Great question. I think a lot of us take a circuitous path before ending up as resume writers. I’m still waiting to hear about the healthcare CEO or product developer who finds her true north writing resumes. There’s just not a traditional career path to what we do.
five dollar resume and I landed a job that felt legitimate. It made a huge impression on me, and I suppose it was a confidence boost. It gave me words to frame my modest efforts at the time. We now call that messaging, and I do it all day, every day. But it was a new concept to me at the time.
It was 1984, and coincidentally, Martin Yate’s “Resumes That Knock ‘em Dead,” first edition, had just hit bookstores. I bought it and started writing mock resumes. Reminds me of my Silicon Valley clients who so often started coding in their teens.
During college, I began volunteering and got paid a bit to write resumes for friends and classmates. (No, I won’t let you see what those resumes looked like, but they did the job!)
Fast-forward to when I moved to New York City, where I fell headlong and entirely by accident into retained executive search. I spent four years working for two incredibly smart women in New York and San Francisco, first in nonprofit search and later in corporate search—mainly in finance, healthcare, law, and technology.
That period in my life is bookended by nonprofit leadership and teaching roles, but if it weren’t for that serendipitous and somewhat brutal time in my life—learning about high-level search and having a few rough edges knocked off—I’d never have my practice today.
2. How long have you been in the industry? Would you recommend it to others? Why?
Sixteen years, roughly. I began futzing around early, as I mentioned. I got paid for my first resume in 1997 (which worked wonders for that first client), launched TheResumeStudio.com part time in 2003, and threw open the doors full time in 2008. I moved into my San Francisco Financial District office in January 2012.
As for recommending the practice to others, it’s a bit like making a life in the arts: you need to love it and see yourself doing nothing but resume writing. If you live and breathe all of it—from client development and small business management, to strategically mining, placing, writing, and editing career copy—then build your business ASAP.
3. What is the single best tool you recommend for building client relations? Building your business? Improving efficiency?
I have a complex, but streamlined project lifecycle for my clients. From personalized greetings, fact sheets, and auto-schedulers when potential clients first reach out, to a systematized, multi-week process and follow up system, I think it’s all important.
But if I had to focus on one thing to build your business and client relationships, it wouldn’t be a tool. It’s authenticity. Don’t be afraid to say no. Be clear about who you’ll work with and who you won’t—because that’s a reflection of what you do well and what you might not do well or even enjoy. Being reachable globally through LinkedIn and my website helps. I’m able to be very clear about my sweet spot and draw in the right clients. It took a leap of faith about seven or eight years ago to start letting possible business go after a very smart PR friend coached me on niching. My fears, however, turned into a pipeline of extremely qualified clients because my specialization quickly became clear: the intersection between mid-career course correction and hard-to-write career documents.
Also, my favorite cloud technologies are TimeTrade, Trello, QuickBooks Online / Intuit Merchant Services, and Box.com.
4. If you could share one learning experience/great lesson, what would it be?
Just one? That’s tough! For me I think it was figuring out as a young man to stop being defensive. Or better, understanding where that came from.
Sure, it’s easier at 43 because you’ve logged a fair bit of life. But it was tempting for quite a few years to be defensive when a client had questions about ‘my beautiful work,’ so to speak.
It took me a while to realize that what we do is exceedingly collaborative, and smart clients are going to ask questions. That’s how I approach my process, at least. Some writers do a marvelous job redesigning and cleaning up existing copy, which is awesome for immediate turnaround. But my process has become an extremely in-depth, collaborative, and iterative process. One healthcare client came to me saying she wanted to “build her boat.” That’s what I do, and it takes time.
When it comes to the defensiveness, though, that’s all about ego. More importantly, letting go of ego. The only ego I’ve had for perhaps the last eight to ten years is in making sure that I open a channel for the client to express himself or herself. Ask as many questions as necessary, and then appoint every word and design strategy perfectly. The client owns the document, after all, and it’s their butt in the chair having to defend the resume, so they should be dialed hard into the document.
So yeah, perhaps it’s setting aside unproductive ego and truly collaborating with your client in a safe, confidential space. You both emerge happier. And that very often brings along their friends, colleagues, and family members as clients. I’ve written for entire families, and friend and colleague groups at this point.
5. Looking back, what would you have done differently? Done the same?
Everything I’ve done has led me here. You learn from the bumps in the road. I wouldn’t change a thing.
6. What advice would you give someone just entering the resume-writing industry?
Set up your business on purpose from the start. Pay your taxes from the start, no matter how little you make at first. Never stop trying to be better. Hire a proofreader. (I recommend Robin Kelley.) Listen and find out who you are as a writer. Let your philosophies and voice emerge, then make sure the world knows so the right people can find you. Use mistakes and milestones to organically build your own process, and be sure clients know all of that before they hire you. Set expectations on both sides.
Take time off.
Emulate others (don’t copy). Draw parallels between the best keyword-saturated, but naturally flowing web copy and resume writing. There are a lot of similarities.
Contribute. I’m one guy, and my practice is swamped with deadlines, so I wish I could do more. But I’ve had the privilege of contributing to the National Resume Writers’ Association, for instance, both as a region rep and conference speaker. It’s rewarding to meet others–all of us doing what we believe is meaningful and important work in people’s lives.
7. How do you see our industry transforming over the next 12 months? 5 years? What do you think resume writers need to know in order to survive?
A lot of people are busy predicting the death of the resume by LinkedIn. Until we have chips implanted under our skin listing our entire life (help us all), I think that’s a huge misconception. LinkedIn is not a de facto resume. It’s just not. Material that’s appropriate for a discrete hiring audience—not proprietary, of course—doesn’t need to be mindlessly copied and pasted into LinkedIn.
Here’s a perfect example, if not a bit depressing. A CTO offshores thirty percent of his workforce, which saves X dollars and streamlines workflow efficiencies. That’s appropriate for his resume, but not for his LinkedIn profile. For obvious reasons. Yet, too many people—including recruiters who I make a habit of instructing—think LinkedIn replaces the resume. It doesn’t. Or at least it shouldn’t.
I should clarify that I’m a huge LinkedIn fan. I interviewed eight retained executive search consultants a year ago for a presentation on retained search vs. contingency recruiting, and all they could talk about was LinkedIn! I wrestle with LinkedIn copy for clients every day. So LinkedIn is definitely a huge piece of my every breath.
But I’ve also developed a LinkedIn philosophy that keeps me on a short leash: “Just because LinkedIn says you can, doesn’t mean you should.”
Be careful out there.
Interview conducted with … Jared Redick, The Resume Studio. Executive resume writer Jared Redick specializes in hard-to-write documents for mid-career professionals and executives re-imagining their careers through intense introspection and iterative writing. Discovery, decision-making, and writing related to executive resumes and CVs, LinkedIn profiles, cover letters, executive bios, and related career documents. Job search accountability. New position strategy coaching. Visit Jared’s blog: MidCareerMinute