Our Case Studies are an excellent way to see inside our thinking.
If you want to understand what the best resume writers will offer you, then you need to see their thought processes. It's not enough to know they can string together words legibly, they need to actually reflect your best self, in your words, in the right context, for your specific listener - which, in this case, is the recruiter. Those are the things we consider.
Clara came to us with three things: a ragged looking resume, a background in food service, and a desire to move into event planning.
After cleaning up the typos and formatting errors we revised her resume style and changed it from a simplistic version that almost everyone uses to make it fresh and appealing to a more creative employer. We also reworded her list of skills to better align them with her target audience. She didn't think she'd be qualified for the kind of job she wanted, but with a little re-branding we showed her she was more qualified than she realized.
Here are just a few of the changes made:
- "Worked in a busy restaurant" became "Warm, energetic personality best suited to high traffic trade shows and engaging public atmospheres"
- "Handled nightly cash tip-outs to bartenders and busboys" was reworded into "Trusted steward responsible for daily cash reimbursements"
- "Inventoried weekly supplies" was transformed into "Accurately managed weekly inventories of all materials, equipment, and raw goods"
With just a little elbow grease (and a trained eye) we got her from being a so-so applicant with poor writing skills to a standout candidate worthy of serious consideration.
Clara got the job. She went from waitressing to a position as an event coordinator (being more creative, making more money, and with better benefits). Someday we bet she owns her own event planning firm too!
Sometimes you just need a little of the right help to get there.
Alex was stuck. He wanted out of his unstructured day job and into something he felt more secure in. Trouble is, he didn't know exectly what that was, and since he made decent money and had fairly good benefits he was afraid to rock the boat and lose it all. Besides that he didn't know where to start. He'd read a few books, but needed someone to help him sort through everything so he could get a better sense of which direction to head.
When Alex came to us he was managing two surf board shops. His days were filled with sunshine, sea salt, and sand, and his conversations centered around board wax, high tides, aerial tricks, and beach bunnies. He wore swim trunks, flip-flops, and tattoos for a living, and he worked seven days a week. But he had two kids now and he wanted a more balanced life; one where he could mature, professionally.
Alex wasn't sure where to start, or what else he might be qualified to do since he'd been in the surfing business since high school almost fifteen years ago.
We started with a skills assessment, asked probing questions about what he liked best about what he did currently, and explored with him what other industries might be like. We needed to know if he was ready for the suit-and-tie, Monday through Friday, indoors-all-day work, or if he wanted something else.
In short order we discovered he was pretty passionate about his marketing successes with his two shops, and how he'd taken his sales from under 200k per year to over 3MM. Alex didn't want to do sales, but he did love the creative process of marketing, so that's where we focused. But we wanted him to capitalize on some of his other strengths too, like talking to new people in ways that made them feel really comfortable. That's where he really excelled.
Today Alex works as a marketing director for a large national brewery. He spends half his day in the office going over advertising proposals and planning new media initiatives, and the other half out in the field schmoozing his clients in bars and sports arenas where his surfing experiences are making incredibly fun connection points.
Now it's the best of both worlds, with better hours, stronger pay and benefits, and a future that really serves his family's goals. He says he's never been happier.
Returning After A Long Break
James was a special case. He held a degree as an engineer and had gained terrific work experience in his chosen field, but had just spent the last four years in prison. James had done plenty of his own resumes before (with great success) but he'd lost his confidence. His guilt and shame for what he'd done were getting in his way; he couldn't be objective about his strengths because his weaknesses were all he could see.
We decided to start his resume from scratch. After we gathered all of his qualifications, skills, and work experience we took a hard look at them. Then we asked him a few follow up questions, decided the best approach to showcase his strengths, and got to work.
Most of the time a four-year unemployment gap will blow a good resume, so people will tend to downplay it by focusing the entire resume on skills, and then add work history near the bottom in the hopes that recruiters won't notice the big gap. It's a method that works well for those who have little work experience, but that wasn't a good plan where James was concerned. He actually had some great work experience, and playing it down would have meant he'd have to start his career all over.
In follow up questions we discovered that James had spent the bulk of his time in confinement studying his field, so instead of downplaying his timeline gap we reframed it to his advantage. We listed that gaping four year period in his work timeline as "Intensive Studies", and gave examples of materials he'd read, knowledge he'd acquired, and industry standards he'd gained expertise on.
It worked! James went from a down-and-out ex-con looking for any job that would have him, to someone filled with pride in his accomplishments. His new resume gave him the confidence again to speak to what he knew, enter the marketplace with his head high, and ready to shake hands and look hiring managers in the eye. He may have to explain his situation in more depth later, but it wouldn't stop him from getting in the door and being treated with respect.
Within just a few weeks James landed a job in his field, making 80% of his last salary. Now he's freelancing on the side, writing articles about a career he loves and becoming an authority others look to for guidance.
New Grad, New City
Jules was graduating with her Masters in Biology and looking for something outside of academia when we met her. She'd had a few reasearch and TA gigs in college, and waited tables during high school, but otherwise she had no experience to speak of. Though she had a range of things she was able to do, the only thing she was really interested in was working with plants and animals outdoors.
Since her work experience and education wasn't related to forestry or animal husbandry, we needed to zero in on the types of jobs that provided the experience she wanted, but capitalized on the education and experience she actually had. When we discovered she really loved working with and teaching children, we suggested she consider nature tours, ranch camps, farm educational programs, or city aquarium and zoo positions. She loved those ideas!
At first Jules couldn't see where her previous work experience would be relevant, so she was tempted to leave it off her resume and instead focus on her academic studies. We convinced her that in most cases an employer wants to see some work history, and that hers was actually more relevant than she realized. We highlighted her organizational and attention-to-detail skills from her time as a research assistant, her outgoing plate-spinning customer service skills as a waitress, and her diligence, tenacity, and work ethic at juggling high school with full-time work at the same time.
Next we helped her create a targeted job campaign plan, and followed up with her to help her stay motivated and on track. We helped her see and reach potential employers that might not be advertising online, and created a list for her of places that held the types of positions she wanted so she could reach out to them directly.
Today Jules is in charge of creating night-time nature hikes; teaching kids to use night-vision goggles to see mushrooms that glow at night and nocturnal animals as they emerge.