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Go Ask Mom

Stay the course: Resume, job hunt tips for a tough market

Posted June 28, 2020 8:15 p.m. EDT

Courtesy: Mir Garvy

More than a decade ago, Mir Garvy was at a crossroads in her career, and the right path for her turned out to be helping others navigate their own career ambitions.

Garvy is a resume and job search expert. She founded Job Market Solutions, also called RTP Resumes, in 2009 and recently launched a new business called GetResumeHelp.com, which specifically serves college graduates and entry-level professionals. Her company has grown into a team of four, including two certified professional resume writers. The business specializes in writing professional resumes, LinkedIn profiles, and cover letters for clients,. She also offers CVs for people in academia or research roles, creates executive bios for C-suite professionals, and edits letters of intent or personal statements for college and grad school applicants.

Garvy has two kids, a rising high school senior and a 12-year-old on the autism spectrum. "Being an entrepreneur has always given me the flexibility to take care of my children, particularly during the six years I spent as a single mother," she tells me.

I checked in with Garvy to learn more about what she offers and for tips for those who are seeking to reenter the workforce after time away to raise kids or tend to other family members. Here's a Q&A.

Go Ask Mom: How did you get involved in resume writing? What do you enjoy about the work?

Mir Garvy: I started my business during the great recession of 2008 when the work I’d been doing as a web and SEO content writer had slowed down significantly. I asked myself, as a writer, what service could I provide that people needed? With unemployment at 10%, the answer was “resumes.” In the more than 10 years since then, my company has written more than 5,000 resumes and helped so many job seekers—across diverse industries and at all levels—find meaningful employment.

I’m grateful to have found a career that allows me to help people in such a tangible, practical way. Starting a new job is one of life’s 10 most stressful events, in part, because job change so often coincides with other stressors like financial pressure, a relocation, a divorce, or a layoff. While there is so much we can’t control about the job search, I’ve seen that when job seekers get help from a professional resume writer, they feel less overwhelmed, more confident about what they have to offer, and more prepared for the interview process. As a writer, it’s very gratifying to be able to provide this type of help to people when they need it most.

GAM: What are some common issues that you see on the resumes people bring to you for editing? Resume style and design has changed dramatically in the last few years, it seems.

MG: Here is my list of “top five resume killers”:

  • Too long (more than two pages)
  • Not optimized for applicant tracking systems
  • Fails the six-second test
  • Not focused on achievements/outcomes
  • Grammar, spelling, or other errors

When we tailor the content of a resume for the type of job a person is targeting, we are able to address the first three items on my list in one fell swoop. By highlighting a person’s most relevant, most transferable experiences and skills and by eliminating content that’s irrelevant, outdated, or off-message, we are not only shortening and tightening the resume, we’re also better optimizing the resume to get past the ATS filters and making it easier for hiring managers to quickly see—within six seconds—who you are and what you do. For more about how to tailor your resume for applicant tracking systems (ATS), read this article.

Right now, we are in an employer’s market. There are plenty of qualified candidates competing to fill jobs and employers can afford to be very choosy. For this reason, your resume must be a compelling and unforgettable snapshot of your most impressive and quantifiable accomplishments. Rather than listing the ordinary duties and responsibilities of the jobs you’ve held, your resume needs to outline your individual contributions, show what you were able to achieve in your previous roles, and explain the impact of your efforts in a way that shows the value you’ll bring to your next employer.

And, of course, your resume can not have mistakes or typos. We’ve all heard stories of qualified people being eliminated from the pool of candidates for this one reason alone. Grammatical, spelling, and punctuation errors are instant deal breakers.

GAM: A lot of women take time away from the paid workforce to care for their kids. How do you advise women to explain that gap in their resume?

MG: I have, over the years, delivered a one-hour presentation on this very topic—many times, actually. I have so much practical advice and words of encouragement for relaunchers returning to work after a career break! Here’s a blog post with some of my advice.

A resume for a person whose career timeline has a gap can be a challenging resume to write but we do it all the time. The key is to address the gap in a straightforward way while showing all the many ways you contributed to your community, stayed active in your industry (if you did), and kept your skills sharp during your time raising children, or caring for aging parents, or both. In my experience, women have a hard time remembering, assigning value to, or quantifying outcomes for all the many things they accomplished during their time away from paid employment. That’s where a professional resume writer can help.

Networking is also very important for relaunchers. Leveraging the many connections you have—both professional and personal—can give you the opportunity to speak directly with a hiring manager or company executive. When you get in front of that person, you can tell your story, build rapport, and make your case as to why you’d be a solid choice to fill an open position at the company.

GAM: LinkedIn is a key part of a person's professional profile online, but it can feel really complicated. What are some easy ways to refresh a LinkedIn profile that will get noticed by employers or recruiters?

MG: A professional headshot is the first thing I’d recommend to help your profile get noticed. One study found that recruiters spent 19% of their time on any given LinkedIn profile just looking at the photo. The takeaway: For better or worse, your LinkedIn headshot matters a great deal. Make sure your hairstyle and glasses (if you wear them) are on-trend, that your makeup and jewelry are understated, and that you’re smiling at the camera. (A good photographer will take care of the rest—i.e., lighting, backdrop, etc.).

Secondly, update the content of your LinkedIn page. We offer LinkedIn makeovers for our clients because LinkedIn plays such an important part in today’s job search. In fact, 94% of recruiters and hiring managers will look you up on LinkedIn at some point during the job search process. Here’s more information about our LinkedIn makeover service.

My third tip: Build your network by making connections with people you know, especially if they work at companies you’re targeting. And collect a number of recommendations from people who know you and are familiar with the professional qualities you possess.

Lastly, if you’re actively looking for a job, you can let job posters or recruiters on LinkedIn know you’re open to new opportunities by changing your job seeking preferences in your settings or by clicking the “Open to Job Opportunities” button on your profile page. This privately flags your profile for recruiters so they can more readily reach out to you.

GAM: This is a really tough time for job searching. What's your advice to a woman who is looking for a job or even starting to consider what a return might look like?

MG: While you might be tempted to put your job search on hold for the time being, I’m telling all my clients—returning moms or otherwise—to stay the course, to keep searching for job postings that align with your career goals, and to keep applying for open positions. Right now, some industries are maintaining or even growing; and for other industries, hiring freezes could be lifted at any time. You want to already have networking inroads at your target companies and be ready to apply with your up-to-date resume. If you’re concerned about ageism in hiring practices, read this blog post I wrote on that topic.

This is also a great time to expand your network. Make new connections on LinkedIn. Rekindle personal and professional friendships by phone, email, or Facebook. Or invite someone to a virtual coffee, which will give you a good opportunity to not only build or strengthen a relationship but also to get more comfortable with videoconferencing. It’s highly likely that, when you are selected to interview for a new role, you’ll be doing that interview virtually, so practicing now will give you an edge later.

Speaking of upskilling, if you do have a skill gap you want to work on, this could be an ideal time to sign up for an online course or complete a professional certification program that will make you a more competitive job candidate.

Another thing I think working/returning mothers might want to consider as they plan their job search—especially since we don’t know yet what public schools will be doing in the fall—is whether a remote position is right for them. I recently posted to LinkedIn about online job boards that specialize in virtual, work from home, freelance, and virtual positions.

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