If the top third of your resume ever gets ripped off by hurricane winds, a hiring manager should be able to come upon that scrap of paper and decide to call you in for an interview. If the top third of your resume is not that compelling, the whole thing will end up in the recycle bin anyway. People read your entire resume only if they’re already interested after a quick glance, and the “marquee” area at the top is the key to a positive first impression.
The top third of your resume should contain:
- Your name
- Your contact information
- Title or titles you’d like to be considered for
- Your most important contribution to a potential employer
- Proof of prior success
It sounds tough to do all that, I know. But I have a secret…
I write the top of the page last! As you write the body of your resume, keep a notepad or Word file with items you come across or ideas that the muses bring to you around what prospective employers should know about you right away. This could be how your early career as an accountant solidified your meticulous honesty and transparency (especially if you are in an industry like banking or stocks where this is a big plus!). One HR pro I worked with had a unique approach to wellness program because of her master’s degree in dance. If you’ve won awards, worked for big-name companies, attended a prestigious school, etc., these should all be mentioned in this “marquee” space.
Think about the problem that is most likely keeping your hiring manager or board of directors up at night. At the top of the page, demonstrate that you are the answer to that problem. Don’t be afraid to ask questions on your resume. COO: “Is operations bleeding your bottom line?” Brand Manager: “Does your brand strategy consider the consumer’s path to purchase?” Executive Assistant: “Is your office so chaotic that it’s interfering with productivity?”
Oh, and ditch the objective statement. This is not about what you need. It’s about what you bring to the table.
Last Sunday evening, my dad and I were listening to the Almanac Singers, a group Pete Seeger was a part of in the 1940’s. There was a feeling of reverence in the air as we discussed his life and music. I had grown up listening to dad’s old LPs of The Weavers as well as Seeger’s solo albums. When I heard Monday morning that he had died in the night of natural causes at the age of 94, I felt a sweet kind of sadness. It was like finishing an achingly gorgeous novel, wishing there was more, but having been fairly warned by the bookmark as it made its steady march toward the last page.
I dreamed this Saturday night of an ancient graveyard with a huge clock right at the entrance. Yeah, my subconscious mind is pretty direct. The dream was detailed and vivid, leaving me with a strong sense of how transitory life is.
The dew of this dream clung to me throughout Sunday, so that the news of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death of a drug overdose really struck me.
I first noticed Hoffman in the movie Magnolias. I searched the credits at the end to find the name of the chubby towhead who took my breath away. His body of work, more than 50 films and possibly as many plays, is well detailed elsewhere. With a young family and a business to run, I rarely find time to watch movies. I can’t list all of his work or even claim to have seen most of it. But I can testify that Hoffman was extraordinary enough to consistently pierce my veil of busyness, to get me to sit down for two hours and just be human. I know that when I watch one of his movies I will undergo something that is more experience than entertainment, that I will encounter some new part of myself in his performance.
Unlike the graceful ending to Seeger’s story, the passing of 46-year-old Hoffman was like a needle scratching rudely across a record album, or one of those film noir scenes of ultra-happening speakeasies being raided as the musicians stop playing and harsh lights instantly turn glamour into shame.
I didn’t want to feel this loss, and my defenses jumped right in to distance me from it. I heard them say, “That’s not the world I live in. It’s very sad, but just about as meaningful to me as this big football game everyone’s going on and on about. It’s another news item.”
One thought slipped in under the door, though. It was a tweet from Jim Carrey: “Dear Philip, a beautiful beautiful soul. For the most sensitive among us the noise can be too much. Bless your heart.” Carrey’s words kept me just open enough to allow the possibility of exploring what Hoffman’s death meant to me.
Many of my social media friends talked about how senseless it was. One commentator suggested that a brisk walk with a good dog was all the high anyone could need. We have all kinds of opinions about other people’s lives. But neither I nor the dog walker have a right to judge the choices of a man whose only relationship to us was that he gave us a precious gift, that he bared his soul so we could see it.
Haven’t we all been figuratively in that bathroom with the needle in our arm?
When I’m at work on a tough project there can be anything from a stack of used tea bags to a bunch of carrot “bellybuttons” strewn about. In the old days it was more like coffee cups and empty cookie bags. I also become obsessive about choosing the perfect size and color of my fonts and getting just the right degree of shading on my graphics. Food and perfectionism numb me when I’m facing potential failure or (even scarier) greatness.
Brené Brown in the audio version of The Power of Vulnerability confesses that she watched eight hours of Downtown Abby after reading some unflattering online comments about her looks. She then continued the numbing fest by Googling historic references in the series.
At times, we’ve all chosen to postpone the moment when we’ll experience our feelings or step into our full potential. It leaves me crestfallen that Hoffman used such a deadly numbing agent. But let’s not cluck our tongues at his situation as if it’s something that wouldn’t happen to us. I’m lucky I can’t immediately die of a sugar or caffeine overdose, and I’m equally lucky that my self-medication isn’t the topic of nationwide speculation.
What rises to the top here are not the tragic, embarrassing circumstances that ended Hoffman’s life or the other occasions when he sought escape. What comes shining brilliantly forth are the many times he did not run, the countless instances when he was still enough and brave enough to allow his talent to overtake him.
As saintly as Pete Seeger was, I’m sure he numbed himself on occasion. That his self-medication was less lethal and apparently less frequent than Hoffman’s doesn’t change the unifying lesson of both men’s lives. If you’re brave enough to show up fully to your destiny, you will leave a worthy legacy no matter how long you live.
Will you truly show up to work today? Can you be brave enough to breathe into the fear and excitement of being completely present in creating your work? I’m taking that deep, scary breath right along with you.
Thank you Pete and Philip.
There’s something about writing a resume that tends to put people into “official mode,” as if they’re filling out a tax form and there’s only one right way (paved with “self-motivated” and “visionary” cobblestones). If you want a great resume, let go of that idea right now!
Or: Why I Don’t Lower My Prices or Allow My Clients to Lower Their Standards
I received an email today from a potential client asking if I could lower my prices. Her reasoning was that the investment to work with me was nearly twice as much as other writers she had contacted for a resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile, so I should lower my rates.
Her note makes me think of my respected colleague and good friend Robyn Feldberg who often repeats the industry adage: “A good resume is expensive, but a cheap one is even more costly.”
That said, I can relate to where my potential client is coming from. I sold my first resume for $100 and felt like I’d won the lottery. I got to help a nice man in the grocery industry get a promotion, and I was even getting paid to do it!
Eight years into my business, I have learned a lot about my craft and about the value any person brings to a situation in which they trade their time, expertise, and unique perspective for money. To be clear, there are instances when I do service for someone who needs and values my skills but is unable to pay my full rate. That is a topic for a different day. This post simply addresses the concept that one can shop for a resume the way one would shop for a gallon of high-octane gasoline or a bar of 24-karat gold.
Here is what I wrote to the potential client:
“Thank you for your response! Resume writing is not a commodity any more than a shirt or a car. You’ll get a different product shopping at Walmart, Kohl’s, and Neiman Marcus.
While I have several years of experience; a background in sales, marketing, and creative writing that paved the way for me to offer unique value to my clients; and record of winning awards (I was the most nominated of anyone in the industry last year), the result is what matters. If you review the samples I sent you and keep in mind that 80%+ of my business comes from repeat and referred clients, I believe you’ll understand the quality I bring to the table.
I am not able to contribute less and am therefore not able to charge less. The plus side for my clients is that they receive an exceptional tool in the deliverables of the resume and other documents while benefiting from the deeper work we do together: articulating why they are not a commodity to be compared with other candidates on the basis of price/salary/commission structure.
I do understand that this is a major investment, and I am honored by the clients who choose to make that investment and take the journey with me. I approach the work as a sacred trust. The arrangement is not for everyone, and that’s okay since I take no more than 3-4 clients a month.
If this feels right to you, I would be greatly honored to tell your story. If it doesn’t, then it’s probably not the right decision to work with me. Either way, I am so glad to know you, and I hope we will keep in touch.”
You can find resume writers who work for $50 and those whose packages go into five figures. When you’re choosing a writer, or deciding to write your own resume, consider the results you hope to achieve and how much those results are worth to you.
I’ve got my head down finishing my upcoming book on personal branding, This Little Brand of Mine. While I’m working, you can enjoy this big juicy piece of inspiration candy:
I recently sat down with one of my favorite successful careerists to find out how she went from part-time business owner to TV star in a few short, passionate years.
Tiffany Brooks of You and Your Decor has no formal design training. She started her interior styling business in 2008 as a result of a lost bet. When I met Tiffany three years ago, she was working as an administrator at my children’s school. While working her day job, raising her child, and supporting other family members through hard times, she built her business.
Today, Tiffany has a growing design empire. She won HGTV Star in 2013 and has gone on to host other shows and write featured columns for HGTV Magazine.
If you’ve been waiting to make that big move your heart is urging you towards, or you’re in the middle of a heart-driven slog, this is just the thing to keep you rolling along with a smile on your face!
Be real!—Tiffany’s willingness to openly share her “red hot mess” (5:35) of a house and her personal struggles (6:47) won the HGTV decision makers over.
Research opportunities.—Don’t go blindly into situations if you don’t have to. If you’ve got a lead on a great opportunity, learn all you can about the key players. (6:27)
Self-doubt is normal!—Every client I’ve worked with, from office managers to CEOs, has experienced doubt in themselves and/or their chances of success. Tiffany is no exception. (7:35)
Turn your competitors into friends.—Tiffany set a precedent on HGTV Star by helping her competitors. By establishing a tone of camaraderie, she built lifelong friendships and contributed to the most amicable season in HGTV Star history. (8:20)
So what is Tiffany’s brand?—Without doing any branding studies or market research, Tiffany has developed a strong personal brand. Faith-filled, supportive, and relatable, Tiffany is “that girl,” the one people want in their living rooms. (10:55)
What’s next?—(12:30) Smart Home, Urban Oasis, and HGTV Magazine contributor! Also, her firm is offering real-world and virtual design services for individuals and small businesses via You and Your Decor.
There’s no such thing as an “overnight success.”—Tiffany was a manager at a high-end rental property. Her boss gave her the assignment to design the model home as a kind of “rehab” from the stress of the sales aspect of her job. Entering a contest on a bet, she won the “Best Model” title against big Chicago firms. After jotting down a business plan on loose leaf paper, she was off and running. Then, it was four years of active blogging and business development before capturing the HGTV opportunity. Secret about Tiffany: She’s a pessimist! (15:00)
She thought of giving up almost every day!—If you’re working towards your dreams and thinking of giving up, take heart and keep an eye out for divine messages! Tiffany often got discouraged, but kept going because each time she was really tested, she’d get a sign that told her to continue. (20:10)
Ask for what you need.—God (or the Universe or the universal field or…) can’t fulfill your requests if you don’t ask. Tiffany says God will send you down the right “hallway.” If a door closes in your face, it means you’re supposed to be in the next hallway over. (23:30)
Keep learning!—Tiffany has a library of books on design and business, and she reads them! (25:10)
Follow your heart(burn)!—Self explanatory. But you may enjoy Tiffany’s blog post of the same name. Tomorrow is not promised. Don’t die with your music still inside! (25:30)
I’m going back to my maiden name, Kimberly Robb Baker, for professional purposes. I am legally remaining Kim(berly) Mohiuddin and will keep most personal arenas (i.e. my personal Facebook profile) the same. Those of you who know me both personally and professionally will just have to understand that Kim Mohiuddin and Kimberly Robb Baker are both me.
Though one might not expect it of people who had spent only 16 days together before getting engaged, my marriage of 9 years to my best friend of 11 years is going strong (some people have asked). I’m lucky to have a husband who supports me as I find my way through these questions of personal identity.
If you just needed the basics of why the name I’m using on my website, email, etc. has changed, read no further.
For those curious about my musings on the topic, you’re welcome to dig in below.
From the bottom of my heart, I thank all of the clients, colleagues, and friends who have made me and my business a success under any name. Let’s keep movin’ on up!
Follow your bliss,
For the record, Mohiuddin is pronounced, “Mo-hee-you-Deen,” with a hard “D” if you care to be perfectly authentic.
When my husband asked me to marry him, I said, “Yes! And could you tell me how to pronounce your name one more time?” (There was a more formal engagement process initiated by my wonderful in-laws, per Indian cultural customs. Good thing I knew how to pronounce their name!)
I’ve told this story to put people at ease when they ask me how to say my married name. They often ask with a bit of embarrassment, as if they are being culturally insensitive by not putting it together themselves.
I loved the name Mohiuddin long before I could say it properly. It means, “propagator of faith.” In truth, it has taken me years to say it with anything like the ease of a native speaker. Even our children add a distinctly American accent to it, so the name is evolving as it enters its first generation in the US. But the name, which has Arabic origins, is accustomed to travel.
The thought of changing my name came up because I’m writing a book and booking speaking engagements. More people need to be able to say it and remember it. As I go more public with my mission to help people succeed in their careers and lives by being more authentically themselves, my advisors have told me that I could have more privacy if I used a different name for my professional endeavors.
My husband, Imran, is “Ron” to his work colleagues and to most Americans he meets. He calls it his Starbucks name. It’s just easier.
But this change for me is more than just a Starbucks name. My maiden name was given to me when I came into the world. It’s the one that described me for the first 29 years of my life. It trailed the shy, thoughtful girl that was me as she went to school, read mountains of books, danced ballet for seven years, and rode horses for many more. Laurie Beauchamp, my mentor in horses and life since the age of 11, reminded me recently of the time a horse threw me off five times in a row, and I just kept getting back on until he stopped. I had forgotten that, and it made me wonder what other aspects of myself had receded into the background.
It was Kimberly Robb Baker who almost bailed out of India when the mosquitoes and poverty and seeming lack of order challenged her comfort levels. She was the one who stayed on past the discomfort, allowing the beauty, dignity, and diversity of the land to reveal itself.
Nowadays, it would be a big production to go backpacking in India or anywhere else. Simple shopping trips require planning with young children, a husband, and a business to consider.
“Kim Mohiuddin” has a different life, and even a different scent. My hair usually smells of curry, a fragrance I’ve always been attracted to. When I entered an Indian household and smelled what I now know to be a mixture of many spices—notably cumin, cinnamon, garlic, and curry leaf—my mouth would water. Even now that I eat mostly raw food, I add cumin to my date shakes or pair bananas with fresh ginger.
The lady who teaches our kids to rock climb always smells my hair on purpose when we hug hello or goodbye. “I love it!” she exclaims. My hairdresser has suggested a hair deodorizer. “I don’t know if you need it or not, but I wanted you to know that we sell it,” she [not so] tactfully states.
As much as I love the smell, it’s not one I would have chosen as “mine,” but the curry has chosen me. It has unpacked its bags and put its toothbrush in the medicine cabinet. Unless I keep all of my belongings in a closet far away from the kitchen and wash and dry my hair (a many-hours process for this curly girl), every time I leave the house it will be with me. I’m simply not willing to go to great lengths to separate myself from it.
The fact that my home is an amalgam of two cultures is a huge piece of who I am, and those with sensitive noses are cued into it right away. But it’s not all that I am. I’m a vegan, yogi, resume writer, mystic, singer, actress, public speaker, teller of bawdy jokes, and more. When we really start to describe ourselves, it all gets beautifully complicated.
I sometimes lose touch with that quietly voracious young Kimberly who still wants to be in the picture. I don’t know exactly why it feels good to use my maiden name for my professional life, but it has something to do with her.
I shared my name-change plans with a married colleague recently. She confessed that she loves her maiden name and wishes she could use it again. “It’s a lot of trouble to change your name,” she lamented, “But I’ll be watching eagerly to see how it goes for you.”
Is there a change, name or otherwise, you’ve been thinking about making? One that will bring you more authentically into the world? I’d welcome your insights in the comments below.