Your Resume: Is It Relevant? Readable? Remarkable?

Photo by Mari Helin-Tuominen on Unsplash

Like most of us, your resume is probably something you’ve gone over more times than you can count. Do you wonder if you really even see it anymore?

Having a professional look over your resume with fresh eyes can be a game-changer. And who better than Michelle Merritt, CEO of Merrfeld Resumes and Coaching? Her previous roles as a Fortune 500 Recruiter, Corporate Culture Executive, and Chamber of Commerce Vice President have given her invaluable experience in knowing what makes a resume really stand out (and be remembered!). Right now Merrfeld Resumes and Coaching is offering a Professional Resume Critique for only $99! We’ll even throw in an assessment of your LinkedIn profile!

Of course you know how to write; and who knows your own experience better than you? But a professional assessment — with the focus on getting YOU noticed — can make your resume stand out from the crowd. After discussing your career goals, we carefully review your resume and provide suggestions for how we would revise it were we writing it ourselves. We’ll suggest improvements in style and formatting, and highlight areas that need more information or explanation.

We’ll review your LinkedIn profile as well — identifying changes and updates that will get you noticed by peers and potential employers. LinkedIn is a powerful networking tool. As with your resume, it’s important to set yourself above the crowd.

If you review our suggestions and decide within 30 days that you prefer to  have Merrfeld do the updates for you, we deduct the $99 from our standard resume-writing fee. So there’s no risk if you think you want to give it a go yourself first.

We are constantly monitoring the trends in resumes, networking and hiring practices. Technology, styles, and methods are ever-evolving — but succinct, expressive, high-quality writing will get you noticed every time. Let Merrfeld help you put your best foot forward with a standout resume and LinkedIn profile!

Ask Michelle: Interviewing and Pregnancy

Dear Michelle,

I need your advice. I’m interviewing for a new job. I’m very excited about the position and very happy with how well the process is going so far. I wouldn’t be surprised to be getting an offer soon. The issue? I’m pregnant. And very excited and happy about that, too! But I am worrying if I’m being deceitful, or putting my potential future employer in an awkward position by not telling them at this point. I’m not so far along that it’s obvious, but far enough along that I’m starting to tell people. I am taking this career decision very seriously and, of course, will be fully committed to my professional responsibilities. Should I say something now? If not now, when?

 

Dear Excited and Happy,

As you likely already know, it is illegal to treat pregnant women differently than any other candidates (this was established by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978). While I appreciate your desire to be honest and up front with your potential future colleagues, remember that this is not really that different from someone who is considering a new job but has pre-planned surgery or an extended vacation already booked.

I would suggest you don’t “muddy the process” at this point. Hold off until an offer has been extended and you have accepted it and are negotiating your start date, time off, etc. I would urge you to keep in mind that unexpected things can happen between now and the offer actually coming in, for example:

  • you could learn something about the job or the company that makes you no longer interested in the position
  • you could learn of another position that is more appealing
  • you could decide that your current job is a better fit
  • they could extend an offer that is unacceptable to you
  • and, the sad, but very real, fact that 10-25% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, especially during the first trimester — maintaining your privacy on this topic for as long as possible is more than understandable

When you are ready to have the conversation with your new employer, do address their likely concerns from the get-go. Remind them of your commitment to the company — your goals for your work there and how they align with your own career goals. Talk about your expected due date and your plans for leave and returning to work. Emphasize your intent to use your time before the baby arrives to develop and implement a plan so your leave time will have as little impact as possible.

As you evaluate their offer, be honest with yourself about what you are looking for — especially after the baby arrives. Are things like being able to work from home, a flexible schedule, or a short commute going to be more important to you than in the past? Consider these and discuss them with your potential employer.

Remember that almost all employees have reasons (often completely unexpected) to be on leave for extended periods of time: injuries, serious illness, caring for sick family member, or a death in the family. Employers don’t refuse to hire people because these circumstances may arise. Pregnancy should not be considered differently — except for the beneficial fact the you, your team, and your bosses can be better prepared because it’s known about far in advance.

I hope this helps, and wish you all the best in BOTH of your exciting new endeavors!

– Michelle

Goal Setting: The Art of Dreaming Big, But Starting Small

The hectic holidays are behind us and, like many of you, I turn my thoughts to my goals and aspirations for the new year.

I admit it. I love to set goals, strategize, and organize. (That’s why I’m so good at my job!) But I know not everyone loves this process as much as I do. It can easily turn into negative self-talk time —  feelings of being overwhelmed  (“C’mon, I’ll never really find the time to get that done”) or self-doubt (“Yeah, that’s been on my goals list for three years, why do I think I can do it this year?).

Don’t let goal setting make you feel that way! I have some suggestions for how to make the time well spent AND exciting, empowering, and rejuvenating!

The key for me has been to learn not to set too many goals, or ones that aren’t really attainable. Goals should make you stretch yourself personally, professionally, and spiritually but not be so pie-in-the-sky that you can’t attain them.

Here’s how I go about setting goals and applying them to my real life. I’ve used these basic steps for over a decade and know that they work for me. Give these suggestions a try, but don’t be afraid to modify them to meet your own personality.

I used to do this on a pink legal pad, but these days I do it online. Though I must admit, sometimes the physical act of writing and just seeing the words on paper in your own handwriting provide inspiration of their own. Do whichever feels more comfortable for you.

  1. Be quiet.  Find time to pray, meditate, or simply breathe deeply and consciously as you begin this project. Go someplace where you won’t be interrupted and set a timer — even 5 minutes can be enough! Ask yourself “what are my intentions for this year?” Then be quiet and …. listen. Your brain (and heart) will fill the space with what is important. When the time is up, jot down in any order the words or images that kept bubbling up.
  2. Segment. Write headings titled with the various areas of focus in your life. Keep them fairly broad — something like: “professional”, “personal”, “spiritual”, “parenting”, “health”, etc.
  3. Write your goals.  Categorize the notes from your quiet time, and anything else that comes to mind, under these headings. Don’t limit yourself at this point. I always ask myself what my goals would be if money, time, and circumstances were perfectly aligned. Write it all down.
  4. Visualize.  After you’ve done this for each section, reread what you’ve written. Visualize yourself reaching all of these goals.  Don’t let yourself feel overwhelmed — just go to your happy place and imagine life a year from now with these goals complete.
  5. Create a plan. Now you need to apply some brain power. I suggest beginning with the end in mind. What does that mean? Start with the vision you have of your goal completed. Then ask yourself what you did to reach that goal by working backwards from the point in your story where the goal is complete. For example, you want to be working for yourself? The step immediately before being your own boss is probably not, “quit current job”. It may be something like “have sufficient client base to support me on my own” or “get certified in this field so I can promote my services”. Prior to THAT, it may be “talk to other people in this profession about how they went out on their own” or “research the legal process of setting up my own business.” Etc, etc.
  6. Evaluate the plan. Now that you’ve created a plan, evaluate it and ask yourself if it can realistically be done. If the plan requires hard work and effort on your part, GREAT!  If it requires others to move mountains for you —  and you don’t think they are as committed to the idea as you are — you may need to reconsider that goal. For example, you striking out on your own may impact your family’s financial situation. Perhaps the first step it to speak to your partner about your desire to do this and brainstorm way to explore it before taking unnecessary financial risks.
  7. Push yourself. That said, there’s a big difference between being realistic with your goals and letting yourself off easy. If the goal is really important to you, don’t just say “we can’t afford to do this”. Take a look at why not. Are there sacrifices you are willing to make? Are there things you can learn that may make the process more appealing or financially viable.
  8. Share your goals. It can be scary to share your dreams. But it’s important to find a cheerleader — and someone who will hold you accountable. It’s easy to get distracted from your plans by the hectic realities of daily life. Share your goals with someone who will help you remember the commitments you made to yourself.
  9. Keep your goals where you can see them. If you didn’t write them out, print them now. They are easy to forget if hidden away. Some people keep theirs on the bathroom mirror or the refrigerator door. I like to put mine in a frame and keep them on my desk. Seeing them every day is a gentle prod to “keep your eye on the prize”.
  10. Revisit your goals. The plan you devised early on in the process, is a set of mini-goals to help you stay on track. Revisit your progress frequently and tweak your plan if necessary. The more you revisit your goals the more likely you’ll achieve them.
  11. Get out the red sharpie. OK, maybe this is just me, but there’s something so satisfying about drawing that thick red line through a completed task! Of course, you can use whatever type and color of writing utensil you like! Just know that the more tasks you complete the better you’ll feel. All those crossed off items are a great way to share your success with those holding you accountable, too.
  12. Reward yourself. It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant. But all too often we forget to pat ourselves on the back. Treat yourself as you cross items off your plan. Even if it’s just little rewards like a hot bath, an afternoon off to see a movie, or drinks out with friends. You deserve it!

Dream big! I wish you the best and brightest year yet!

Michelle

5 Great Reads from 2016: To Inspire, Recharge, and Motivate

Looking for last minute holiday gifts? Or, finally making some time for yourself to read over the holiday break? These are some of the best-reviewed career-related books of the past year. Each is especially relevant for anyone considering a career change — or just looking to get more out of his or her work-life. Merrfeld Resumes and Coaching wishes you happy holidays, happy reading … and a very happy career!

Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived Joyful Life by Bill Burnett & Dave Evans

Amazon: “In this book, Bill Burnett and Dave Evans show us how design thinking can help us create a life that is both meaningful and fulfilling, regardless of who or where we are, what we do or have done for a living, or how young or old we are. The same design thinking responsible for amazing technology, products, and spaces can be used to design and build your career and your life, a life of fulfillment and joy, constantly creative and productive, one that always holds the possibility of surprise.”

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Lee Duckworth

Chris Fralic on LinkedIn called it: “an extremely insightful and well written treatise on how and why certain people excel”

Amazon: “pioneering psychologist Angela Duckworth shows anyone striving to succeed—be it parents, students, educators, athletes, or business people—that the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent but a special blend of passion and persistence she calls ‘grit’.”

Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change and Thrive in Work and Life by Susan David

Amazon: “The path to personal and professional fulfillment is rarely straight. The counterintuitive approach to achieving your true potential, heralded by the Harvard Business Review as a groundbreaking idea of the year.

Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant

The Washington Post: “[Grant] examines what successful non-conformists . . . have in common, all in an effort to help the rest of us learn how to do things like bust myths, speak truth to power, and avoid groupthink without getting sidelined.”

Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives by Tim Harford

Amazon: “you’ll learn about the unexpected connections between creativity and mess; understand why unexpected changes of plans, unfamiliar people, and unforeseen events can help generate new ideas and opportunities as they make you anxious and angry; and come to appreciate that the human inclination for tidiness – in our personal and professional lives, online, even in children’s play – can mask deep and debilitating fragility that keep us from innovation.”

Holiday Socializing and Networking: Tips for Effectiveness AND Fun

The holidays bring myriad opportunities for connecting with others: from casual encounters to formal events. Enjoying the season and connecting with one another should be foremost on everyone’s mind; but — especially if you are job-hunting or thinking about a career or job change — the holidays can be a great time for networking opportunities, too.

Here are our suggestions on how to get the most out of holiday-time socializing (while still having a good time and not annoying your family and friends!):

Before the party, especially if you know who may be in attendance, think about who there would be a good contact to make — and which mutual friend could introduce you. Also:

  • be ready with your elevator pitch — clearly and concisely describe what you do and why you are passionate about it
  • have business cards handy, for when you are asked for one; but don’t hand them out like Santa passing out candy canes
  • dress appropriately for the event, but keep a professional look top priority
  • have some questions in mind to get a conversation with a new person going (tongue-tied when it comes to small talk? read out socializing tips for introverts article here)

At the party, don’t make it all business. Add something to the event so you will be invited back again next year! Plus, you never know when a non-work-related conversation can take a turn and create an important work connection. Remember to:

  • show up with a positive attitude — if you are feeling forced to be there or uninterested in who else is there, others will quickly pick up on that
  • be selective about when and to whom you give your business card
  • talk about something besides business; relax and focus on getting to know new people
  • listen as much, or more, than you talk
  • don’t just hang out with the people you know — mingle!
  • have fun, but know your alcohol limit — you don’t want to be remembered as “that guy” at the party

After the party, say thank you to the host or hostess before you walk out the door. Follow up with a “thanks again” email or handwritten note the next day. Hosting an event is no small feat — show your appreciation for their work and for including you.

The holidays can be a fantastic time of year to continue building your relationships, professional and other. Remember the main point of the events — to have fun and socialize — but don’t hesitate to work in a little appropriate networking, as well. Happy Holidays!

Ask Michelle: Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

Dear Michelle,

Things are really bad at work and I think I’m about to be fired. Should I resign and put my energy into finding another job? Or should I hang on — even though I’m miserable — and look for another job while I wait for them to fire me?

 

Dear Miserable,

First, let me say I’m so sorry this is happening, sweetie. It’s an awful position to be in, for sure. I have some suggestions, though, on how to turn this bad situation into a a chance at new, and better, opportunities.

In deciding to stay or go at this point? It really boils down to whether or not you need the regular paycheck.

If you don’t require the steady income, it’s definitely easier to devote full time efforts to your job search without being tied to a job that’s draining you. Cut your losses and go find your dream job. Need help figuring that out? That’s why Merrfeld is here!

Unfortunately, very few of us are in the kind of financial situation where we can just quit. If you are counting on your paycheck, you need to stay (difficult as that may be) until you find something else. Or until they fire you. If you think the bad news is coming soon, here are some ways to prepare:

  • collect contacts, clean out your email, and remove personal information from your computer, laptop, and phone now (they will likely be confiscated immediately if you are terminated)
  • think through logistics and your questions ahead of time — is there a severance package? how long will health coverage last? etc.
  • get your personal finances in order now, before the last paycheck comes — stop unnecessary spending and start saving
  • learn how unemployment compensation works and how to apply
  • take care of any health care appointments now while you are fully covered by insurance

I also suggest you read my “You Just Got Notice. Now What?” article for advice on what to do after being fired. One of the most important things to remember is: don’t be bullied into signing anything right away — you have the right to review everything first, ask questions, and receive sufficient answers.

Lastly, it’s not a bad idea to imagine being told “we’re letting you go”, before that moment actually occurs. Mentally preparing for hearing the news and practicing how you will respond will help you react less emotionally and more intellectually. This goes without saying, but remember to stay your classy, professional self at all times.

Your colleagues, your boss, and/or the person who fires you, may someday soon be in a position to hire you or help you further your career in other ways. Don’t burn your bridges.

As difficult as this time is, try to keep in mind that being fired can be the catalyst to new and unexpected opportunities. Merrfeld Resumes and Coaching is here to help you figure out your options and put your career on the fast track to greater success and more personal fulfillment.

Here I Am! 6 Ways To Get Noticed on LinkedIn

We’ve talked about how to be a good member of the LinkedIn community and how to get the most out of this powerful networking resource. Now we’d like to share our top tips for getting your profile noticed.

If you are in job-hunting mode — or just want to be open to new opportunities, new clients, or new people to add to your network — it’s crucial to have a LinkedIn profile that will attract attention. Here’s how:

1. Complementary Profile to Resume

Complete your profile to match your resume. There should be no discrepancies between the two. Write concisely and clearly and proofread repeatedly. To really put a polish on it, Merrfeld Resumes and Coaching offers a very reasonably-priced resume and LinkedIn profile review service.

2. Well-Written Tag-Lines (aka Headlines)

Your headline should be professional, without being boring — something that encourages people to want to know more. Be concise, using key words that are specific to your skill set and industry. Add value with words that broaden the picture and show your added value (e.g., “certified”, “manager”, “expert”, “strategist”, etc.)

3. Location Information

Your location should be up to date to guarantee your profile appears accurately in geographically-specific searches. Update your location if you are going to be relocating.

4. Interact with Others

Interaction draws more people to your profile. Comment on posts that you found informative. Join groups that have a lot of activity and participate in the discussions. Both of these actions can drive other LinkedIn members to your profile to learn more about you. Also monitor your incoming messages regularly for worthwhile communications or new connections.

5. Post Professional Content

Publishing on LinkedIn is a great way to help others learn more about you, broaden your network, and be viewed as an authority on a topic. Potential clients feel a stronger connection with profiles that include content. And every time you publish, your network is notified — reminding them of who you are and what you do, and broadening your network (when your connections interact with your posts, that information is shared with all of their first degree connections).

6. A Professional Photo

Research shows that LinkedIn profiles with photos get significantly more views than those without. A photo helps others feel familiar and better connected with you, and helps them recognize or remember you. No selfies or inappropriate clothing, please!

Your skills and accomplishments are impressive. Follow these suggestions to draw more people to your profile and get the attention you deserve for your hard work. Contact Merrfeld Resumes and Coaching  for more advice on how to get your profile noticed and on the fast track to the career of your dreams!

What TO DO on LinkedIn

Last week, we gave tips on what NOT to do on LinkedIn. Now let’s talk about what you SHOULD be doing to get the most of this powerful networking tool.

Your LinkedIn profile can be a crucial part of advancing your career: a way to make quality connections, promote your skills and experience, and have a voice on topics relevant to your area of expertise. Get the most out of LinkedIn by following our suggestions for success.

Add Value to Connection Requests

Avoid using just the default connection request. Take a moment to personalize it with, for example, a reminder of where you met, or a connection you have in common, or something you admire about his or her work. LinkedIn connections are about quality, not quantity. You should be connecting with people relevant to your field of work and who could, potentially, further your career or connect you with someone who might.

As for connecting with people while you are actively job-hunting? It’s best to wait until after the hiring process has ended before sending connection requests to those you met while interviewing. If you got the job, obviously they will be your coworkers and connecting makes sense. If you didn’t get the job but still want to connect with someone you met, send a direct email thanking them for their time and asking if you could send them a LinkedIn connection request.

Write Well

Everything about your profile should present you in the best possible professional light, especially the writing. Write concisely, proofread, and make sure there are no discrepancies between what you include on your resume and what you have on your profile. Then proofread again!

Crafting a succinct, yet descriptive and engaging, profile is a bit of an art form. Consider having a professional — such as Merrfeld Resumes and Consulting  —  review your resume and LinkedIn profile to make sure they are top notch and complementary.

Have a Photo (and Make it Good)

A quality, professional photo is essential to increasing views of your profile. It’s helpful for forming connections before interviews or after networking events — giving the other person a face to put with your name makes people feel more connected and remember you better.

Make sure it’s an appropriate and appealing photo. Close up shots, in which you are wearing appropriate professional clothing, are best — no family, friends, or pets in the shot, please.

Write A Summary

The summary feature is an important feature to take your profile beyond the information on your resume. Use it to express your personality and tell your professional story. Again, it should be well-written and relevant to your field — you may want to ask a professional  for assistance.

Use Recommendations

Recommendations are a great way to show hiring managers (and your colleagues) how you have been received in the actual business world. Recommendations from professionals who have overseen your work, collaborators who appreciated working with you, and/or clients who were impressed by your services, can help you stand out from the competition. Reach out and request recommendations from people with whom you’ve had particularly positive work experiences — and offer to write them a recommendation as well!

Follow our tips — and don’t hesitate to contact us for a quick and easy Resume and LinkedIn review — and you’ll be seeing the benefits LinkedIn in no time!

What NOT to Do on LinkedIn

For most of us social media is a regular part of daily modern life. And most of us are on LinkedIn, the largest professional social network with over 380 million members world-wide. It’s the go-to source for recruiters and hiring managers looking to learn more about candidates. It’s also a frequent tool for professionals looking to connect with like minds, build their networks, and promote their qualifications.

Considering it’s pervasiveness in the present business environment, it’s somewhat shocking how many blunders, faux pas, and general DONT’S occur there everyday.

Don’t be one of “those people” on LinkedIn! Follow our tips and preserve your professional reputation to your colleagues, professional connections, and potential future employers.

Don’t Treat It Like Facebook

It’s not. Yes, LinkedIn is a social media site, but the emphasis is on professional. This is not the place to post political views, family updates, or vacation photos.

Don’t Send Inappropriate Messages

Again, keep it professional. Ask yourself, would I be OK with my boss seeing this? A hiring manager for a job I’m after? My spouse or significant other? Don’t hit on people — it’s not Tinder! (Does that really need to be said in this day and age? Apparently it does)

Don’t Use a Bad Profile Picture

Use a photo reflecting you as a professional: no kids, no spouses, no pets. Don’t use a picture from 20 years ago (instead of reading about your professional accomplishments, people will be distracted trying to figure out how old you really are). Be professionally attired. Head shots are best. It should be visually clear and — if not actually taken by a professional — at least look like it was.

Don’t Ignore Messages

Of course there will be some spam or messages that aren’t in your area of interest. But LinkedIn messaging is also the way recruiters make contact, potential clients reach out, and other professionals try to connect. Review your messages regularly so you don’t miss something important.

Don’t Be Passive

Using LinkedIn effectively can be a big part of your networking and career advancement efforts. Engage by keeping your profile up to date, update your status, comment on relevant posts from other professionals, and post useful information yourself.

But… Don’t Spam

Don’t just post for the sake of posting. LinkedIn isn’t about quantity — it’s about quality and relevance. Add value to discussions and people in your network will to be interested in hearing what you have to say.

LinkedIn is an essential tool for collecting information about your field, networking with others, and highlighting your professional value. Follow our tips for success to make the most of it. Additionally, Merrfeld Resumes and Consulting offers a Resume and LinkedIn critique for those of you who know what you’re doing but need someone to show you where to punch it up a bit. We’ll tell you what we would change and provide guidance on how to determine what information to include. We’ll suggest changes and updates and get your LinkedIn profile noticed by your peers — AND potential employers!

How to Rock The Top 5 Most Frequently Asked Interview Question

We’ve all heard them before. Many times. Those inevitable interview questions that are asked time and time again. It’s difficult to take them very seriously and even more challenging to come up with genuine answers. But don’t just “phone it in” when it comes to answering them. Well-thought out, uniquely-you answers can help you ace the interview and stand out from the other candidates.

Here are the five most popular interview questions with some prompts on how to give stand-out answers:

1. “What is your greatest weakness?” / “What is your greatest strength?”

(Okay, that’s two questions… but they are almost always asked hand-in-hand and your answers should be complementary to each other).

  • Weakness: Focus on the steps you have taken to improve a professional trait — don’t mention personal qualities — you felt was lacking
  • Strength: Highlight one (of your many) that you know they need.

2. “Why should we hire you?”

  • Succinctly summarize your relevant experiences.
  • Specifically address how your unique combination of abilities and experiences can help the company —  immediately.
  • Point out other skills and experience you have that will help the company meet it’s goals for the future.

3. “Why do you want to work here?”

  • Show that you are being selective in your job search: you have researched the company, it meets your criteria, and you are enthusiastic about its mission.
  • Reference how your specific strengths align with their specific needs.
  • Address the culture of the company, why it appeals to you, and why you would be a good fit.
  • Emphasize your commitment to becoming an integral part of the organization.

4. ”Where Do You See Yourself In 5 Years?”

  • Clearly state your commitment to the job for which you are interviewing and your commitment to supporting the organization in its mission.
  • Share the professional skills you would like to develop (especially those that are relevant to the company’s growth and success).

5. “Why are you leaving (or have left) your current job?” 

  • If you were let go, address that head on and emphasize what you learned from the experience.
  • If you are looking for other opportunities, focus on what appeals to you about this company and the position (not on what you don’t like about your current job).
  • In either case, focus on the future and detail how this position fits what you are looking for in the next step of your career.

Do your research about the organization and the job and map out your answers to these most common interview questions. A strong performance will truly make you stand out from the crowd.