So, you’ve decided that the time is ripe to become a professional resume writer, especially given today’s tough job market. If you’ve already helped others write their resumes or have logged experience as a recruiter, it may seem like a no-brainer.
Here are 5 crucial points to consider before embarking on a venture where you hold others’ futures in the palm of your hand… along with ways to get started if you’re really intent on launching your own resume writing operation:
1 – It’s difficult, if not impossible, to write cohesive resumes without business knowledge.
Before creating a website or advertising your new resume service, you’ll need to be honest with yourself about the extent of your business expertise.
Do you have the background and know-how to understand the metrics behind sales and operations positions? Will you be able to guide a client that isn’t sure how to present a stint in the retail industry?
What will you do when an IT applicant tells you that he or she is looking for a step up in a technical career? Can you analyze the differences between a project leadership position and a program director’s job?
These proficiencies are a must for anyone who wants to enter the field of resume writing. After all, prospective clients will rely on your ability to know what’s relevant and important to them at any point in their careers. You’ll also need a firm grasp of the latest developments in job search and hiring practices.
My advice? Take steps to become more educated on your clients career paths, corporate hiring models, and the economic climate. Study job search 2.0 concepts by following some of the most respected career experts on Twitter.
Read What Color is Your Parachute? (plus similar books) and get familiar with the Occupational Outlook Handbook so that you can understand the nuances of career change and what it means for clients that need your assistance writing their resumes.
2 – Reading resumes all day doesn’t make you a resume writer.
The same way that reading the newspaper on a regular basis doesn’t make you a journalist, and becoming enthralled by a book doesn’t transform you into a novelist, having access to resumes on a regular basis isn’t an automatic qualification for the job of professional resume writer.
Resume writing is a very tight and contrived form of communication, with fragmented sentence structure, limited space, and the need for parallel structure throughout each document.
You’ll need a flair for written expression, a skilled command of the English language, and an eye for technical detail in order to create focused and well-written resumes that truly help your clients.
Specifically, the speed and brevity with which you communicate key information can make or break your client’s options. Even the most qualified candidates struggle to land jobs at the right level without a sharpened business presentation.
To help boost your writing abilities, I recommend obtaining your own copy of the Associated Press Style Guide (a bible for most resume writers) and studying examples that demonstrate compelling writing style, strategy, and business aptitude.
You’ll find great samples in the Expert Resumes and No-Nonsense resume book series published by Wendy Enelow and Louise Kursmark, as well as in Resumes that Knock ‘Em Dead by Martin Yate.
3 – It’s far more than templates or typing.
Great resume writing requires the ability to elicit the kind of information that most people miss adding to their resumes in the first place.
If you don’t believe this, then you’d need to see a sampling of the resumes that cross my desk on a regular basis… which skip over “details” such as multimillion-dollar budget figures, project success rates, sales awards, and the candidate’s role in corporate growth.
In fact, information mining is the cornerstone of effective resume writing! Even CFOs and IT Directors leave critical details off self-written resumes—details that you’ll need to grasp in order to ask the right questions.
Rewording original facts and figures won’t cut it, as you’ll need to truly understand each client’s career change from a strategic perspective and gather NEW information.
There are different ways to extract this data as well. Some writers elect to present their clients with detailed questionnaires, while others prefer to conduct a thorough interview with each applicant. Whatever your style of information gathering, you’ll need to ask as many pivotal, thought-provoking questions as possible.
In addition, graphic design is a core element of every compelling resume. Even though you may be tempted to just pop your clients’ data into a template, your clients are paying for a more customized presentation that allows them to stand out… without resorting to the use of gimmicks.
The top resume writers continually refine style elements and examine trends in font, color, and formatting to present client data to the best advantage—and today’s hotly competitive job market demands it.
You’ll need to become intimately familiar with the formatting techniques offered in Microsoft Word, including borders, tables, tabs, text boxes, and other treatments, in order to market your clients as individuals with unique accomplishments.
4 – Spin artists need not apply.
Truly effective resume writing is NOT embellishment, lying, or marketing hype. It’s centered on the ability to extract the most relevant and fitting accomplishments that make up a career, and then ensuring that they are presented in the best light.
You can expect to deal with professionals that have a job gap, unrelated experience, or other challenges. It’s your charter to ensure that these obstacles don’t hinder the applicant, without resorting to elaborate tactics that hide information and skew the facts.
Here is where the power of your writing skills and business knowledge will make a critical difference. Employers need to know the truth about each applicant, and they’ll reject any attempt made to gloss over important details.
Therefore, you’ll want to take note of strategies for special situations, which are covered in Resumes for the Rest of Us: Secrets from the Pros for Job Seekers with Unconventional Career Paths, Gallery of Resumes for People Without a 4-Year Degree, and other career publications.
5 – If you’re in it for the recession, reconsider.
If you’re looking to make a quick buck by churning out resumes, think carefully about the effect you’ll have on others. You may end up like those that tried resume writing, failed to get results, and left the industry within a year or two—leaving a wake of unfulfilled clients behind them.
Most of us in this field started out by writing others’ resumes after discovering a knack for pulling careers together on paper.
Others decided to rid the world of bland resumes after having worked in HR or recruiting, and still other writers got their start in fields that demanded extreme focus, such as journalism or marketing.
Most writers focused on their ability to pinpoint client strengths when getting started in the business—with very few lured by the prospect of a recession.
There are numerous professional associations that train, credential, and mentor resume writers, such as Career Directors International, the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches, the National Resume Writers Association, Resume Writing Academy, and the Career Management Alliance.
Candidates for certification must follow a course of study and pass a multi-part exam graded by judging panels in order to qualify for the various credentials offered through each organization.
Bottom line: writing for others—living and breathing their career histories, goals, and dreams while immersing yourself in the details—is far from simple, and requires an emotional and professional dedication to helping others through one of life’s most significant challenges.
While attaining true proficiency can take years of intense work and dedication, you’ll find few fields as simultaneously rewarding, demanding, fulfilling, and fascinating.