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When Opportunity Knocks, Open The Door

November 17, 2011

This past weekend, I attended a Workshop for SCMOTC (Southern California Mothers of Twins Clubs).  This was planned as a strictly social  event.    A group of us from NCMoMs took the train up the coast from Oceanside to Ventura, CA, where 16 of our local friends met up with over 170 attendees from all over Southern California – who all share the common bond of being blessed with twins or triplets.  After two days of freedom from the responsibilities of home, lots fun and laughs, I was ready to attend some educational workshops on Saturday afternoon (or maybe the yoga class. . .).

My plans were about to change.

At the morning session, the Chairman announced that one of the speakers, a careers professional who had planned to speak on the topic of “Making your stay-at-home-mom job look good on a resume,” was sick and had to cancel.

As the announcement was made, about three of my friends looked at me with a “what are you waiting for?” look.  So five minutes later, I found myself committed to give a one hour seminar on the topic.  I had four hours to showtime, and that included the luncheon.

Fortunately, I had everything with me that I needed to prepare this presentation and handouts: a laptop, and a Kindle.    On the Kindle I had access to one of the best books on resume writing ever written, Resume Magic, by Susan Britton Whitcomb.  The key points that I covered in my workshop (which were extracted from the book as well as my own experience) were:

  1. What is a resume?  It is essentially a marketing document designed to present your qualifications for a job in a compelling way that wins you an interview.
  2. Format:  There are many resume formats – Chronological and Functional being the most well-known.  A Functional layout can often be the best way to present qualifications where there is limited paid experience, or when you are facing employment gaps.  This presents the qualifications first (computer skills, planning, organizing, etc.), and minimizes the career chronology.  This format is ideal for the mom returning to the workforce.  Resume Magic covers about 10 additional formats, and the pros and cons of each.
  3. Basic elements: Depending on the qualifications you need to present, you would choose 3-5 of the following sections to include in your resume: header (essential for contact information), focus statement, profile, experience, skills / keywords, education, awards, and testimonials.
  4. Gathering material:  Sources of material to include can include previous job descriptions, performance reviews, and even job postings.  Job Postings are especially good sources because they tell you what the employer wants – which essentially provides you with a road map to connect the dots between their needs and your offering.
  5. Volunteer work counts as experience! Parents who stay at home to raise kids often volunteer for the PTA or other nonprofit organizations.  This usually involves leadership, sales  or cold calling  (for solicitation of donations), event planning, organizational skills, budgeting, volunteer recruitment, and even social media skills.  Quantify all these accomplishments, and you have an impressive portfolio to sell yourself with!
  6. Edit, edit, edit.  Never use a $3 word when a $1 one will do.  Remove unnecessary or implied words, like pronouns and phrases like “responsibilities included…”  Use high-impact, quantified action statements.  Proofread the next day, not at midnight when you are tired and the words have started to get blurry.  Check for word misuses, since your spell-checker won’t catch those.
  7. Dress it up.  Aesthetics are an often overlooked design element of a resume.  You have about 10 seconds to convince the reader to keep reading.  They will stay with you longer if you have good content + a pretty document.  Don’t be afraid to use color, graphs, and borders.  After all, when was the last time you saw a marketing document that didn’t have any color?

If there is anything this experience taught me, it is that you need to be ready for anything.  If you are a job seeker, would you be prepared to interview with four hours notice?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Penny permalink
    November 17, 2011 10:07 PM

    Karleen, I like your point about “Volunteering counts as experience”, but I have not actually seen this practiced. Perhaps it is because of how it is presented on the resume and the interview. Excellent blog you have. I really enjoy reading your thoughts. Thanks for including me……Penny

  2. November 17, 2011 10:37 PM

    Thanks for your comments, Penny. It could be how it was presented. As far as I remember, your resume was pretty good, but I don’t remember the volunteer details.

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