Michelle has been a professional resume writer for 25 years. An active member and volunteer with the National Resume Writers’ Association (NRWA), Michelle has been the recipient of many industry awards and holds multiple resume writing and career coaching certifications, including the NCRW and NCOPE. She has been a speaker at several NRWA conferences, is a former member of the NRWA board of directors including serving as the organization’s president in 2017, and has served in a variety of other volunteer roles, such as on the NCRW Certification Commission, the Public Image Committee, the ROAR Judging Committee, and currently, the President’s Advisory Board.
As the founder of Distinctive Career Services (formerly known as Distinctive Documents), Michelle has a quarter-century of experience in the industry and is known for creating powerful, engaging, distinctively designed resumes that are infused with personality and tell her clients’ unique, branded career stories.
While Michelle still works personally and one-on-one with a very select executive clientele, her focus has shifted to coordinating and collaborating with a team of talented writers to deliver resume wring and job search services through www.distinctiveweb.com.
1. Why did you decide to become a professional resume writer?
In the early 90s, as an adult student with a husband and 3-year-old daughter at home, I decided it was time to get my degree, and so I started college as a psychology student with a plan to go into clinical psychology.
Throughout my four years, professors repeatedly commented on my writing skills and my English professor went as far as suggesting to me that I should be a journalism student rather than a psychology student. This is when I first realized I had a talent for writing.
Before I graduated, I had been hired as a part-time case manager in a group home for adolescents. As soon as I graduated I was hired full time, and it wasn’t long before I realized working as a therapist would not be for me, and I began to look into transitioning into career counseling. When an opportunity came up to run the home’s career development program and teach the residents resume writing and job seeking and job “keeping” skills, I jumped on it and LOVED it.
As fate would have it, this is when what was known as the “WWW” was really ramping up and I was fascinated by it and what I intuitively felt was a huge opportunity. This is also when my daughter was about to start first grade and I wanted to be home for her when she got home from school. One day, I came up with the idea that I would start a business combining my writing skills with my experience teaching resume writing plus my fascination with the opportunities to make money on the Internet. I launched my business, working nights and weekends, and less than six months later, I resigned from my job. That was 25 years ago. :)
2. How did you get into the career industry? What did you do before?
Since I had determined working in a clinical setting as a therapist wasn’t for me, when I first started my business, I thought it would be a good way to start transitioning my psychology degree into career counseling. However, I found that I loved learning about my clients and writing their stories — and I especially loved the challenge of being an entrepreneur in the very, very early wild-west days of the Internet. I immersed myself in my business and never looked back.
3. What do you typically wear when you’re working?
I used to get dressed for “work” every day. That hardly ever happens now. It isn’t uncommon to find I’m still in my PJs at noon. When I finally do get dressed, it is jeans and bare feet for me!
4. What is your best habit, and what is your worst?
My best habit is my discipline and focus on my goals. My worst habit is my discipline and focus on my goals. What I mean by that is that I become so focused on whatever I am working on, and the endless stream of projects behind it, that I find myself working far longer hours than is healthy. I also have “shiny new object” syndrome and can easily find myself going off in 10 different promising directions at once. I have to try to stay very conscious of this and focus on one thing at a time.
5. What’s your favorite object in your office? Why?
Probably the great big bean bag chair where I can sink in, lie back and read. But the truth is, you are more likely to find my dog and two cats curled up together in it than me.
6. What is your “go to” technique or secret when you get stuck when you’re writing a resume? How do you get unstuck?
It always amazes me how many resumes I have written in the shower. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve jumped out of the shower and run to my desk wrapped in a towel, with the words that had previously evaded me finally flowing. I think I do my best writing when I’m not trying so hard to force the words.
7. What’s the best career advice you ever got?
“Clarify what you want for your life and then build your business around the vision.” A business coach shared this with me 15 years ago, at a point when I was burnt out and almost ready to walk away from my business. I did EXACTLY what she advised and every business decision since has been made with my desire to build a remote business … because what I wanted more than anything was to travel. Working part-time while I travel is a small trade-off for the incredible benefit of being able to work from anywhere in the world. I’ve taken full advantage of that ability and have worked while traveling around the Highlands of Scotland, from a canal boat traveling through England, a motorhome traveling Canada, from a cruise ship in the Mediterranean, beaches in Jamaica and Mexico, the rainforest in Costa Rica, and many other places.
8. How do you unplug?
I love, love history and genealogy and have started my own personal genealogy blog to write the stories of my ancestors. But when I need to get away from my computer, I love anything outdoors: especially gardening, camping, kayaking, skiing, ATVing, and snowmobiling.
9. What ONE thing would you change about your business or the career industry, if you could?
I wish the quality of services delivered by those in our profession were more consistent. When a jobseeker is “burned” by poor quality services, it reflects on the entire industry. I believe that the more we work to improve the skills of other resume writers, the more it benefits the industry as a whole. For this reason, I am passionate about organizations that provide training and meaningful certification programs.
Connect with Michelle on Linkedin here:
Did you miss our last 10 Questions profile, featuring Anne Barnwell?