Friday, 21 February 2014

How I got started as a Resume Writer

A reader sent through a question asking me 'out of curiosity' how I got started being a resume writer. I'm happy to share a few person details with you, so here goes...

How I got started as a Resume Writer

It sorted of started by accident, really.

A grandmother I knew from when I took my children to kindergarten, told me about a free TAFE course that she had recently completed and thought I would enjoy.

I enquired, and next semester enrolled in the course Career Education and Employment for Women As I progressed through the six month course, we not only learned how to write a market effective resume and cover letters but also explored different career paths for women who had been stay at home mums, and how to plan for your return to the paid workforce now or in the future.

This was not the first course I had enrolled in, but it was definitely the one that I got the most out of.

One thing that I found since I had been a teenager was that I had a knack for using a computer that most other women around my age didn’t. And in each of my previous courses whenever someone had a difficulty, I had usually completed the task and was able to help – and, on a number of occasions when there was technical difficulties with the computer that even the class teacher could not resolve, I could usually piece together the underlying problem which was causing things to go wrong, and most times was able to resolve the problem with ease.

So, while enrolled in the course, we explored ideas for starting our own business.  By this time we had each assessed our workplace strengths and abilities, and although I was a hunt and peck typist, with the teachers help we identified that I:

  • Could type
  • Had an eye for troubleshooting computer problems
  • Enjoyed helping fellow students

I also had writing and proofreading skills from my personal interest in novel writing to add to my basic skill list – but as fiction novel writing wasn’t going to help me in a job without me having a completed manuscript (and I was not writing with the aim of publication at that time), we determined that I could apply for Reception and Admin roles or even start my own business offering typing, proofreading and beginner computer training.

I didn’t want the hassle of trying to drum up business, even though working for myself did appeal to me. I didn’t have to look for work, but decided to start applying for work sooner rather than later, because many of the other ladies in the course had all been struggling for a long while, and I wanted to put my new jobseeking skills into practice while they were still fresh.

Months later, still without a job despite close to two hundred applications sent and plenty of interviews having been gained, an unexpected bill came in that I just wasn’t financially prepared for. Now, it was more important for me than ever to earn some cash so I didn’t end up ‘behind the eight ball’ which would be near impossible to ever get back in front, so when a friend asked if I could teach her friend how to use a computer, the words ‘she is happy to pay you’ was such a relief and the answer I was looking for.

I had self-doubts – as a lot of mums, and particularly stay at home mums, possess – but I also thought back to my course teacher’s comments after I had had my turn presenting a possible self employment business idea to the class saying ‘you’d be very good at that’ to spur me on.

So, I started teaching someone who had never even turned a computer on, and patiently explained terminology, how to control the mouse and how to use a personal computer and word processor.

At some point, someone asked me if I would be able to type up a letter for them, so I agreed without too much hesitation, charged twenty dollars, and deciphered their very messy handwriting and created what looked like a standard business letter – I fixed up their atrocious spelling, punctuation and grammar, tweaked a few of the sentences and paragraphs so they weren’t quite so repetitive and imparted their key points more directly and concisely and which removed the anger, swearing and name-calling hostility the writer felt so that their complaint would be treated more seriously.  My customer was highly satisfied with the letter and mailed it off, and a week or so later rang me excited to advise that after all this time, all this long, drawn out fighting, the company had apologised and was giving them a full refund.

This lead to that customer telling people to contact me whenever any of her large group of friends and family needed a document typed. And, a couple of customers later, someone wanted me to type up a resume for them.

Once again, I experienced a moment or two of self-doubt about my ability to do this, but in the end just figured it was just another type of document.  I think now that the reason for my self-doubt was because I knew how important a resume and cover letter was in generating employer interest, so that they called you to invite you to attend an interview, and I was worried I didn’t have the specialised skills to achieve a good enough document for them.

I worried for nothing.

The person had handwritten something so terrible, that was so unlikely to get them any favourable result no matter how attractive I made the presentation of their content, and instead of just accepting the job and their leaving with the expectation that I would deliver their printed document and an electronic copy to their home address within the next two days, I invited the person to have a coffee or tea with me, and I discussed how I didn’t think they would get good results, and showed them the resume I had created back in that course, and worked with the person for the next two or three hours as together we created better content.

That person did a walk in to a business the following day with his lovely new resume to hand over, and I happened to run into this otherwise a stranger to me at the drop off and pick up bay at Penrith station at about 4 p.m. that afternoon as I dropped my daughter off to meet up with friends to go shopping.  And I was really glad I had decided to let my daughter go (I was quite hesitant about letting her do this without a parent to supervise them) or I wouldn’t have learned that he got the job and would be starting the following Monday.

From there, word of mouth sent more business my way, and soon I was only writing and typing resumes and cover letters – and I now had some savings to see me through any future nasty bill surprises.

I ran the business for about four years on a part time basis to suit my needs, before I discovered that the Employment Service industry existed, and now ready to obtain full time employment applied for entry-level positions so I could get a foot in the door (consultants and case managers all needed to be experienced).

So there you have it, that is how I got started as a resume writer - by stumbling my way into it. I hope this inspires you to follow your interests and skills for the type of work you are trying to gain.

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