Get to know the other resume writers in our community with our “10 Questions” series!
Today’s profile is Gayle Howard!
Top Margin. She has been a resume writer for 30 years, “helping people find their voices and tell their stories to stand out in a crowd.”
Gayle is a “strong believer in the notion that people gravitate to what they love — even when it involves compromise.” She says that her career aspirations were crushed (in “earlier, unenlightened times”) by a high school careers teacher who insisted that “journalism was for men.” That “pretty lousy advice” took her in different directions professionally, but ultimately, Gayle returned to her passion for writing when she launched Top Margin in March 1990.
“30 years later, and here I am! Master Resume Writer, author, career storyteller, coach, trainer, and 51-time nominee and 27-time winner of resume-writing awards — extolling the talents of my clients as they demonstrate determination, tenacity, and success. I tell people’s stories of insurmountable obstacles overcome, and of ways they disrupt the old, to bring in the new. My resumes succeed because I provide the context that makes people eager to know more.”
1. Why did you decide to become a professional resume writer?
At the time, my son was only three years old, and I was keen to work from home. As I had experience writing resumes and recruiting, I thought it would be a good opportunity to run a home-based business.
2. How did you get into the career industry? What did you do before?
I commenced my career in customer service and later was an executive assistant to an executive in the financial planning sector. As an executive assistant, I hired staff and went through their resumes to select candidates for interview. I loved doing that, and it seemed like a natural fit that could match personal and professional interests.
3. What do you typically wear when you’re working?
Jeans, top, runners.
4. What is your best habit, and what is your worst?
My worst habit is procrastination combined with a short attention span. I can spend 3 minutes writing and a “ding” sound goes off on my computer and I’ll be looking at Facebook. Or checking Twitter, or reading the news headlines. I’ve not lost my focus, I can focus for hours on things I love doing … but after 30 years writing resumes, my focus and interest has just about disappeared. My best habit is my willingness to embrace new ideas, create new ways of doing things, and learn new technologies. It has served me well over the years!
5. What’s your favorite object in your office? Why?
I have a little Amazon clock sitting beside my desk. I like that it shows me the temperature, I like its pink clock face, and I love that I can control the lights with it, and ask it about things quicker than if I search Google. I love its shape too. Super cute.
6. What is your “go to” technique or secret when you get stuck when you’re writing a resume? How do you get unstuck?
If a client has gone on for paragraphs and I have trouble wading through all the jargon and detail, I look right to the bottom of the piece, because mostly they’ll put the result of all this stuff there. I then type that first: “Saved the world by…” and then I sift through the content looking for the “I did this” statement and add that. “Saved the world by calling upon my long-term relationship with Superman.”
Then, finally, I go to where they complain about all the things they hated and add that in between two phrases. So it becomes “Saved the world stagnating through lack of engagement by calling upon my long-term relationship with Superman.” I find this technique gets me strong, achievement-filled bullet points without having to plow through all the minute and unnecessary detail. Sort of a “sift and scan” technique.
7. What’s the best career advice you ever got?
I’d be happier to tell you the worst advice I ever received, which I usually write in my bio! But the best career advice I’ve taken on board, is in customer relationship management. Email is a terrible thing sometimes, and often we just answer quickly and it makes us sound harsh and rude. I make sure I write every email and then edit it. So I say what I want to say — complaint or question, and then write the nice stuff around it. “Thanks so much for taking the time to reach out. I really appreciate it.” Or, “I can imagine how upsetting that must have been for you at work and how up in the air this has made you feel.” I guess the quick answer is: always remember that behind every email is a person with feelings. Don’t trample on them.
8. How do you unplug?
I love my Netflix, I love reading, and I love going out on drives with my husband.
9. What ONE thing would you change about your business or the career industry, if you could?
For my business, I would have turned over the reins to freelance writers much earlier. I spent way too much time making myself indispensable in my own business and ended up writing until everything I did for the business became me sitting in front of the computer. I know lack of exercise has affected my health and eyesight, and I regret that very much.
As far as what I’d change about the careers industry, it would be that I think there should be one key body with influence to represent all resume writers and that has professional clout — like accountants and lawyers. I think multiple associations has created numerous toothless tigers and wide variations in what the average person can expect when hiring a resume writer with association backing.
10. What are your favorite social media accounts to follow?
You can find Gayle on Facebook at Top Margin, on Twitter (@GayleHoward), and on LinkedIn at LinkedIn.com/in/gaylehoward.
Did you miss our last 10 Questions profile, featuring Dawn Rasmussen? You can read it here!