The following is part of a colleague spotlight series. A new colleague spotlight will be published each Monday. To read all colleague spotlights that have been published thus far, simply visit the colleague spotlight category.
1. What led you to writing resumes? Do you have a background that made you an ideal fit for the industry?
Actually, it was an ad in the newspaper titled “Writer Wanted.” I was unemployed from car sales, I didn’t want to go back but unemployment was running out. So, I applied. I interviewed with the branch manager of Resumes Plus that afternoon, and the owner the next morning and got the offer that afternoon. They liked my sales experience and thought I could sell those $149 packages. This, of course, was 1996.
My background included a degree in Broadcast Journalism from Washington State University and 20 years in commercial radio, so interviewing and writing weren’t major obstacles.
2. Now that you’ve been in the industry for a while, would you recommend it to others? Why?
Kinda. Learning to write resume is somewhat akin to becoming a tug boat captain in New York Harbor. You spend 20 years at minimum wage learning your craft, then take you pilot’s license exam. The next day, back on the tug boat at $400,000 a year.
Writing resume is kinda like that. You have to learn the job descriptions of just about every job out there, and you have to learn how to sell the candidate to her/his peers. That takes time, and often, dissatisfied customers. But, you’ve just gotta punch through it.
3. What is the single best tool you recommend for building client relations? Building your business? Improve efficiency?
Find a specialty. That’s the only “single tool” that covers all three needs. If you specialize, your clients will understand that you truly understand their business, career and needs and will be more apt to refer you. By specializing, you cut writing time dramatically and can handle more customers. I can write a sales resume in two hours; senior level IT may take the whole day.
4. If you could share one learning experience/great lesson, what would it be?
When you start out, have a nice long discussion with an accountant about how to structure your business. I didn’t, and I’m still making payments to the IRS.
5. Looking back, what would you have done differently? Done the same?
I was slow to pick up on the Internet. There were these things called web sites… My first web site didn’t go active until 2005, and I probably missed a decade of good business bescause of it. The point is, and this speaks to question seven (below), is that you have to understand that you must keep up to date on emerging trends and tools.
What would I have done the same? I don’t take money up front, and writing entirely on the speculation that the client will be happy with the document. If not, they can walk away and not pay me a dime. While I lose four to six times a year, the demand to produce excellent work, and the trust and confidence it builds during the initial phone call far outweighs the risk. You’ll have four to six “heat” cases a year anyway, so turn lemons into lemonade.
6. What advice would you give someone just entering the resume-writing industry?
Last night I was watching Master Chef with Gordon Ramsay on TV. The night’s challenge was to cook a three course meal including appetizer, main course and dessert, for the three judges mothers. Yeow. (The winning entry was a poached turbo (fish) served to Gordon’s mother who, at the beginning of the segment, said she didn’t like fish. Mom got won over.)
Here’s the point: Every client you have is Gordon’s mom. And to further complicate matters, you must treat each client with the same respect, care and loving kindness that you give to your own mom. That’s the bottom line of writing resume: Dedicate yourself to excellence, and make sure mom loves you.
7. How do you see our industry transforming over the next 12 months? 5 years? What do think resume writers need to know in order to survive?
Cheap question. Five years ago LinkedIn and Facebook didn’t exist. Five years from now? Who knows. But to survive, that’s simple: You must study your industry, your craft and your competitors daily. I was late to the Internet party, I’m not late to Facebook or LinkedIn.
Join an industry association such as PARW or CDI. There’s lots of new information that surfaces in those forums first.