Sunday, January 30, 2011

How I Got Started in Resume Writing

I've been writing resumes since I was 12 years old. I wrote my dad's resume when he was looking for a new job, after leaving a family business owned by my uncles. I was in sixth grade. Ironically, it was my first federal resume (they didn't actually have a federal resume format back then, because Kathryn Troutman hadn't created it yet).

In high school, I joined my school's Future Business Leaders of America chapter, and this is where I really developed my resume writing skills. As a senior attending the State Leadership Conference (SLC), we were allowed to compete in a Job Interview contest. You would prepare a resume and cover letter for a fictional company and they would bring in real HR folks and hiring managers from businesses in the community to interview for this job. The top candidates would receive awards, and one lucky contestant would compete at the National Leadership Conference (NLC). I'm sorry to say that I didn't win the Job Interview competition (I think I came in fourth ... due to wearing a black-and-gold interview outfit, instead of a black or blue suit ... oh, what I know now!!), but my scores did qualify me to place very high in the Ms. Future Business Leader competition (I think I was runner-up) ... this was 20 years ago, don't quote me!

But in putting together my resume and cover letter, I learned that I enjoyed writing resumes -- and I was good at it. In fact, I came back every spring for the next 5-6 years and taught each year's class of seniors how to write their resume and cover letter for the competition, and basic interviewing skills. I'm thrilled to say that several of my candidates WON the job interview competition ... and my younger sister was even selected as Ms. Future Business Leader [Nebraska] (and competed at the national competition, coming in fourth in the nation).

As I was getting ready to graduate from college, my then-boyfriend (now-husband) and I were thinking about starting a business. We were getting our degrees in journalism/public relations and we wanted to work with small business owners. (A futile effort I detail in this post.) Anyway, when that market failed to materialize, I decided to write resumes. I joined PARW, read "How to Start a Home-Based Resume Business" (1st edition), and dived in, with a Yellow Pages ad.

I've been writing resumes now (as a paid resume writer) for 15 years. I've written resumes from A to Z (an accountant I'm currently working on a resume update for, to a zookeeper at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo). For a period of time, I subcontract wrote (for an individual writer as well as for CareerPerfect). And, in 1998, I decided to publish a newsletter for other professional resume writers.

That's how I got my start in resume writing!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Jessica Swanson 50-Day Blog Post Challenge

Over the past few days, I've shared with you a couple of the challenges that have been keeping me from being as active as I'd like to be on continuing to develop Resume Writers' Digest. It's not a matter of interest or passion (I've got those in spades for the careers industry), but rather a lack of focus, priorities, and time. (But even that's just an excuse. I can make the time if I make it a priority, if I just focus on what I want!!)

2011 marks the 15th year of the business I own with my husband, Image Building Communications. Jon and I started the business while we were still seniors in college at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. I can tell you, however, that the idea that we had for our business in 1996 is a far cry from what we ended up doing over the past 15 years. (We thought we'd be providing marketing and public relations support for the SOHO market. Remember SOHO? Small Office Home Office? No one even uses that term anymore. What we found out, pretty quickly, is that SOHO clients didn't have the money to pay someone to help them with their hands-on marketing. They were doing it themselves, or not doing it at all. I did find that writing resumes was a legitimate business opportunity.)

I didn't consciously think about a plan for revitalizing my business this year. In fact, I had actually forgotten it was our 15th year, until Jon mentioned it on Facebook earlier this week.

I have two sayings that I use all the time: "There's only one of me" (usually, when I get my 50th demand for a pressing issue in a particular day), and something along the lines of "I need to focus on growing our business, not everyone else's." (It's like the resume writer who helps her clients get a $100,000 job with a $150 resume and then gets resentful.) You're not going to be able to stay in business if you can't/won't/don't charge what you need to make money doing it. As far as I know, there aren't any resume writers who work from grants and donations!! (You're not a charity; stop acting like it!)

Anyway, I digress.

I've spent the month of January focused on a theme: LEARNING. Taking the time to sign up for free (and paid) teleseminars and webinars on topics that are going to help me move forward. It's given me lots of ideas and inspiration. And 4-5 notebooks full of great stuff.

But so far, I'm still having trouble moving forward.

I have two main challenges:

1) I need to find a resume writer that I can work with who can handle the resume writing clients that come my way. At this particular time in my life, I'm not interested in taking on new resume clients, or working on resume updates/rewrites for past clients. But because I've been writing resumes for 15 years, I get calls all the time. I keep saying yes, but it's not what I want to be doing right now. (And I keep thinking that I just need to send out an email to my subscriber list and see if someone is interested in working with these folks, in exchange for a small referral fee for me...)

2) I need to make working on Resume Writers' Digest a priority. Getting the newsletter out. Lining up advertisers and joint venture partners and affiliates. Researching and developing content that will be new special reports. Heck, going to a conference again (it's been too long). Speaking at a conference again (it's been way too long). But I keep getting distracted by other interesting projects (mainly, outside clients that want my help in growing their business or improving their social media presence) -- but they're not leading me where I want to go. I need my subscribers and blog readers to tell me that they need me to do this ... to let me know that if I "build it" they will "come" (consume the content, buy the special products!)... Ironically, I get a handful of these emails each time I publish an issue of the newsletter... but I haven't published an issue in a while ...

The only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. So I'm going to start with my February theme. The theme for February is WRITING.

I came across a great Facebook note by Jessica Swanson, Shoestring Marketing expert. In it, she outlines 50 blog topic ideas for small business owners. Along the lines of the Julie/Julia Project (without the F-bombs) or a little more like The Happiness Project (highly recommend the book, by the way). This one is going to be shorter. I can't commit to a yearlong project at this point ... that's why I'm taking it a month at a time (January = Learning; February = Writing; March ??).

I'm starting what I'm calling "The Jessica Swanson 50-Day Blog Post Challenge" -- starting Feb. 1, I'm going to take one of Jessica's 50 suggestions and turn it into a blog post. From what I've seen already, some of them are going to be easy. Some are going to be hard and require me to learn some new skills (posting a video or screencast? I've thought about those, but never done it before).

So, starting Tuesday, you're going to see posts that will be labelled as part of "The Jessica Swanson 50-Day Blog Post Challenge." I'm not taking them in order (mainly because #6 is that video/screencast idea). We'll see what I'm able to come up with... stay tuned!

Here's the links:
Day 2: Biased "Resume Writer" Evaluation Websites

Friday, January 28, 2011

Generating Rapid Cash Flow in Your Resume Writing Business

I spent a couple of hours over the past four days listening to the great information shared in Ellen Britt's Rapid Cash Flow Secrets telesummit calls. There were four sessions each day, with each presenter sharing their best ideas for generating quick cash flow as well as developing a sustainable business income for the long haul as well. There were several big-name presenters, including Jessica Swanson, Michelle PW, and Christine Gallagher.

Many years ago, I had the idea that resume writers needed to create some sort of program to complement the resume writing services offered. My original idea was something like a pre-paid legal services model -- where folks would pay a small fee per month (like $12 or $20) and receive access to resume services on an ongoing basis (like one resume update each year).

After listening to the programs, I got some new ideas for resume writers -- like the idea of a membership site (which is kind of like the legal services model), with resources for resume clients. It can be provided as a bonus with the purchase of the resume on a free trial basis, and then as an ongoing subscription revenue source after that. While the average membership site only keeps clients for 3-5 months, I think a resume writer's membership site might attract clients for 6- to 12-months (and certainly selling it in time chunks like that would lessen the attrition rate).

Are you interested in learning more about these kinds of principles? You can purchase the audio files and transcripts for all 16 Rapid Cash Flow Secrets sessions using this link for just $97. I'll also be writing and/or speaking about how you can apply some of these principles in your resume writing business for short-term and long-term income generation in future blog posts and in the Resume Writers' Digest newsletter.

Is this a topic you're interested in learning more about? Let me know...

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Associations for Professional Resume Writers

I'm leaving up the original post (below), but I've updated the association listing.
Check out the updated post by clicking here.

Looking for networking opportunities, certifications, information, and more? There are several associations devoted to the professional resume writing and careers industry.

These include:
  • The Career Management Alliance. Originally founded as the Career Masters Institute (CMI) by Wendy Enelow, "The Alliance," as it is informally known, was purchased by Kennedy Information (which became BNA Subsidiaries LLC). Their annual conference is in Las Vegas in April 2011. The conferences are pricy, but well done. Memberships begin at $135/year.
  • Career Directors International (CDI). Originally founded as the Professional Resume Writing and Research Association (PRWRA), this association is run by Laura DeCarlo. They offer one of the best annual conferences out there. Dues are $150/year. They offer several certifications, including the Certified Advanced Resume Writer (CARW), Certified Expert Resume Writer (CERW), Certified Resume Specialist (CRS), and Master Career Director (MRD) designations. They also offer an annual resume writing awards contest, the TORI (Toast of the Resume Industry) awards.
  • Career Professionals of Canada. With a subscriber base of 250, three credentials that are widely recognized by Canadians, and a rigorous training program, CPC is a valuable resource for Canadian practitioners.
  • Career Thought Leaders. The brainchild of Wendy Enelow, Career Thought Leaders Consortium bills itself as a "think tank" -- but is offering a conference and symposium in 2011 in Baltimore in March.
  • Not really a true "association," this is an online directory for resume writers that has morphed into an "information resource site" for resume writers as well. Maria Hebda puts together an impressive line-up of teleseminars. There is a one-time (lifetime) membership fee of $497. (Multiple pay-payment options are available.)
  • The National Resume Writers' Association (NRWA). This is a member-driven organization, with a volunteer board of directors. They offer an annual conference (the 2011 conference is in Maine) and a rigorous certification -- the Nationally Certified Resume Writer credential. Dues are $150/year (2-payment and 3-payment options available for new members).
  • Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches (PARW/CC). Founded by Frank Fox, PARW was the "original" resume writing association, from which many other associations branched off. PARW offers the most common resume writing certification, the Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) credential. It also certifies individuals as Certified Employment Interview Professionals (CEIP) and Certified Professional Career Coaches (CPCC). Membership is $150/year.
  • Resume Writing Academy (RWA). Not an association, really, the Academy is a training program offered by Louise Kursmark and Wendy Enelow. Resume writers can earn the prestigious ACRW (Academy Certified Resume Writer) credential, which is the preferred certification for many resume contracting firms.
  • Arizona Resume Writers' Association. This small group maintains a website to market their services collectively to prospects in their geographic area.
  • Association of Online Resume & Career Professionals (AORCP). It offers a Certified Master Resume Specialist (CMRS) credential. Membership is just $50/year.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I Got Distracted

I sometimes say that I have "mild ADD" -- I think most business owners do. We enjoy wearing lots of hats, and don't like doing the same thing every day. I think it's what makes us great resume writers -- I know a little bit about a lot of subjects, and I'm naturally very curious ... which makes it easy for me to get interested in the wide variety of professions that I've written resumes for. It also makes me very distractable.

Which brings me to this blog post. I started Resume Writers' Digest about 12 years ago, I think. (I could go look up the first issue, that that would just distract me from writing this blog post.) It started as a print newsletter, six issues a year for $36. It was initially 8 pages. At some point along there (again, I'm not going to look it up, but I think it was about 2002), I started putting out 16 and 20 page issues ... I think one was even 28 pages. I raised the subscription fee to $60/year ($10 an issue, six issues). It was wildly successful. We "covered" all the major conferences. I solicited paid articles from the top names in the business. (I particularly loved Louise Kursmark's column in each issue). We had advertisers... lots of them.

But then I got distracted. I can't even remember why now, but I had another project (or another client) that took up so much of my time that I couldn't keep on top of the newsletter. So I let it die out. I was sad to see it go, but I had a lot of other stuff going on. (If I recall correctly, it was also around the time that I got married and moved my business into my home.)

A few years ago, in September 2007, I brought it back again -- this time as a free online issue, supported by advertising and the sale of my special reports. But several of the earlier advertisers weren't around anymore, and I got a lot of pushback from one resume writing association in particular, who were upset about the conference coverage write-ups. (They felt that session write-ups would keep people from attending the conferences themselves. My response, that the write-ups were coming after the conferences were over, and that there are many other reasons to attend a conference other than just the content, fell on deaf ears.)

Lots of family issues from 2008-2010 kept me from staying focused on Resume Writers' Digest. The laptop I blogged on died. My former sister-in-law had a midlife crisis and cheated on my brother. My aunt (of whom I'm a primary caretaker) had a stroke. All of these, combined with the need to keep my "main" business going, led to a lack of attention to Resume Writers' Digest. I got distracted.

But I want to get back to making Resume Writers' Digest a priority again. I have a database of about 4000 professional resume writers and career professionals ... more than 800 of them subscribe to the Resume Writers' Digest newsletter. I receive a couple of emails a week from folks wondering where the next issue is. I've got dozens of articles that are ready to go ... ideas and even some full-fledged special reports ... but not enough hours in the day.

I don't really have any grand announcements in this blog post. I mostly just wanted to let you know that I'm working on it. I need to put a plan and a timeline in place ... and say "no" to some other things so that I can get back to what I really am passionate about ... supporting resume writers. That's been an interest of mine since I started my business in 1996 ... and 15 years later, I'm still passionate about it. It's time I put my focus back on Resume Writers' Digest.

Let me know what you want ... Does the newsletter format still interest you? Should I be putting more focus on my blog? Any particular topics for special reports you're interested in? I've got lots of ideas, but I need to know what you want too... please feel free to comment.