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?
My journey to resume writing began while working in the corporate arena as an administrator, project manager, and technical writer (usually merged titles). Since some of these environments were heavily regulated, a portion of my time was designated to writing corporate resumes/CV’s, executive biographies, value propositions, and technical policies and procedures used in the accreditation and grant submission processes. Not only did I find the strategic construction of the task interesting, but I found that I had a natural flair [and interest] for “people” marketing. Eventually, people started to contact me to craft their resumes on the side, hence eventually researching/acquiring industry-wide credentials, launching a proprietary venture, and expanding my role into every component of the career development life cycle process.
2. Now that you’ve been in the industry for a while, would you recommend it to others? Why?
Absolutely, but only if the individual is genuinely interested in career/talent management, marketing, and assisting others. This may sound like a no-brainer, but as a career development manager, I am constantly aiding “transitioning” clients who are very unhappy with their present career choice.
There are several aspects of this industry that are fascinating. Three are as follows:
a.) Zero or very little overhead (if you choose)! Some career management professionals are employed by large firms or academic institutions with his/her own office space. However, a good portion of the professionals in this industry work from home offices or rented office cubicles. When I first started in the industry, the “virtual” career market was in its infancy, and full career packages were mailed and included career management hand-outs, professional resume stationery, and discs with hard copies (yes, discs!) of the finished products. This practice is long-gone due to electronic delivery. Today, the largest investment should be in an individual’s office space and equipment.
Since almost everything in today’s career management process can be “virtual,” the wisest investment should be in one’s office space that includes cutting-edge computer and printer systems, high-speed Internet, phone service, and a very comfortable desk/chair. This may sound menial, but using a feng shui set-up is not only important to you—but also the client.
b.) Global reach. Virtual delivery platforms allow me to work across the domestic and international arena. One day I may be working with a candidate in New York City, whereas the following week my client may be in Prague. As long as an individual dedicates him/herself to understanding present and emerging employment and labor trends across the globe, your demographic base is “virtually” unlimited and provides an exceptional learning experience. If you are multilingual, your competitive edge exists!
c.) Variety and Flexibility. A person has the option to join a firm, move into academia, serve as a subcontractor, work as a proprietor, or serve in a dual capacity as a business owner and contractor. As a proprietor, you have the ability to run the operation as you deem fit by naming your own hours, assuming/turning down projects, and devising policies and procedures that work for you and your targeted client base. However, the caveat to this is that entrepreneurship is difficult to “turn off—even after designated work hours. Moreover, I accommodate many clients that may request odd conference hours (due to confidentiality or time zone constraints). If a client in Prague needs to speak with me prior to his/her venture to work in the morning, this means a 6:00a.m. Prague consult has me initiating contact at midnight (EST). Insomnia abounds!
3. What is the single best tool you recommend for building client relations? Building your business? Improve efficiency?
This is an interesting question that is discussed quite often among colleagues, and everyone provides a different answer. It all depends on an individual’s areas of expertise, demographics, and professional position (e.g., credentials, working sector, specialty area, etc.).
Since I started long before the age of “LinkedIn,” networking was (and still is) my best source in building client relations—no different from a career search. Seeking out and attending networking events that focus on my targeted clientele not only secures individual candidates, but corporate entities that may be interested in obtaining career development/outplacement services for their employees. Eventually, the business card passes from person-to-person, and I receive calls from a colleagues of a friend’s friend [laughing].
Now days, I merge everything: Networking, publication/media contributions, Web traffic, LinkedIn, referral programs, and academic and corporate workshops/presentations, etc. to acquire new clients. However, I consider myself very fortunate in the fact that most of my clients are obtained via referral.
4. If you could share one learning experience/great lesson, what would it be?
Contract! If an individual is just starting out in this field, I always recommend contracting with a firm to gain invaluable experience. You will be introduced to various platforms, writing/career management strategies, domestic and international candidates, and the ever-changing virtual requirements of the industry. Moreover, you have the option to work with candidates across every industry, professional discipline, and sector. This will give a newbie a good foundation as to what he/she prefers and/or simply is not talented enough to manage. For instance, one writer may prefer Information Technology, whereas another simply cannot grasp the industry terms and presentation formats. We all have our niches.
5. Looking back, what would you have done differently? Done the same?
Typical to most entrepreneurs, I launched this venture on a shoestring and by using the adage “Just Do It” [thanks Nike]! In doing so, I completely underestimated the time I would spend on telephone consults, working at my desk, and using my computer. In retrospect, I would have established the best cutting-edge office my money could buy. After all, I knew I was in this for the long haul, and by not investing in a comfortable and cutting-edge office; my office was not an inviting campsite every day. There is something to be said about feng shui and ergonomic chairs [laughing]!
However, there are several things I did right. First and foremost, I committed myself to providing time-honored customer courtesy that operates on the premise of integrity, respect, interpersonal relations (a disintegrating art), and reasonable terms. Second, I formulated all my policies, procedures, contracts, and service offerings based on this premise. Due to industry changes and a few “learning” bumps along the way, edits to these instruments and infrastructures has been minimal. They still work well in providing a balanced working foundation for the client and my business.
6. What advice would you give someone just entering the resume-writing industry?
First, research the industry to garner a better understanding of how it works, as each sector thinks and operates uniquely.
Second, join and maintain affiliations with organization that champion the industry. These organizations are replete with information and members who go above and beyond to help colleagues. To this day, I am continually amazed at my talented colleagues who offer honest insight, ideas, and solutions to numerous situations that arise—and completely based on a “pay it forward” creed. I would be lost without many of them.
Third, maintain an open mind in understanding and learning the methods of others. Once an individual becomes an experienced player in this industry, you will find out that there is no “one” right way. There are numerous industry professionals who offer various levels of education, certifications, methods of operation, and client-centered approaches to resume writing, career planning, and professional development. Each has validity in the way it is delivered to clients. Sometimes various approaches are leveraged. This is not a “one size fits all” industry.
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?
How the industry transforms depends on whom you ask. This is topic is widely discussed, as we are always trying to remain innovative for our businesses and clients.
LinkedIn is being leveraged by each stakeholder of the career search process (the candidate, recruiter, company, and of course, LinkedIn!). It has done so well, that BranchOut (Facebook) and BeKnown (Monster) have launched similar platforms to gain a competitive edge. However, I do not believe the two latter venues will be able to compete with LinkedIn for some time. With this in mind, the need for writing and building these profiles has become top priority; hence, writers must become familiar with these services to stay alive.
The promotion of Twitter and Facebook also present changes to the industry. Building brand awareness or announcing a vacancy using such venues is fine, but I believe the youth’s willingness to use such platforms has been extremely inflated by the key stakeholders and advocates of such platforms. For instance, the June 2011 issue of HR Magazine state that 87% of Generation Y’s college graduates will “target” employers of choice and submit applications to them directly. Only 2% of respondents said they use Twitter and 7% use Facebook for job searches. This is because these two venues are known as “social” medial platforms, whereas LinkedIn is known as a “professional” connecting platform.
Prominent (and constantly evolving) change surrounds Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). In lieu of simply scanning a resume for keyword matches, recent advancements (in the past several months) involve the ATS’ ability to “profile” and “rank” a resume. Not only has this increased competition among candidates, but it has also changed the way a resume writer will format an electronic resume. To the outsider, this is menial; but to a resume writer and recruiter, it is more important than a candidate may ever realize.
In my opinion, resume and job search processes will see gradual changes that will not only impact the writing process, but the submission process. I can visualize the ATS evolving from a profile and rank summary to actually assigning each applicant a relevance code based on experience, education, and relevant skills. From a negative perspective, I envision the constant transformation of the ATS and the trend toward social media formats causing a loss of not only etiquette, but a means of taking the “human” out of human resources.
In order to not only “survive” in this industry, but to champion best practices, I believe it is important for resume writers, career/talent management professionals, and human resources leaders to advocate a slight return to the basics. Although technology is important and must be optimized to ensure efficiency and minimize the almighty recruiter dollar, my concern is the lack of humanity in the talent management process. We should not simply accept every new platform as the “standard” in which it is marketed; rather, we should investigate the validity and “human” approach to artificial intelligence, if such a balance exists. With this said, I also believe the trend will (like anything in history) tilt too much one way, hence corporations finding some serious human capital issues in about 10-15 years, which will require the visitation of old methods and instituting a “balanced” approach to human capital acquisition.
Lastly, try not to pin yourself into one specialty area; rather, open yourself to global markets and military transition candidates who will be flooding the market in the next five years. Leveraging this approach provides broad knowledge of cross-functional markets, hence competitive edge.