Archive for January 2009

The Branded Resume: an Essential Tool

January 31, 2009




Introduction: Planning Your Career Move (as important as planning your vacation?)

It’s been said that most people spend more time planning their vacations than planning their careers. While most of us spend 40-60+ hours per week performing our jobs and making our living, it is an amazing concept that we don’t spend more time and energy assessing and preparing for the next steps that could amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars in future compensation and dramatically impact our overall career satisfaction.

Whether the above assertion re: planning vacations vs. planning careers is true or not, I do have a gut feeling from my 10+ years of writing resumes full time, that many people do not adequately invest themselves in the resume prep portion of career strategy – feeling it’s just a ‘whip up my career bullets’ task that should be executed in a few hours or days with abbreviated thought and using canned language, prescribed job descriptions and buzzwords. That is, until a light-bulb moment erupts when they hit a roadblock and SOS for help, admitting that their resume is evaporating into a black hole and that the interview opportunities are few and far between.

Often, this awareness hits at the end of the first, second or third month (or longer) of a stagnant job search. Unfortunately, this duration of job search combined with waning financial resources feeds anxiety and germinates a problem of how to make up for lost time and how to devise a tailored resume in short order and cheaply (clearly, short-order, cheap resumes are ineffective – at the least, they are ‘less’ effective).

Resume Writing Is Manual Labor of the Mind

Resume development, I realize, is manual labor of the mind – and it stretches muscles beyond our comfort zone. Or, put another way, developing an original resume is like going to an annual health exam (uncomfortable and sometimes a bit painful) and afterward, the resume requires continuous, rigorous checkups to address additions to your career chronology/achievements and/or changes in career direction, but for the health of your career and for preventive care reasons (and sometimes, unfortunately, to address career health issues before they worsen), a meaningful, well thought out resume process is essential!

Branded Resumes – Packaging Your Value

That said, I will congratulate the majority of readers who have ‘seen the light’ and have invested in themselves and their careers and maintained a current, branded resume to propel their career advancement. Many professionals and executives (my clients, especially!) “get” the idea of packaging themselves as a brand and understand the return on their investment garnered in doing so – not just a return on the financial investment but the return on intellectual energy expended. (Those who have completed my professional prep worksheet know what I am talking about! :- )

This leads my to my focus of today’s blog on “career branding” as it relates to building a branded resume. Branding is a term that has leapt to the cutting edge of career communications in the past couple of years. I have a passion for leveraging this personal product packaging technique for my clients, as it just makes sense to me, and I began employing branding strategies before the term became popular.

First, I will share with you that I review hundreds of resumes annually for ExecuNet members and other prospective clients and job searchers who find me through my Web site, who are referred to me by former clients and who link to me through the several partnerships I have forged through my years in the industry.

As such, I am quite convinced that the greatest ‘lack’ in most resumes is their inability to effectively stand apart from the resumes of throngs of other candidates with similar credentials and experience. Most resumes I assess are well structured, but not tailored, are dutiful in checking off the resume design/content ‘boxes’ required by resume readers, are often even well written with the appropriate action verbs (“spearheaded, innovated, devised,” etc.) but are not customized in their message toward the individual job candidate’s unique promise of value. Rarely does a resume create a vivid snapshot of the individual’s precise performance style and drivers.

It’s like viewing a movie in black and white, or listening to an otherwise engaging song with the volume turned a bit too low, missing the opportunity to energize the listener. Most resumes possess the essential elements as touted by resume builder tipsters to construct an intro (Summary/Profile), middle (Experience) and end (Education/Development), and some include the appropriate measurements (%, $, #), but in a majority of cases, these resumes do not compel the (right) reader to call. The reader initially is interested and hopeful to digest the rest of the story, but he/she often drifts off the page, uninspired or unclear as to how this person’s message resonates with his/her specific needs.

Avoiding Me-too Resumes / Creating the Emotional Hook

In other words, one resume mimics the content, results and ‘buzz’ language of the next resume and of the next resume … and of the next resume… and so on. An objection I often hear from individuals whose resumes I review when I urge them to try my resume writing ideas is that they don’t want to say ‘too much’ on their resume – that they want to wait to ‘save this information to tell’ during the interview.

Unfortunately, when you do not create a hook or emotional appeal with your resume, you will not secure the opportunity to tell more of your story later. I am confident, through observing my clients’ profound results with the resumes we develop, that you can successfully build muscular content into the resume and still leave more of your story for the telling at the interview. (Trust me: most people’s stories could fill a 300-page book, so a 2-3 page resume will ‘not’ threaten to exhaust your career archives.)

As your career strategist, I am not one to shy away from pithy content — because substantive writing in the form of resumes does work to your gain! Although achievements are vital, accomplishments statements without substance describing how you forged those results, and accomplishment statements that are devoid of the trials and tribulations with which you grappled, often leave the reader unconvinced or frustrated or simply, uninspired and unfocused as to whether you’ve solved the problems like they currently are facing (i.e., that you can hit the ground running).

A kernel of inspired writing that paints the picture of a stumbling block you surmounted or a wall that you knocked down to achieve double-digit revenue stimulation or a program you drove to attract thousands of new customers to your business door or a process improvement you devised to beat down costs will speak volumes to the right reader (question is ‘who, exactly, are you targeting?’ – but that is the subject of another article :- ). By resonating with the reader’s unique pain points, you can do more than simply tout results and keywords, and you can ensure a results-generating and interview-cinching resume.

In Conclusion: Wrangle Content and Refine Your Story to Spur Dramatic Results – Getting the Interviews You Deserve !!

Examining your career archives in-depth, wrestling down dozens of pages into a high-impact 2-3 page brand document that sells your value proposition versus regurgitating a bland or worn out buzzword summary and chronology of bullet achievements with me-too speak will be fruitful for any job seeker at any level. Not only will you ferret out the critical drivers that will steer your career to the next level, you will create a repository of stories from which to pluck and refer to as you engage in the interview process that will surely follow.

Posted by Jacqui Barrett, MRW

Rules of Resume Story Length: Perception or Reality?

January 17, 2009

I am acutely aware of the varying opinions on what constitutes a Branded and High-Impact executive resume. I also appreciate the recommendations by some of my colleagues, that an Exec Resume must be limited to absolute brevity at 2 pages.

I’m of the belief that an executive resume can be 2 or 3 pages (some, even upward to 4 pages!), as long as the first page creates almost a ‘standalone’ snap-off story (not reliant on pages 2-3). With a writer’s/journalist’s training, I understand the design and word-smith strategies to be both content driven and crisp. As long as the executive’s story is written in a glimpseable format with the takeaway highlights and value prop tightly knit and showcased throughout, then the length becomes less relevant.

Often, executive recruiters tell me they LOVE the stories that I tell on behalf of clients – and they crave such content — not to rule the candidate OUT, but to help rule them in [i.e., provide substance behind the results ($$##%%) and nuance behind the leadership strategy that compels them to want to meet that person.]

Posted by Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter, MRW