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?
In 1974, just-completed business management degree in hand, I entered the savings & loan industry as a management trainee. I completed train-the-trainer courses and established the organization’s first formal training department. Moved to Chicago, worked in sales and marketing for several S&Ls here before the industry imploded and I transitioned to the world of headhunting in 1981. Learned a heck of a lot from the roller coaster economy of the 80s, working on 100% commission, building a loyal corporate client base and a recruitment pipeline. We started our family in 1988 and it was the perfect time for me to take that diverse experience and hang out my shingle as a resume writer. Built my brand as “The Job Search Coach” offering insights from both sides of the desk.
2. Now that you’ve been in the industry for a while, would you recommend it to others? Why?
I love helping others get through the extremely frustrating process of the job search…it feels like a calling. As with any consulting practice though, it’s hard to make a living at the beginning. I had the benefit of a husband’s salary to pay the bills…and my early priority was raising two boys while I slowly built my business. I see the newbie questions and comments on our industry e-lists and blogs, and I see them experiencing the pressure of having to take every possible piece of business, working with PIAs, letting the clients be in control, and keeping their prices too low. We do however have the benefit of an extremely supportive community of peers!
3. What is the single best tool you recommend for building client relations? Building your business? Improve efficiency?
I’m very careful to have my ads look quietly classy and clear that they’re dealing with me, a real person – compared to the rest of them making loud claims, guarantees, deals, etc. – and I’m probably the only one who gives price over the phone rather than insist on them coming in first (to be “sold” a package), so I think a lot of them go ahead with me, feeling comfortable right away. It was an easy evolution from all face-to-face to almost all virtual (even the local clients) – I’m told I have a good phone voice, and I was able to carry the confidence over from my corporate life. I convert 90% of calls to sales – which I think means I’m supposed to raise my price, but I’m comfortable at the mid-range for resume pricing, and making $50/hour. For efficient operations, I do rely on basic technology, but I think my main time saver is my collection of one-page job search tips on various topics and a set of email paragraphs that I use all the time to respond to client questions (adapted to personalize them, of course).
4. If you could share one learning experience/great lesson, what would it be?
I make sure the client knows what my resumes look like – concise, human, and easy to read. I don’t include samples on my website, but I do send two samples at the first round of communication. When my early clients received the resume draft, they would say something like “Gee this is great, but it’s so…short…?” – I learned to set up the proper expectations and educate them on the benefits of not having the standard dense, mind-numbing resume.
5. Looking back, what would you have done differently? Done the same?
My first marketing piece went out to my Lamaze class and my previous co-workers. My second phase was a quarterly newsletter surface-mailed to a list that I built to around 300 after 5 years of part-time efforts before I got “too busy” and never got back to it – that was dumb. When the internet and email came along, I kept up with technology reasonably well – my digital footprint is ok, but I’d like to start up another newsletter. One thing that I would do the same – I made an early decision not to be a career counselor / life coach. It fits my style to teach clients about the specifics of the job search process.
6. What advice would you give someone just entering the resume-writing industry?
Join the online career industry organizations/e-lists, read the blogs, invest in webinars – don’t struggle alone. Remember that the job search is a frightening, depressing time for our clients.
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?
We have to keep up to date on social media and what goes on behind the hiring manager’s door in order to serve our clients well. Short term, we’ll see whether Twitter and Google+ and other emerging forms of communication are worth the time and effort for the job seeker. Long term, we’ll see our client base get more comfortable with social media for the long haul – and I hope more folks realize that job search and networking will always be about the human relationships and conversations – not how easy it is to hit the Send button.
Interview conducted with … Christine Dennison, Dennison Career Services. Reducing stress for job seekers since 1989 as The Job Search Coach, I offer practical advice from my experience in corporate operations and headhunting. Quoted in “I’m on LinkedIn – Now What???” and author of a Barnes & Noble career guide.