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?
I spent 27 years in engineering and architectural design and drafting. Much of that entailed not just plans and drawings, but also Requests for Information/ Requests for Proposals, bid documents, and lengthy complicated Project Specifications. I was always the one asked to write the press releases, subdivision plans… So, when I retired from doing the design work, while I did not miss the commute, I did really miss the “people factor” and the project management aspects.
A friend of mine worked for a large resume writing company and asked if I’d be interested in doing some contract work for engineering clients. That was the beginning of a happy second career as a resume writer and career consultant.
2. How long have you been in the industry? Would you recommend it to others? Why?
I’ve been working in the industry for over 10 years now. As far as recommending it to others, it really depends on the personality and commitment factors. Clients can become good friends, your worst nightmare, or just people you work for in terms of documents. It truly depends on what you want to get out of this field.
It is very time demanding and if you don’t have the wherewithal to put boundaries on your work versus family time, you’ll be in big trouble. I work mostly with international, federal, and military clients. Therefore, I have to be available at odd hours. Some people can’t handle this. Some can.
Resume writing is an incredibly rewarding career if you love helping others, can set lines in the sand, and can stand up being the authority in terms of what should/should not go on a resume. If you can do that, then go for it because it is a truly rewarding experience.
3. What is the single best tool you recommend for building client relations? Building your business? Improve efficiency?
Learn to know your clients as if they were family. You can’t do an incredible job if you don’t have a feel for each person. Clients should never be treated like templates and cranked out in a hurry. On the other hand, it’s very important to stay in touch. Take time to email or make a quick call if you have time issues or get overloaded. The ten seconds of your life will make a world of difference to the client.
As far as building my business, I must say I started working as a contractor for other resume companies. I still do occasional work for past employers, but nearly all of my work is now referral-based. I think that is one of the keys to getting a business built up.
Another thing I think is really important is not overextending your services until you are really ready for the workload. Pick a niche and stick with it until you are 100% confident, and then consider expanding.
4. If you could share one learning experience/great lesson, what would it be?
Do not set yourself up for disaster. The biggest issue I’ve found, especially with new writers is the money factor. You either expect too much or accept too little. Do the research and find out what other writers in your skill level are charging for the same type of work.
5. Looking back, what would you have done differently? Done the same?
I think my way of approaching the business worked out well. At first, I had no clue how to find clients but knew I was a great writer. Therefore, I got involved with several companies as a contract writer. You are not going to be instantly rich – far from it, but you will learn how to manage your time and understand what employers want to see.
6. What advice would you give someone just entering the resume-writing industry?
This is kind of a follow up on item 5, but the very best advice I can give you is to know the areas where your clients are going to work. Learn all the key words/phrases by looking for potential jobs even if they are not in the immediate local area. This gives your client a huge advantage in getting an interview.
Also, create accounts on each and every job upload website you can find. The difference between a resume writer and someone who can maintain an 85% interview rate in this economy (as I have) is to do the research and help the client with the application as well as coach them through the interview process. I am brutal when doing “mock interviews” but the clients are more than ready to take on the toughest questions during the actual interviews.
Never just write a resume and leave a client hanging out to dry – follow through and be there for the whole process. To do that you seriously need to go through the same process the client must go though. Otherwise, you can’t really help them just by revamping a resume.
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?
Our jobs are getting more graphic oriented, network based, and even video presentations are getting popular. So, for the older writers out there my best advice is get up to speed with the latest technology. For the younger writers, you already know the techno things – however you must remember that many HR people and ultimate employers are old school. So, bottom line, stay in tune while keeping with tradition, study every client’s goals and intended job market. Graphic design is not the same as banking.
The resumes need an entirely different look and feel depending on the goal. If, as resume writers, you can broaden your outlook, then you will survive. Sticking to the past or going way into the futuristic wild looking resume is not the best way to help clients. Be open to possibilities and make certain you base the resume format on the expectations of the employer.