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What exactly IS a professional bio? And how does it differ from a resume?

What exactly IS a professional bio? And how does it differ from a resume?
By Bettie Biehn, CPRW

One of the employment-related documents that I offer to clients is called a “professional bio”. Bios are, in my opinion, less formal, very conversational one-page documents that clients can use in a variety of settings to showcase their skills, businesses and talents:

 To give to potential employers in a first meeting where no job is available or on the table;
 To provide to a host or organizational representative prior to your giving a presentation;
 To use as a public relations tool to tout your business, talents, successes, etc.

Not everyone needs a bio in their portfolio, but a document that is informative but less lengthy and formidable than a resume is good to have for many.

Try to imagine someone presenting you as a speaker at a dinner meeting and reading your resume as your introduction……..the audience’s eyes glaze over, some people sneak out the back doors, and everyone, including you, is bored to death.

Now: think about a short, interesting, anecdotal document that engages the audience, captures their attention, perhaps makes them laugh, and provides a unique way of presenting you and your product, service, skills, talents or company.

A bio can also give people a different view of you, a glimpse into your personality, your sense of humor and maybe some secret career dreams. You get to choose, you get to oversee how it’s written, and you get to highlight the things that are important to YOU…about YOU.
Does this sound better?

Since bios are relatively short, they can be tweaked to make them relevant to any group or individual, making them a very focused document for your use. I’m not suggesting that we all swap out a bio for a resume, but that the two documents can complement each other. And they both have their particular uses.

OK – enough writing. I’m going to feature my own bio AND my own resume to illustrate a bio vs. a resume. See the next several pages…..then you can decide if you need a bio!

NOTE: it appears that the two documents to follow will be in plain text format – unfortunately this deletes the spacing, formatting and graphics from both.
***********************************************************************************************************
BETTIE BIEHN, CPRW

 703.836.8417 (h) 202.550.0999 (c)  esbiehn@aol.com
Resume
RESUME WRITER  CAREER COACH  HR PROFESSIONAL  PUBLISHED WRITER

PROFESSIONAL PROFILE

As President and Founder of Career Change Central, LLC since 2004, manage a one-person small business focused on providing outstanding customized, well-written and attractive resumes and cover letters – and other employment-related documents – that focus on clients’ skills, experience, knowledge and background as well as paying keen attention to the prospective employer’s needs. Career coaching is an integral part of all services. Career Change Central LLC became a full-time operation in July, 2012.

Career features 20+ years of resume writing including role of lead resume writer for a national job board and columnist on resume advice for a national executive recruiter’s online newsletter. Extensive background as successful senior HR professional, nonprofit director, corporate trainer, hiring manager, in-house recruiter and writer. Published author, for three years contributing a monthly column on HR and training issues to nationally distributed, award-winning trade magazine. Volunteer resume writer for “Warriors to Work”, a program of the Wounded Warriors project.

CORE COMPETENCIES
 20+ years’ successful resume writing experience;
 Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) via Professional Association of Resume Writers (PARW);
 15+ years as senior level HR professional and 30 years’ experience as hiring manager;
 Published writer – 3 years of articles in NACS Magazine;
 2 years of resume tips columns on national recruiter’s online newsletter;
 former lead resume writer for a national online job board; and, subsequently….

ACCOMPLISHMENTS
 Reinvigorated nonprofit company following national organizational crisis while continuing regular
disbursements to charities. Increased financial activity/cash reserves, reduced expenses by 50%.
 Managed State agency that encouraged, enhanced, and broadened the base of volunteer efforts
in Virginia during start-up, implementation and establishment as legislatively mandated agency.
 Founded successful resume business in 2004; business still in operation and growing.

PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE

Career Change Central LLC, Alexandria, VA 2004- Present
PRESIDENT / FOUNDER (www.careerchangecentralllc.com)
Design, write customized resumes/cover letters/other employment-related documents for clients nationwide. Provide career coaching. Large, varied group of clients from US and Europe.

National Legal Aid & Defender Association, Washington, DC 9/2010 – 7/2012
CONSULTING HR MANAGER

Jobfox, Inc., McLean, VA 4/2009 – 2/2010
RESUME WRITING SERVICES MANAGER / HEAD OF QA/CONSULTANT

Society for Neuroscience, Washington, DC 9/4/2007 – 11/30/2008
DIRECTOR, HR & ADMINISTRATION

BETTIE BIEHN  PAGE TWO
PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE, continued

The Washington Humane Society, Washington, DC 2006 – 2007
DIRECTOR, HUMAN RESOURCES

Foster Thomas, Inc., Annapolis, MD 2005
HR CONSULTANT / OUTSOURCED HR PROFESSIONAL

American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Washington, DC 2003 – 2004
DIRECTOR, HUMAN RESOURCES AND OPERATIONS

National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS), Alexandria, VA 2000-2003
DIRECTOR, HUMAN RESOURCES AND TRAINING COMMUNITY

American Meat Institute, Arlington, VA 1997 – 2000
DIRECTOR, HUMAN RESOURCES AND ADMINISTRATION

United Way of America (UWA), Alexandria, VA 1987 – 1996
 PRESIDENT 1992–1996; VICE PRESIDENT 1990–1992
Charities Funds Transfer, Inc.
Directed nonprofit corporation disbursing nearly $100M in charitable contributions.
 NATIONAL ACADEMY FOR VOLUNTARISM, UWA Training Division 1987 – 1990
Senior Training Manager
Managed over 50 annual training programs with over 100 faculty, 1,500 participants throughout US.

BEST Products Co., Inc., Richmond, VA 1983- 1987
CORPORATE PERSONNEL MANAGER & CORPORATE TRAINER

Virginia Department of Volunteerism, Richmond, VA 1974 – 1983
ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR

GOVERNOR’S MANPOWER PLANNING COUNCIL, Richmond, VA 1972 – 1974
Manpower Planner
Staffed local councils in planning/implementing employment & training programs in low-income rural areas.

DIV. STATE PLANNING & COMMUNITY AFFAIRS. Richmond, VA 1970 – 1972
Research Assistant

EDUCATION / PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT/AFFILIATIONS/CERTIFICATIONS

B.S. chemistry; minor in Spanish – University of Richmond, Richmond, VA
Graduate coursework – business administration
Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) through Professional Association of Resume Writers
Volunteer Resume Writer, “Warriors to Work” Program, Wounded Warriors Project
Certified Risk Manager / Federated Insurance
*****************************************************************************************************
BETTIE BIEHN: PROFESSIONAL BIO

RESUME WRITER  CAREER COACH  HR PROFESSIONAL  PUBLISHED WRITER

Bettie Biehn is Founder and President of Career Change Central LLC, a one-person small business where she crafts resumes, cover letters, bios, LinkedIn profiles and other employment-related documents for her clients. She also provides clients with career coaching and recommendations for the post-resume process, and can often connect them to recruiters in their industry. Bettie’s clients come from numerous and myriad professions and industries, in the US and Europe, and provide her with very interesting work.

With her BS in chemistry from the University of Richmond in hand, Bettie found a job within Virginia state government and stayed with state government positions for 13 years, in 3 very different agencies, learning from mentors and colleagues, practicing new skills and gaining invaluable experience. Of particular importance during this time were her work with volunteer managers and community organizing around employment programs.

Bettie then ventured into the corporate world for 4 years, becoming a trainer and then corporate personnel manager at a large, national retail company’s headquarters. This position was her first formal introduction into being a HR generalist, a skill set that would benefit her later.

A phone call from friends in DC initiated major changes, including a job change and move to Alexandria. After three years crisscrossing the US taking training to local United Way staff, she longed to reduce her heavy travel demands. An opening for VP of an affiliated nonprofit corporation filled the bill – 9 blocks from her house! The joys of being at home paled, however, when her world was turned upside down by a highly publicized national scandal brought on by the leadership team.

Her board asked her to take over as President, and the next 6 years were very challenging as she downsized staff, reduced expenses, increased revenues and grew the business with new corporate clients. Her terrific staff of 2 kept the business going while Bettie conducted the needed reorganizational and political functions. She learned just how resilient she was, and quickly learned how to run a nonprofit ……and how not to. She left CFT knowing that she had played a key role in bringing the company back to health. Bettie moved back into HR, serving in a leadership role for several organizations, and ramped up her part-time resume business. Her dream was to take her business full-time, and she left her “day job” in mid-2012.

Bettie’s writing doesn’t stop with resumes, but extends to several children’s stories, poetry and numerous articles on resume writing and HR topics. Her feature article on succession planning, “Quiet Crisis”, was published, along with all of her HR articles, in NACS Magazine, an award winning trade journal. You can find her articles on her blog, Twitter feed, Face book page and, soon, on her LinkedIn profile. Her “resume tips” articles, published within a national executive recruiter’s online newsletter, can also be found on Bettie’s social media venues.

Bettie’s coordinates are listed below, and she would be glad to talk with you about your resume needs, about your business or hers ………or about her dog, Barney!

Bettie Biehn, CPRW
President/Owner – Career Change Central LLC
http://www.careerchangecentralllc.com – Website named to Forbes.com’s “The Top 75 Websites For Your Career”
bettie@careerchangecentralllc.com
esbiehn@aol.com
703.836.8417 (h)
202.550.0999 (c)
Facebook.com/careerchangecentral
Blog: Careerchangecentralllc.wordpress
Http://Twitter.com/ResumeWriterCCC
http://www.linkedin.com/in/bettiebiehn

Kudos to Career Change Central LLC Website!

My website, www.careerchangecentralllc.com was listed in Forbes.com’s “The Top 75 Websites For Your Career” in September, 2012.  I just found out that the website had been honored, and wanted to share the good news!!  The link to the article and list is:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/jacquelynsmith/2012/09/14/the-top-75-websites-for-your-career/

Quiet Crisis (Planning for Career Succession)

QUIET CRISIS

By Bettie Biehn

 (Published in NAC Magazine, October, 2004)

 Succession happens. People retire, change jobs, and, sadly, like 172 corporate vice presidents on September 11, 2001, die unexpectedly.

Of course, the terrorist attacks that killed so many employees in the World Trade Center, at the Pentagon and in a a field in Pennsylvania didn’t change the fact that by one means or another, every company will eventually have to replace key personnel. But, the attacks – and the overwhelming and sudden loss of life associated with them – did call attention to the need for succession planning and provided an impetus for what is now referred to as “the succession planning movement”, according to William J. Rothwell, author of Effective Succession Planning..

Rothwell, a professor of workforce education and development at Penn State University, cites another reason for companies to not only get serious with choosing candidates for the chief executive position, but to also develop in-house talent to assume other assume other senior management positions. He notes the “coming of age” of the baby boomer generation, and the gap in management ranks that will result when they retire. Rothwell calls today’s wave of retiring boomers the “quiet crisis of succession”.  This “quiet crisis”, now featured in the business section of every newspaper, is sounding its alarm.

Changes in corporate leadership in several large U.S. corporations show what happens when a succession plan is in place, or not. The McDonald’s Corporation was a success story, having prepared well to place Charlie Bell, the company’s president and chief operating officer, in the driver’s seat. While no one anticipated the sudden death of then chairman and chief executive Jim Cantalupo, the corporation had planned for the future, and recognized that identifying a qualified replacement was both crucial and urgent.

Other companies, including Coca-Cola Co. and The Walt Disney Co., have also grappled with the succession issue. Coca-Cola lost its legendary Chairman and CEO Roberto C. Goizueta to cancer only two months after his diagnosis. Coca-Cola’s board of directors quickly appointed Coke’s president and COO, M. Douglas Ivester, to succeed Goizueta. This strategy of immediate replacement by the senior officer next in line, while popular and perhaps seemingly logical, doesn’t always pan out. Three years into the job, Ivester was asked to step down due to his poor handling of a number of crises.

Ivester was replaced by Douglas N. Daft, his successor as  president and COO, but Daft, dealing with a company in flux and losing several of his key executives, left Coca-Cola four years later. Daft was replaced by former Coke executive E. Neville Isdell, called back from retirement. The board, realizing that they had no internal candidates with enough experience or tenure, and having sought outside candidates for the first time in the company’s history, offered the job to Isdell. Investors and analysts alike have protested Coca-Cola’s board’s lack of long-range planning. A plan for succession might not only have eased the process of replacing the head of this giant corporation, but also provided an opportunity for the board and senior executives to revisit overall strategies.

Succession issues don’t hit only the company whose chief executive dies or resigns suddenly. The Walt Disney Co. struggled with long-term CEO Michael Eisner on governance issues, management of key relationships, ignoring others’ advice, and stifling creativity company-wide. With the departure of key players Roy Disney and Stanley Gold from the Disney board, directors lost two voices that persistently urged Eisner to name a successor. Eisner has consistently refused to discuss the subject, and the struggle for Disney leadership continues.

It’s an understatement to say that the process in succession planning is not simple.

In contrast, the path to European royal succession in the 1600 or 1700’s appears relatively straightforward, barring any religious strife, revolutions, murders or title disputes. The person carrying the anointed title, designated by the sitting (or recently deceased) monarch, and next in line according to succession guidelines, was crowned. The rules, written and unwritten, governing the process were widely known and understood, and the process was well defined.

In today’s corporations, however, and even in family-owned businesses, little is cut or dried in the process of choosing a successor to the current or just departed CEO. Succession planning involves a myriad of variables including:

–          current chief executive, who may or may not cooperate with choosing his successor;

–          corporate directors, and their different vested interests, including those of

the named company, and their personal investment in director responsibilities;

–          current economic trends and analyst opinions of company solvency and future prosperity;

–          stock value and price;

–          franchisees or others affected by the succession decision;

–          internal senior executives viewed as viable candidates;

–          internal or external conflicts affecting the corporation;

–          top company  human resources managers; and

–          public opinion.

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This list is not all-inclusive. Depending on the company and industry, there are other variables that might be considered.

With so much riding on the decision, directors and corporate executives have good reason to explore new and innovative ways to simplify and enhance the process. Corporations need to tap into the abundance of resources available in the succession consulting world, and a good place to start is with the internal human resources (HR) department. While the board should drive the process, internal HR experts can lend expertise, talent and skill, especially in setting up the framework for succession.

In April, 2004, Jim Kauffman, Senior Consultant, Executive Solutions with Development Dimensions International, Inc.(DDI), presented participants at the 2004 NACS HR Forum in Chicago with the need for careful, considered succession planning, and a workable plan for achieving it. He outlined a method that was, in its concept, simple, but required long-term planning, and ongoing implementation involving employees at all levels. Kauffman’s methods, labeled “succession management”, were not new; they were simply an extension of a well thought out performance management strategy that brought in key players beyond the normal group, and tied performance and its measurement with a strong “promotion from within” concept. The process was geared to identify high potential employees, give them exposure to all facets of the company, ensure that their skill sets were excellent and on track, and help them achieve the next level. Accordingly, “the next level” was not just the CEO or COO position, but other essential senior management slots in the company.

Kauffman encouraged participants to “create a culture of talent management” by continually assessing employees to identify potential management candidates, and to take the process several steps further by cultivating these candidates via training, mentoring, and providing cross-company experience. Statistics from surveys of corporate CEOs continue to show that succession planning/management is very closely tied, and of key importance, to business success, and is a major enabler for business growth.

An article included in Kauffman’s handouts, a supplement to Chief Executive Magazine, CEO Insights (April, 2004), entitled “Succession Management: Filling the Leadership Pipeline”, said it all, and succinctly.  Author Peter Haapeniemi, working with DDI, encapsulated the salient points of succession management in four pages, including:

4 KEY STEPS TO GROWING YOUR OWN LEADERS

▪   Identification of high potential leadership candidates;

▪   Diagnosis – assessing candidate strength and weaknesses vis a vis future company  needs;

▪   Prescription – providing learning, development and experiences needed to fill any identified gaps;

▪   Monitoring and measuring – ensuring that the process continues to develop leaders over time, and…

 

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 THE 6 DON’TS OF SUCCESSION MANAGEMENT

▪   Focusing development on a specific job;

▪   Inaccurate identification of potential leaders;

▪   Poor diagnosis of development needs;

▪   Having a limited range of development solutions;

▪   Development plans are never put into action;

▪   Lack of ongoing support by senior management.

 Matthew Paese, Ph.D., vice president of succession management at DDI and co-author of Grow Your Own Leaders, drove home this last point in the article, noting that results from a DDI survey of 1,200 readers of Chief Executive “show a disparity between the importance companies place on succession practices, and the effectiveness of their practices.”  He later noted that there is room for improvement in the handling of succession management at many companies, and that there are compelling reasons to improve.  “Wall Street is paying more attention to leadership in assessing a company’s potential, and there seems to be significant interest from boards as well.”

But problems persist with developing, implementing and sustaining an effective plan for management succession. Paese notes “Basically, many companies simply don’t have a systematic, disciplined process in place to find and develop leaders.” In setting up such a process, he explains, the key is to move beyond the grooming of individuals for specific jobs and create a talent pool of high-potential candidates. Companies accustomed to only planning for replacement of the chief executive will have to re-think their strategies in light of recent studies and the climate of today’s business world.

So, what would this process look like in a convenience store/petroleum marketing company?  A substantial number of these industry companies were founded in the 1960’s or early 1970’s, and thus are, or soon will be, in transition to the next generation of leaders. Several companies responded to inquiries with a variety of methodologies.

The Wallis Companies, family owned and based in Cuba, MO,  took a proactive approach years ago in instituting a new way of reviewing current management processes, and then refining, revising or replacing these with more effective methods. The “balanced scorecard”, a buzzword in management circles in the 1990’s, worked well for Wallis, according to Rachel Wallis Andreasson, Vice President of Organizational Services.  Andreasson noted that using the balanced scorecard approach helped company executives and senior managers view the company from a variety of key perspectives, expanding the scope from merely financial to include, among others, customer relationships, employee growth and development, suppliers, technology and innovation. The balanced scorecard process then lead to metric development, followed by the collection and analysis of data relative to these perspectives.

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The data analysis helped Wallis’ management in benchmarking current perspectives and company practices, identifying, understanding and adapting outstanding practices from organizations anywhere in the world to help organizations improve their performance. Andreasson and other members of management focused on formulating a leadership development plan based on a revamped performance management system. Linda D. Henman, Ph.D., President of Henman Performance Group, was one of the individuals engaged to guide the roll out and facilitation of this new system, which was a key element in succession planning. This new performance management system will enable Wallis to achieve the following:

–     Direct alignment of individual and team goals to the company’s strategy;

–          Quarterly discussions on specific behaviors that will help drive performance to reach goals; and

–          Assistance in identifying high potential candidates for future leadership positions, using the performance management system along with an assessment tool developed by Psychological Associates.

Henman emphasized the crucial nature of data in performance appraisal and succession management, and noted that assessment data needs to be interpreted by an assessment psychologist or other outside expert well versed in assessment strategies and without ties to any employee, or the company itself. She also stressed that succession planning has plusses for now and for the future. The objective, analytical process implemented by Wallis eliminates most of the emotion associated with the changing of the guard, especially in family-owned businesses. And the bottom line is that when a leadership position needs to be filled, the best person gets the job.

The system now in place for succession management is a tribute to Bill Wallis, founder, and former President and CEO of The Wallis Companies. Wallis implemented the Balanced Scorecard process long before being diagnosed with cancer, which enabled the organization to proactively plan for future leaders and ultimately proved timely following his death in March 2001.  In outlining clear future goals, he demonstrated his strong desire for the Wallis Companies to continue moving forward without missing a beat, and for management communications to continue at their already high level. Wallis also wanted senior management positions to be within the range of non-family members, and the promotion of Mark Martinovich to Chief Operating Officer is an excellent example.

Scott Hartman, President of CHR Corporation dba Rutter’s Farm Stores in York, PA, is a third generation family member leading one of three family businesses. Farmland deeded to the Rutter family in 1747 by the descendants of William Penn, recognized today as one of the oldest continually operated family farms in America, was the beginning of Rutter’s Farm Stores. The first enterprise, started in the 1920’s by George and Bud Rutter, with their brother Will (who ran the farm), was a retail dairy business.

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Since that time, other family members have joined the business, encouraging new development through expanded product lines, emerging technology, modernized equipment, and innovative ideas. In the late 1960’s the family opened Rutter’s Farm Stores, the first retail outlet for their dairy products. Progress at all levels continued with the opening of a plastic bottle manufacturing plant in the 1990’s, and the addition of gasoline and ATMs to the stores’ offerings. During this period, Hartman joined the Rutter’s team as Vice President of Operations.

Three operating businesses, all under the Rutter’s Inc. management company, have evolved from continued growth since the 1920’s – CHR Corporation (Rutter’s Farm Stores), Rutter’s Dairy, and M&G Realty. The presidents of the three businesses are proud of the company reputations and community contributions, and take particular pride in their management process. Rutter’s Inc. has no CEO, and all management team

decisions are made by concensus. In a recent interview, Hartman noted that company  managers and owners have addressed the questions posed in traditional succession planning, and are comfortable with the family succession plan they have. Their goal is to keep Rutter’s Inc. a family-owned and operated company for a very long time.

Weigel’s Stores, Inc., based in Powell, TN, has identified the need for a succession plan, the necessary first step in process development. Mike Corum, Weigel’s Human Resource Director, noted that performance evaluations are an excellent tool in pinpointing key potential candidates. He also recommends hiring an independent consultant (who brings  needed objectivity) with job analysis skills to assist in defining essential core competencies, and in defining clear, concise job requirements for all positions. Corum  stressed the need for HR professionals in the c-store industry to be knowledgeable in all company functions, from operations to IT to finance, in order to adequately address employment challenges in all areas. Additionally, he emphasized the crucial nature of the succession planning strategy, and indicated a keen interest in moving the Weigel’s process forward.

While most articles have focused on succession planning in the for-profit sector, other organizations must also address the issue. Currently, the topic is top of mind for the board of the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS).  Several directors have begun the search for a successor to Kerley LeBoeuf, NACS’ President for 24 years. LeBoeuf announced his intent to retire in the summer of 2005 from the trade association that represents the convenience store and petroleum marketing industry.  Stan Sheetz, Chairman and CEO of Sheetz, Inc., Chairman of the NACS board of directors, and Chairman of the NACS search committee, outlined the committee’s mandate and activities:

–          NACS board appoints three-person search committee: Sheetz, Hartman, and Bill Douglass, Chairman and CEO, Douglass Distributing;

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–          search committee is authorized by NACS board to hire executive search firm if needed

–          Executive committee members of board have signed confidentiality agreement regarding search

–          Committee decided to use president’s current position description plus incumbent’s views on what position requires to set parameters for candidate qualifications

–          public announcement has generated a number of good candidates;

–          search committee has a full year to select a replacement.

Sheetz added that networking is proving to be a key ingredient of the process by getting the word out and attracting candidates, and he cited press coverage in generating interest and bringing candidates forward. He also noted that the search committee is considering

current NACS staff leaders as well as outside candidates for the position. Sheetz made special note that LeBoeuf’s long and successful tenure with NACS presents the committee with both responsibilities and challenges larger than and different from other executive searches.

Planning for the succession of a chief executive, or other key senior manager, is a process that deserves time, effort, interest, research, commitment and plain hard work on the part of many players. Who those players are depends on the company, but the process still remains crucial.  However, many companies delay the process, saying they’ll get to it later. As William Rothwell said “Succession is one of those things that everyone wants to do but is too busy right now to do it. It’s sort of like writing your will.”  Sadly, far too many companies do not engage in even minimal planning for replacing their key executives.

While McDonald’s was heralded for doing everything right, most companies can’t or won’t be quite as prepared. If the board, however, takes a hard look at what the company needs, where it is going, what characteristics are desired in company leaders, and works with management staff to strategize and install a viable system, the foundation is laid. The next steps of identifying and grooming potential candidates in concert with internal human resources staff follows. A principal element of the succession process is communication with employees at all levels, outlining and explaining steps to be taken, and how decisions will be made. Even those employees not chosen for the “fast track” will know the elements needed to be management material, and may strive to be in the next round of candidate determinations.

A strong succession strategy starts with a firm base of board and officer commitment and support. Having a succession strategy in place, even if it changes later, is a lot better than waiting for disaster to happen. Public opinion, stock values, productivity, employee morale, and the bottom line are all at stake. Better to take the advice of Winston Churchill, who said “Let our advance worrying become advance thinking and planning.”

“Spin” isn’t just for politicians….It’s for resumes too

In my years as a hiring manager, nonprofit agency director and HR professional, I have read thousands of resumes. In those readings I always noticed that candidates described what they had done in each position and organization, occasionally noting an accomplishment, but rarely presenting themselves as a marketable commodity that a prospective employer should hire.

But in today’s unfortunate job market, jobseekers absolutely must go beyond the old norm of merely listing jobs, titles, duties and dates.  Today’s jobseeker must be able to pull back, take a broader view of themselves, dissect their past positions searching for heretofore unrecognized skill sets, and look at themselves and the job market differently.

I used to look askance at anyone who parlayed the term  “spin” , thinking  that putting a different  “spin” on something or someone was done to disguise something bad, negative or dishonest by giving it a new name,  and anointing it with positive characteristics.  Maybe I had just spent too much time working with politicians and didn’t trust much of anything that they “spun”!

But now I find myself using the word “spin” with my clients to help them view themselves in a new light, to recognize the accomplishments in their careers, the results of their labors and what they can truly “sell” to a prospective employer.  Jobseekers today cannot rely on the old tried and true methods….but this does not mean that they have to lie, twist themselves into pretzels, or totally reinvent themselves.  In fact, I would not recommend any of those things, in any situation.

What this does mean is that those seeking jobs in today’s market have to be more creative, need to do more research and hard work to know themselves and their strengths, and must deduce what they have to offer to hiring employers and how to present themselves in a renewed and positive light.  “Spinning” oneself differently does not mean starting over……it means “making the most of what you’ve got.”

Everything about job hunting has changed – methods of looking have changed (social media, internet, listservs); resumes and cover letters are very different – and there are a zillion different opinions about what a jobseeker should do to get a job.  If you are struggling with what to do and how to do it, it may be time to seek some advice from a friend, colleague or professional.  Sometimes all it takes is one cogent comment to turn on the light and get you moving.

But the one key thing to keep in mind is that this search isn’t only about YOU – it is also about that employer who has specific needs to meet challenges.  Think about what YOU can do for that employer, and you will be well on your way.

How long should a resume be?

This question is one that receives many opinions, and few or none of them are wrong…..unless someone makes the number of pages an absolute. The length of a resume should be as long as it takes to fairly, and succinctly, tell a client’s story. The latest buzz is that less is more, shorter is better, and I don’t disagree. But again, if a client has a 25-year career full of accomplishments, awards, honors and just good stuff, then that good stuff should be included and Bettie Biehnfeatured. My major rule of thumb is to “put the good stuff on the first page”, and, as newspaper editors would say, as much “above the fold” as possible. Does this answer the question, or only muddle things more?

Resumes: Do It Yourself, Or Hire Someone?

As a resume writer, I’m  obviously a little biased on this one!But even with this bias, I know that there are lots of excellent self-written  resumes out there.

For those who prefer to write their own resumes, the tips provided in this column, and in books, articles and other published (print or online) pieces on resume writing can be very helpful as well. Know, though, that suggestions may vary, may even be diametrically opposed, so consider them all and pick the tips that work for you – for your personality, the jobs for which you’re applying, your skills, and your industry.

Your resume (and you) can benefit from “hiring” a trusted  colleague or friend­ skilled in editing for content, format, grammar and spelling – to review your resume. Objective second opinions and fresh eyes help immensely in punching up phrasing, remembering talents you’ve forgotten, and checking for proper  punctuation. And “constructive criticism”, if you can accept it gracefully, can be a gift.

If you choose to hire a resume writer, you can find one through  the usual methods: online search, print ads, yellow pages, friends, as well as bulletin boards (college campuses, coffee houses) and other places where people gather. In your first discussions with the writer, ask about work styles, timing (crucial if you needed a resume yesterday), pricing structure and payment methods, and if they provide other services (e.g.cover letters, employment counseling). Also, pay attention  to your response to the person’s style, voice, information, etc. Your intuition is key in finding a person with whom you’re comfortable working. When you’ve reached agreement on work parameters, this agreement should be committed to paper in a document  binding to both of you. Everything should be clearly spelled out, including work product  expected, timeframe and cost.

Regardless which method you choose, plan to invest time and perhaps  resources in your resume. And remember: this is NOT the time to be modest. Most of us downplay our skills, either not recognizing how terrific we are, or simply forgetting that major  project we single-handedly  brought  to fruition .Your resume is key to getting you in the door for an interview.It tells a prospective employer what you have done, and what you can do for him. As the saying goes, “First  impressions never get a second chance.”  So make your first impression a winner.

(originally published  on the online newsletter of Dick Wray Associates – now Wray Executive Search) 

Resumes: Does Unpaid Work Count?

In my work with resume clients, I encourage them to look back on past work accomplishments for which they received kudos. While they’re taking notes on this “homework assignment”, I then add

“This can include volunteer work, or things you’ve done for friends and family, for which the only pay you received was ‘thank you’….as long as it is relevant to your career search.”

This often brings a startled look from clients, who perhaps have never considered unpaid work as part of their resumes. But why shouldn’t it be? In my experience, we often put as much, if not more, effort, energy, time, passion and skill into work we’re doing for our parents, kids, friends, church, or charitable organization as we do at our paid jobs. And often this work has incredible results:

  • a church remains open due to the skills of a member who is a CPA and helps church administrators develop and balance a budget;
  • a museum gets a new wing because a dedicated and talented group of volunteers raise the funds;
  • a state-of-the-art hospital emerges from the work of a tireless, skilled group of community professionals who believe in their mission; and
  • children in need receive clothing, schooling and care because people know it’s the right thing to do and they use their know-how, connections and skills to do it.

But for some reason, we have tended to discount this work because we weren’t paid for it. But I find nothing different in work conducted without pay from work that comes with a paycheck. And often, the work of a volunteer comes from the heart, from a true passion for the goal. In my estimation, this work should assume its rightful place on the resume.

If your volunteer unpaid work is truly relevant to the positions that you’re seeking, include it­ noting that it is unpaid work. And the fact that you’ve volunteered your time, energy and talents to a worthy cause doesn’t hurt your image in the eyes of that prospective employer!

(originally published  on the online newsletter of Dick Wray Associates – now Wray Executive Search) 

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