What Does a Professional Résumé Writer Really Do?

Résumé process, résumé development

In my career practice, I have learned the importance of clearly establishing my mandate with each of my clients before we launch into the résumé writing process. My goal is to be a catalyst for their professional aspirations. It’s vital to the success of our relationship that my clients understand I cannot guarantee they’ll land the job they desire. I take the time, up front, to make it clear what a professional résumé writer can do for them.

My Approach to the Résumé Writing Process

Strategic résumé writing has allowed me to meet a multitude of clients over the years. Although they come from different nationalities, cultures, and fields of expertise, one common denominator leads them to me: a mouth-watering job opportunity they don’t want to pass up. Each client can already visualize how good this job will look on their résumé. Our meetings are energizing and full of hope. But often, the application deadline is quickly approaching, and they are prepared to pay top dollar for a quick turnaround on a professional résumé.

It all sounds exciting, yet these are the mandates that are often the most difficult for me to navigate. Why? Well, despite a significant return on investment for the clients (a dynamic and competitive résumé), I cannot actually guarantee that they will get the desired job. The reason is quite simple: I have no influence over the influx of other qualified candidates for the position, nor on the state of mind of the recipients of the résumé. In short, there are always variables that are beyond my control, even if I am convinced my client has the prerequisites for the targeted job.

Thus, the objectives of my mandate, until then a process of validating and highlighting achievements, extends — in my client’s mind — to the quest for a result (the offer of a job) that is by no means guaranteed. How to get around this issue? Answer: With the help of ikigai (part of the rationale behind my résumé writing process) and a prior discussion of the benefits my client can expect.

Introducing Ikigai to my Clients

Not all résumé redesign mandates come with career coaching. Usually, in a short period, varying from a few hours to a few days, résumé writers must understand their clients’ positioning in the job market and analyze the positions they covet. We do this to properly orient the writing and hopefully transform their journey from an impactful résumé to concrete results. We make them shine so that they stand out from the rest.

To do this, we all proceed in a similar yet unique way; we study our clients’ current résumés then meet with them to discuss an action plan. We present them with new content and a new layout. Also, I always allocate about twenty minutes to the indirect search for their ikigaitheir reason for getting up in the morning. I say “indirect” because I don’t overtly offer career coaching or a personal-family-professional life-balance support service.

Yukari Mitsuhashi mentions in her book, Ikigai: The Japanese Art of a Meaningful Life, “to know one’s ikigai is not enough” — our purpose must be put into action. To put it simply, by presenting this working tool to them, it opens the door to a universe of possibilities and tangible actions. I implicitly emphasize that the search for a new position or professional advancement is cultivated over the long term, not through a single job posting found on Indeed two days before the competition closes.

Ikigai is divided into four aspects:

  • Passion: What do you like to do in your spare time? Do you have any hobbies?
  • Profession: What do you excel at? What are you gifted at?
  • Mission: What are your values? What do you think the world needs?
  • Vocation: What value can you bring to the company? What can you get paid for?

During my first interview with my clients, I often draw an ikigai diagram that I give to them. They are happy to have a visual representation of their purpose. I then show them how ikigai can be used as a tool to navigate the job hunt or pursue a promotion.

The Benefits: What I Really Deliver to my Clients

I prefer to talk to my clients about the benefits of our collaboration, rather than outcomes, because outcomes are uncertain. These benefits are important, since, among other things, they allow clients to gain a better understanding of not only the targeted job, but also of the compatibility of the position with their ikigai. Not all résumé writing includes career coaching, but the writing process can provide a tool — a natural conduit for discussion and thoughtful reflection. For the client, the tool allows them the opportunity to shine and stand out through sharing their highest achievements with their writer. They are encouraged to recall and reflect on their values, ambitions, and deep aspirations.

There is another benefit that’s not insignificant, but which may take some time and further reflection to register with the client. Not only have they collaborated in a process resulting in the creation of a strategic and powerful résumé, but once they understand ikigai, they have gained feelings of optimism and enthusiasm for their future. The process encourages them to research and explore their purpose. Eventually, the result of that research gives them a compass that will help them target positions and companies that align with their ikigai.

In Conclusion

Ultimately, a revitalized résumé is just part of a process, not an end or a final result. Thus, for those new to résumé writing, clearly defining your process — and thereby establishing your customer experience model — is essential. This is also true for seasoned writers. Outlining the process and anticipated benefits to your clients early on in your engagement can help to manage expectations and avoid pitfalls along the way.

Want to build on your own résumé skills? Take Career Professionals of Canada’s Advanced Résumé Development Certificate Course. Want to learn more about ikigai? Join Career Professionals of Canada’s Work-Life Coaching Course. These programs will help you support your clients in a more meaningful way.

Beverly Marchand is a bilingual résumé writer and career coach based in Montréal, Quebec. Through her practice — Beverly Marchand — she specializes in providing transformative and supportive services to clients who are seeking renewed confidence and energy as they go through the job search process. Coming from a background in academia, Beverly stays connected with her roots in research by providing her clients with leading-edge insight into the labour market.

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