Thursday, May 14, 2020

10 Questions with Gayle Howard


Get to know the other resume writers in our community with our “10 Questions” series!

Today’s profile is Gayle Howard!


Gayle, “Executive Resume Writer, Word Nerd, Mac Geek, and Storyteller Extraordinaire” is the owner of 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?
@SamHeughan (Twitter)
@MikeCarlton01 (Twitter)
@passengershaming (Instagram)
@theoatmeal (Instagram)
@natashas_skinspa_southbank (Instagram)

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!

Thursday, April 30, 2020

10 Questions With Dawn Rasmussen


Get to know the other resume writers in our community with our “10 Questions” series!

Today’s profile is Dawn Rasmussen!


Dawn is a certified resume writer and the president of Portland, Oregon-based Pathfinder Writing and Career Services. She is the author of “Forget Job Security: Build Your Marketability,” which she says is “the first-ever book that provides a complete roadmap on how to manage your career.”

One thing that Dawn says makes her “tick,” is “a relentless and tireless desire to help everyone understand the importance of actively managing their career every minute of every day.” When she isn’t busy working with resume clients, speaking to conference groups nationally and internationally, writing articles and blog posts, or teaching, Dawn can be found hiking Oregon’s spectacular outdoors, kayaking, or plotting her next adventure.

1. How long have you been a professional resume writer?
Since 2007.

2. Why did you decide to become a professional resume writer?
I love writing and realized that the instincts were already there. The best part, however, is that this craft also means I get to help people. When they are not confident, I can reassure them and hold up the mirror that I have polished so they can see their value and worth. Over the nearly 13 years I've been doing this, I've heard back from so many clients that this project together had a positive impact on their lives, and to me, that is the best reward and reinforces that I am doing what I was meant to do.

3. How did you get into the career industry? What  did you do before?
It was an accident that was rooted in serendipity. The organization where I worked had a major org shift and I was without a job. My work had involved running a statewide school-to-career program for 49 high schools around Oregon. I was already going into the classrooms as a guest speaker, talking about resumes and job searches. After my job transition, a friend with whom I had lunch with said, "I know what you should do … become a resume writer!" Her daughter had dabbled in it and offered to set up a chat. After the conversation, I dove in feet first by joining the relevant professional organizations, attending the annual conferences, learning how to hone my craft, and ultimately, getting certified.

4. What do you typically wear when you’re working?
I wear dressy casual (clothes). No jammies for me. When I am in “jammy mode,” I don't feel focused, nor polished. I prefer being comfortable but in the professional zone.

5. What is your best habit, and what is your worst?
Best habit is self-discipline … that was one warning I was given when I first started working as a professional resume writer — that I would need to be focused on creating a structure. That’s been an easy thing for me … the worst part was finally giving myself permission to take a day off. With a hustle mindset, I had been mentally berating myself for wanting to take a day off because I felt guilty for “not working” — without realizing that, for all the days that I worked 10-14 hour days, it was ok to have a rest day too.

6. What’s your favorite object in your office? Why?
My Buddha. I am not Buddhist, but this Buddha in a meditative pose reminds me to stay centered, calm, and realize that I cannot change the whole world…just the parts that I can change. This figurine was purchased two years ago when I was with a dear friend of mine when we visited Cambodia and Thailand with her two sons. This was a trip of a lifetime, and it always brings a smile to my face.


7. What is your “go to” technique or secret when you get stuck when you’re writing a resume? How do you get unstuck?
I walk away from my desk. I need to clear my head and give my brain a rest. That way, when I come back, I know what I need to do, but I am refreshed and can open my mind to new approaches.

8. What’s the best career advice you ever got?
Dress for one career level higher than where you are … that helped me especially when I was working in the mailroom, and wanted to move up the ladder. No one understood why I was wearing skirts and dresses, but it helped with my professional image.

9. How do you unplug?
Anything outside in nature which includes hiking, backpacking, birdwatching, gardening, and kayaking.

10. What ONE thing would you change about your business or the career industry, if you could?
I wish the careers industry would have a more unified voice. Right now, there are so many different organizations and people with certifications — the general public can’t make heads nor tails of it all. Additionally, there should be a coordinated response when negative media stories come out about scammy fake resume writers who burn consumers…we need to educate the public that professional resume writers exist, and how to find them.

You can find Dawn on Facebook at Pathfinder Writing and Careers, on Twitter (@DawnRasmussen), and on LinkedIn at LinkedIn.com/dawnrasmussen.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Career Membership Sites: Helping Jobseekers Beyond the Resume

Jobseekers often need more help beyond just writing them an interview-winning resume, cover letter, LinkedIn profile, and job search documents.

Some resume writers are offering additional support for jobseekers using membership sites. These sites can offer specific assistance in one area, like LinkedIn profiles, or a wide range of support for the job search. Some charge a small monthly fee while others are a one-time fee for “lifetime” access to the materials.

Here is a roundup of several career membership sites for jobseekers:


The Classical Career Club
This club offers four membership levels and is hosted on the Patreon platform. Memberships start at $3 for a "virtual tip jar" level that offers members access to a “bi-weekly newsletter featuring original content as well as curated lists of the best jobseeking and career development articles on the web.” The level also includes “good karma” as a membership benefit.

The “Athenian” level, $20 per month, is for those who are "serious about your career development and know you need to play the long game.” It includes the benefits from the three previous membership levels,  plus exclusive patron-only posts and a weekly newsletter, access to The Classicial Career Club community, and the “Classical Career Coaching’s Guide to Networking,” which is “20 pages of info on How to Use Your Network, Networking Cover Letters, Informational Interviewing, and much more.” This level also includes periodic additional long-form jobseeking resources, an ATS-friendly basic resume template, and regular access to VIP office hours and monthly “Ask Me Anything“ sessions.

The membership club owner, Steve Brady, has also upped the value of his memberships by offering members the opportunity to put the total amount of their membership fees towards the resume package of their choice once they reach their one-year anniversary of membership. Great idea!

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Job Search Secret Weapon
This membership site is a collaboration between four veteran resume writers: Virginia Franco, Sarah Johnston, Ana Lokotkova, and Adrienne Tom. The membership site “connects jobseekers with everything they need and in one place” and is geared towards early-to-mid career level professionals. Members pay one upfront fee to get access to the membership site resources targeted to a kit that fits their specific needs in the job search.

The membership site offers several different “kits” for the job search: a “Resume/Cover Letter kit,” “LinkedIn kit,” “Interview kit,” “Job Search Planning/Hidden Job Market Strategy kit,” and a “New Grad kit.” Each kit includes a variety of resources, including articles, worksheets, templates, and/or videos. Kits range from $69 to $129 each.

Or, members can get a “Complete Job Search Solution” membership for $199 with more than 60 resources that include job search planning tools, resume templates, interview preparation guides, LinkedIn resources, and more. It includes scripts, worksheets, articles, and videos created by the four career industry professionals.

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Leveraging LinkedIn For The Job Search
This fixed-term membership is an inexpensive ($15), yet effective way for jobseekers to start, cultivate, and maintain their LinkedIn profile. This eight-day membership delivers one lesson each day, via email, for eight days. It includes an action checklist to guide specific actions to take to build a LinkedIn profile that attracts interest from recruiters and hiring managers and helps you connect to your next job. The activities in each lesson can be done in just a few minutes.

Lessons include:

  • Lesson 1: Step-By-Step Guide to Setting Up Your LinkedIn profile. This lesson walks you through the process of setting up your LinkedIn account, using screenshots to show you exactly how to do it. (13 pages)
  • Lesson 2: Privacy Settings on LinkedIn. How to make sure the right people see what you want them to see. (5 pages)
  • Lesson 3: Putting Together Your Profile. What to put in your profile so that it’s attractive to recruiters and hiring managers. (13 pages)
  • Lesson 4: Making Connections on LinkedIn. How to connect with the people you already know on LinkedIn, and then leverage those relationships into connections with people you want to know. (10 pages)
  • Lesson 5: How to Give — and Get — LinkedIn Recommendations. Understanding LinkedIn’s online endorsement system, and how to get your network to say nice things about you publicly. Includes an easy formula to write LinkedIn Recommendations. (22 pages)
  • Lesson 6: Using LinkedIn to Find Jobs. Where to find job openings on LinkedIn — both advertised and unadvertised opportunities. Includes a Target Companies List. (20 pages)
  • Lesson 7: Maintaining Your LinkedIn Account. Now that you’ve spent time building your profile, don’t lose it! Step-by-step instructions to back up your profile and secure your data. (9 pages)
  • Lesson 8: LinkedIn: Next Steps. How to use LinkedIn on an ongoing basis and make the most of your LinkedIn profile. (2 pages)


Thursday, January 16, 2020

Preparing for an Annual Performance Review


While annual performance reviews are typically conducted in the fourth quarter of the year (October – December), it's smart to get jobseekers thinking about their performance review early in the year. That gives them time to compile accomplishments throughout the year, instead of waiting until the last minute and having to dig through emails, documents, and files on a deadline.

Here are some guidelines for jobseekers preparing for an annual performance review:

If this is your first appraisal at this company, find out how it’s typically handled — and what it involves — either by asking co-workers or your manager.

If this is not your first review, get out your information from last year’s evaluation.

Prepare for this year's performance review by:
• Reviewing the feedback and ratings you received last year
• Looking at the areas where you scored well last year
• Identifying the areas that needed improvement last year
• Reviewing your goals and plans from your last review — have you made progress? Have any of the priorities from the previous year’s review changed?

Next, you’ll want to come up with your list of activities, projects, and accomplishments since your last review. Be sure to quantify your accomplishments. Your manager may not be aware of everything you were working on, so preparing a brief summary is important. What does your manager need to know before he or she meets with you?

Also assemble any relevant documentation to showcase in your review:
• Letters or emails from customers, supervisors, co-workers, and/or vendors
• A list of any trainings you’ve completed
• Copies of any honors, awards, or recognition you’ve received since your last evaluation
• A summary of your professional development activities since your last review

Your manager may also ask you to prepare a self-assessment. Some companies provide a form for you to complete the self-assessment. Others may give you some open-ended questions.

Looking for more tips for jobseekers to prepare for an annual performance review? Check out the Jobseeker's Guide to Preparing for a Performance Review Pass-Along Materials. It includes ideas for questions you should ask, information on how you will be assessed, and what to do if you get a negative performance review.

Pass-Along Materials content is done-for-you careers content that helps educate and inform jobseekers to help them be successful in their job search. For more job search topics, click here.