarts success. Specifically, I know how to position or frame experience so that what appears to be a drawback becomes a big plus. I am skilled at composing an achievement statement that flattens the argument of “lack of education.” Strategy, dear readers, is key.

I also have a talent for the written word. Although I cannot manage a large project nor work in any field of medicine (I cry far too easily), I was born with a sincere love of reading and writing. Thankfully, I found a way to use my gift for writing and now use it to better others’ careers. I live vicariously through my clients’ successes! It’s marvelous to learn that a client landed his or her “dream job", finally, after so many years of trying without success. I’m energized to hear that a client landed her or his first management or executive role, even though the person felt a bit junior yet. And, I must add, I always stick to 100% truthful statements and no embellishment of any kind.

There is power in the written word. Used well, your career soars; used poorly, your career stalls.

So how’s your resume working for you?

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. 

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.

Conducting Resume Research

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Reckless Abandon

Every once in a while I get totally inspired by another blog. Today is one of those days and the blogger who inspired me is Seth Godin. Reckless Abandon is the title of today's blog.

It's super short, so do read it first. Seth is a marketer, and since resumes, etc., are self-marketing pieces, his blogs often inspire me.

Sometimes I bet hiring a professional resume writer, at a premium fee, who you've never met and likely never will, who as far as you know exists only on the internet, can absolutely feel like reckless abandon. And throwing that old, faithful servant, your existing resume, into the trash might feel like that too!

But might I suggest that sometimes it's absolutely necessary?

If that old resume isn't landing you any interviews, or only landing interviews for jobs you don't really want (maybe below your capabilities?), maybe it's just old and tired, outdated and ineffective? Maybe the trash is exactly where it needs to go?

If your own skills are not able to improve that cliched resume, maybe it's worthwhile taking a chance on an unknown, remote-from-you resume strategist?(Hey, I admit that I can't do your job and believe me, not everyone is a good writer, and even fewer know how to write strategically.)

If you're thinking about hiring a professional, do "google" my name to assure yourself that I'm not only real, but really good at what I do! :-) Forgive me if that doesn't sound humble. There was a time when I wasn't particularly skilled at anything in my life - I was a pretty good cook, a decent staff member, an avid crafter, but an expert in anything? No. Once I discovered that I loved to write and then tapped into the world of resumes, I took off! And yes, I am now an expert. I can own that title.

Reckless abandon is sometimes the perfect strategy to better things! Here's another one: I left a good-paying, pensioned position to be self employed, which would fit some people's definition of "reckless abandon," but I don't regret it. Rather than reckless, it was self-discovery and far from abandoning anything, again, I found myself.

Well, I think that's enough of that early-morning ramble! On to my day of interview coaching, editing and emailing a recent client's resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn, and a wrap up call with another recent client, before I can call it a day! Have a good one .... Stephanie