WHY Successful People Work with A Career Coach

WHY Successful People Work with A Career Coach

Whether you need to optimize your resume, get help with your job search, re-enter the job market or plan a career pivot this article will help you to understand how to be your own coach, while showing you what a modern career and resume coach can do for you. 

Google and many of your friends and professional contacts can potentially advise you on what to put on your resume. You may receive contradictory advice and or find unhelpful folks that will tell you that you are already doing everything right. And some that will assure you that everything you are doing is wrong! 

The challenge with a good amount of this advice is that it tends to focus on how to format your resume or it’s based on what one person did once with success. 

In the case of traditional career counselors or resume writers, you may get folks who rely too heavily on beliefs that put you the client in a box. Or who write resumes based on a formula that may have worked in 1990, but is not relevant in the current market or workplace. 

You know you best.

The most important part of writing a resume actually has nothing to do with writing [or formatting] the document. It has to do with putting YOU onto the paper.

What this means, is that before you write your resume, your best time investment will be spent in clarifying your career goals and putting together a compelling professional narrative that tells who you are as a professional. 

These goals and your narrative will set the foundation for an effective job search process from the time you submit your resume through to your interview. 

Why? Because inconsistency and humility are the kiss of death on the job search. 

What your resume NEEDs

Don’t let others confuse your humility for mediocrity. 

You can have the most beautiful, formatted and tightly written resume in the city, but if it reads like a robot, boring, bland, and or totally lacking your unique motivations and personality, what is the point? 

To get hired you need a resume (and a LinkedIn profile) that demonstrates what you can do with confidence and joy. This document also needs to highlight your unique combination of strengths, interests, experiences, while showing what motivates and inspires you. 

This includes owning your story, flipping negatives to be positives with authenticity, and the ability to show what you’ve learned and how you approach problems. Together this information will go above and beyond your classic robotic resume that merely hints at your capacity for performing in the future. 

A robotic-sounding resume that might very well be a copy and paste of your various job descriptions. With a little color at the very end under “activities.” Blah. Nope. No. 

A unique document that clearly demonstrates throughout the document your hunger to work, your interests and your unique capacity. Plus a very important insight into your work personality.

Coaching Outcomes

Resume Reboot + Job Search Success:

A woman in her mid-thirties completes a master’s degree in a big city, due to some extenuating circumstances, following her degree she moves back to her small rural home town. She takes the first job she can get and ends up working primarily in sales. Five years later she wakes up one day and says “enough, I want to use my degree. I need to reconnect to my purpose!”

First, we seek out ideal jobs available in her region (not many, but we find a few). 

Next, we look at all her experiences, do her values and strengths assessments and build a resume that leverages her not only her experience and education but also her natural strengths and passions. 

Then we build out her resume and work up a networking strategy. 

Three months from start to finish, she is in her dream job and using her degree! 



Coaching Outcomes

Career + Life Coaching:


A woman in her early thirties has taken the last few years off from work as a new mom. The first decade or so of her career saw rapid and powerful growth, but overseas. Upon the birth of her kids (her husband can work from anywhere) they moved to be close to her parents. Three years in she is bored and hungry to reclaim her career. 

When she came to me she’d been working, but it was unsatisfying work that took up too much time and she felt stifled. 

First, we reviewed her past and determined what she loved about her past work. 

Next, we clarified her dream job and what she and her family wanted (this took a few sessions). 

After we did our values, strengths, needs and goals assessments we set out to find ideal jobs and she reached out to her network. 

Six months after our initial work + a summer vacation and move she got an offer from a dream job, moved across the country and hit the road running! 



Coaching Outcomes

Job Search Success + Resume:

A software engineer in his mid-twenties on the autistic spectrum has recently finished his bachelor’s; almost all of his work experience in customer service or behind the scenes manual process improvement, such as in a warehouse. He can show problem-solving and career progression but has zero experience in his chosen field. 

First, we get really clear on his goals and how his values and strengths are interwoven with his goals. 

Second, we identify target employers and specific job descriptions. 

Third, we write the resume and LinkedIn profile, we start to network. 

Within 4 months he goes from 8 to 85 LinkedIn connections, has several interviews and gets hired at his first choice. 



Before you start a job search:

Values, Strengths, Needs, Goals


Why values? This is what keeps you happy at work and assures that you’ve found work and a company culture that is aligned with your worldview. 

Why strengths? This is what you do well naturally. When you look at what you’ve done, what you enjoy and what you’d like to do, you’ll likely find an overlap with your natural talents. Don’t be humble. Talk about what you do well — this is what an employer NEEDS to know to hire you. 

Why needs? Unless you are independently wealthy, the main reason you work is to get a paycheck. You’ve got needs and to be happy you need to own them and keep them at the forefront during your job search. Needs might be your salary and benefits or they might be your work schedule, location, flextime versus remote. Your needs might also be your social relationships and the possibility of growth or upward movement. What do you *need* at work to be happy? Your work life is a relationship that needs to be workable. 

Why goals? Obviously you’ve got the goal to “get hired.” However, to get hired you need to be more specific. This is where the quality of the job search comes into play. If you apply to 100 jobs a week there is no way that you’ve got the time or clarity to connect yourself to the goal of each specific employer. If you want to get hired and get a job that meets your values, strengths, and needs, you need a clear goal or target job.


Where to go to find clarity?

To clarify your values and strengths you can think about what motivates you to achieve. You can recall times in your life that you’ve been lost in your work — when you’ve hit those moments of flow — what were you doing? How were you doing it? 

You can also take a handful of surveys that can reflect back to you what makes you unique.  Sometimes people take these surveys as just fun things to do, without recognizing their importance to our life. 

This happens because it’s easy to assume that everyone thinks and works like us. We may incorrectly assume that what you value is important to others. Or we may assume that certain skills that come to us naturally are easy for everyone. In fact, when we make these assumptions we often undercut ourselves and at the same time get ourselves into situations that are not a good fit for us.


The following are the go-to surveys that I leverage to support my clients to clarify their values and strengths:

VIA Character Strengths (Values in Action —  link to free survey)

If you want to get out of a toxic work environment or are looking to pivot this survey can help you to understand how you work and the type of people who want to work with. 

Core Values (Link to free PDF list of core values)

If you are a manager or in a position of responsibility, in a role where you want to make an impact I recommend also identifying your top 5 to 7 motivating core values. (When working with clients one-on-one we discuss this in more detail.)

Clifton: Your Talents & Strengths (This is an affiliate link for the book (or Kindle) on Amazon – make sure you buy a new copy to get the code for the online test.)

Why strengths? This is what you do well naturally. The StrengthsFinder is extremely useful to help you own your natural talents while giving you the framework to talk about it and tie these strengths back into what you’ve already done, as well as, what you hope to accomplish. 

Now what?

Use the self-awareness, list of values and your strengths from these surveys to build out your work history.  Go back as far as 15 to 20 years, taking the time to focus on jobs that are the most relevant or that have given you the most learning. Use these findings from your previous exercise to write out short accomplishment stories. 

Ideas for what you might put in an accomplishment story:

  • Actual achievements. Describe what it was like, what motivated you, what you loved. 
  • Describe failures as learnings. How did what happened to motivate you to work or learn differently in the future?
  • Stories of how you did something outside of your defined job description. 
  • Assessments of things you solved or achieved (the metrics everyone talks about) tied to your values, natural strengths and or learnings. 

Use these stories to build a master resume that covers all the things that you’ve done with the most emphasis on the last 10 years and anything over your career that specifically relates to the work you currently seek. 

When I work with clients I leverage a career questionnaire and work history forms for each specific past role, which I then compare to 3 to 5 live (active) ideal job descriptions. 

I use these live job descriptions to identify the key accomplishments from a client’s past to really make sure the most relevant and appropriate skills, experiences and capacities rise to the top. 

I don’t really believe in “failures” and my experience has shown me that anything from being fired to a three-year job gap can be leveraged as a strength, as long as, your resume authentically represents you and effectively targets the work you seek.


Hire Me to Write Your Resume

Formatting a Memorable Resume.

Once you’ve organized the content that should go into your final resume, your priority should be creating a document that is accessible and readable by both humans and applicant tracking software (ATS).  Why? 

You won’t get hired for having a stylish resume; you’ll get hired for having engaging and memorable content IN a readable and relevant resume. Formatting is important, but it’s not the most important.


Your name, phone, professional email, LinkedIn URL (personalized) and geographic area (your city will suffice, as does “remote” and open to relocation). If you’ve got a portfolio or professional website that is relevant to your job search list that too. 


Alison Rakotonirina

000-000-0000 | alison@yourname.com | www.alisonrakoto.com

linkedin.com/in/alisonrakoto | Remote | Boulder, CO


Professional Summary + Job Title That You Seek

Note I did not write OBJECTIVE. The summary speaks to what you can do, what you enjoy doing, what you want to do, what you do well and how you do it. It should be 3 to 5 lines long for someone who is early to mid-career and can be two paragraphs for a more experienced employee. 

Your summary is better described as a performance profile that tells potential employers your capacity to perform, how you work, why you work and so on. This paragraph should be the same or similar to the content you’d put in an elevator pitch or a networking message. It sets the tone for your resume and your job search. 

Core Skills & Experiences

You may wish to include a table after your Summary section that lists your core technical skills or core experiences. If you are in software or mechanical engineering you might list one table upfront that covers core skills & experiences for your job at hand, and then add additional tables at the end of your resume that address your diverse experiences. 

These tables are best created in alphabetical order because it makes it easy to adapt them to specific job descriptions and update them over time. 

Core Experiences - Sample 1

Core Experiences - Sample 2

Core Experiences - Sample 3


Work Experience: 

The first best practice for work experience is to list in chronological order with your most recent job first. Occasionally you will have a functional resume, but after six years of professional resume writing, I’ve used a semi-functional resume ONCE. If you think you need one, I’d talk to a resume writer first. 

The second best practice is to make sure that you do not write more than five lines of text without breaking up the formatting. So you could have a three-line paragraph followed by bullet points. Bullet points should be maxed at three lines per bullet, ideally one line.  

The third best practice is to call out and highlight promotions with titles and dates. If a job in your work history is not at all relevant you should spend less time on it. Maybe two or three lines of text that say what you learned or took away from the role. 


If you’ve got more than 5 years of work experience, put your education at the end. 


You don’t need to list hobbies or interests. If you’ve written an effective resume the reader will know your personality without needing these reminders at the end that you are a cool human.  

You should list relevant volunteer work. You should list work with associations and certifications. If deciding whether to include it or not — ask if it is relevant to the job at hand — if there is no connection then leave it off. Even certifications. 


Final Checks

Keywords & Targeting

Once you’ve completed your resume you can run it through a free application that will check it for keywords. Several resume writing and job search sites offer these — I won’t name names — but don’t use these. My experience and my gut tell me that these sites are inaccurate. They will tell you what they want to get you to either (a) hire their service or (b) use their job search tool.  

Cvscan.uk, on the other hand, is independent (it has ads on it) but it does a lovely job of highlighting keywords in your resume and your ideal job description. If you get an 80 or 90% match your resume is on target. 

If you get 50% to 80% you need to take a look at your language and figure out how to mirror the language in job descriptions better.  

If you get less than 50% then you might need to consider whether it’s the writing of your resume or if you are targeting jobs that don’t fit your skillset. 

You should be applying to jobs that you can do about 2/3rds of the job description quite well. More than that you may be overqualified. Less than that it may be a bit of a stretch. 

Peer Review

Once you’ve got a solid resume put together, it is great to ask folks working in your field fi they can give constructive criticism. Did you leave something crucial out? Does something not make sense? What do they wish they’d seen in your resume? 


Print off your resume and read it backwards. Ask a friend. And double-check for silly typos. Do this EVERY TIME you apply for a job. I think this is a crucial reason people who apply for 20 jobs a day don’t get callbacks — it’s way to easy to make dumb typos when you over apply. Take the time to focus and customize. 

Why might you work with a career coach or resume writer? 

Reason number one? Reading this article made you want to take a nap. A resume writer can be a creative accountability partner. I don’t want to spend three years on your resume, so I will push you to get it done!

Another primary reason that folks hire a resume writer is that while you may know you best, it can be hard to talk about yourself. An excellent resume writer will use surveys such as the StrengthsFinder, as well as, detailed questionnaires about your work history and experiences to pull out your story and reflect it back at you.

Professional resume writing is in fact an art — it is ghostwriting and storytelling wrapped up into one continually changing package. As a resume writer, it is a thrill to connect with clients and learn their dreams, listen to their challenges and their accomplishments, to call out what they do well and help a client celebrate her unique value.  

As a resume writer, it makes me dance with joy when a client says “I’ve got to tell you, reading my resume is like looking in the mirror. Thank you.” 

Career Coach

A career or leadership development coach can be beneficial at various stages during your career. If you’ve been job seeking for a time without any luck, you are working in a toxic environment or you are launching a pivot, a career coach can help you talk and work through everything outlined above. 

She can help you set goals. She will also help you to identify ideal job postings, network and stay accountable. She can help you to see your past differently, to reframe bad experiences and to build your narrative and goals out so that you can be your best self. 

One of the crucial components of career coaching, life coaching, and longterm success or change is that they are all iterative processes, sometimes you will feel like you are moving in a circle, sometimes you will plateau, but overall the small steps you take today will suddenly add up to big leaps in the future! 

Best Books for Self-Coaching

These are affiliate links to Amazon and if you make a purchase I will earn a commission. 

Pivot Planning

Pivot: The Only Move that Matters is Your Next!

Audience: anyone who has 5 to 10 + years of career but feels they’ve headed the wrong direction and is ready to pivot. 

Comparable to: Strengths-Based coaching and human design — my coaching is heavily influenced by Jenny Blake. 

Time Frame: You can read it in a weekend but you’ll need a few months to trial your initial ideas and then 6 months to 2 years to carry out the plan you make!

Your First Job/career

What Color is My Parachute

Audience: Anyone really, often recommended to new grads and veterans

Comparable to: Traditional career coaching that guides you to identify a traditional career. 

Outcome: Sefl-awareness — what do you like dislike, what color *is* your parachute? 

Time Frame: You can read it in a weekend.

Successful People Do Hire a Coach! 

In general, you hire a coach or a resume writer to get where you want to be faster and with more ease. The purpose of the coaching relationship is for your coach or your resume writer to help you shine, to help you highlight your best you so that you can get the work or job you desire. 

Working with a coach or resume writer is not easy — it does require a time commitment from you and the willingness to listen and to answer powerful questions. Be open to seeing your won limiting beliefs and maybe trying some new things. Leverage the opportunity for extra accountability and the rare opportunity to have a non-judgemental champion on your sidelines! 

Most importantly, a coach provides you a safe space to work through your thoughts and ideas in a nonjudgmental way. We will listen to your job search concerns and help you to discern what you should put in your resume or LinkedIn profile, how you should address an interview or salary negotiation, and build the confidence to network effectively. 

How to Write a Resume like a Professional

How to Write a Resume like a Professional

This article is a recipe for how to reach your ideal job goal in the shortest amount of time.

In this article we will cover:

  • What Goes in a Resume
  • Job Targeting
  • Performance Profiles
  • Writing to Bots
  • Formatting
  • Do I really *need* a resume?
  • Career Coaches & Resume Writers
  • Templates

What Goes in a Resume

You may be an expert in your field, newly graduated, full of amazing ideas or the top sales professional on your team, you know how to get your job done, but you still don’t know what to put in your resume.

If this is you — you are not alone. I get messages all the time: “Help me! I don’t know what to put in my resume! What should I write in my resume? How do I highlight my achievements? What should I put for my skills? What? What? What?

If you find yourself, panicked, and at a loss the first thing you might do is to write down a few lists:

List 1: Your Values — what do you value and how does this show up in your work? Are you timely? A stickler for details? Do you think out of the box? Do you listen deeply? What do you VALUE?

To learn more about your values do this exercise on Core Values.

In the tool box look Core Values & Via Character Survey

List 2: Your Strengths — what do you really rock? What do you do really well? What kinds of problems do people come to you with? What can you do that is easy for you and hard for other people? What are your STRENGTHS?

To learn more about your Strengths take the Strengths Finder 2.0

Amazon affiliate link: make sure to buy a new book/kindle for online test code.

List 3: Your Interests — what do you enjoy? What are you doing when you find that perfect mix of challenge and pleasure? What activities let you get caught in a state of flow? What kind of problems do you love to research, solve or explore? What are your INTERESTS?

List 4: Your Needs — these might be financial (your salary and benefits), they might be your work environment (office, flexible, remote, requires travel, etc.), they might be intellectual or physical. What do you NEED from your job?

Not sure about your needs? Do this Wheel of Life Exercise.

Now find 3 to 5 ideal job postings on the Internet, go ahead and print them off and highlight all the skills, experiences, qualifications, tasks, job requirements and benefits that show up in the job descriptions. Circle the ones that also show up on one of your lists above.

Sketch out Your Resume

Your resume will have approximately 5 different sections:

  • Performance Profile
  • Key Skills & Experiences/Key Accomplishments
  • Work Experience
  • Education/Certifications
  • Technologies/Interests/Coursework

Your Performance Profile (see below) will match your values, strengths, unique skills, achievements and needs/interests to that of the employer.

Your Key Skills & Experiences functions to confirm for the employer that you can do all the required tasks have the necessary knowledge, the soft skills, the hard skills, the language skills or the technologies to get the job done.

Your Work Experience will demonstrate what you enjoy, what you have done, where you’ve learned or accomplished something crucial; and how this has played out in your previous and current employment.

If you’ve only got volunteer work or school projects, go ahead and list those instead, figure out what ties into your job search and highlight those details. Name the section “Relevant Experience” instead of “Work Experience.”

Your Education/Certifications shows that you’ve got the technical requirements for the job. Often the “education” requirement can be replaced by “equivalent work experience.” Legal Certifications tend to be less flexible (licenses, etcetera), but you may get away with showing you are studying/preparing to get them by X date.

Recent graduates list education right after the performance profile, experienced employees list it at the end of the resume.

Technologies and Interests: some resumes list hobbies and interests, or additional technologies, which is technically a waste of space UNLESS your hobbies and interests, or technologies relate directly back to the job you seek.

A clever way to use this section is to incorporate technologies or subject matter areas listed in a job description that you are still earning or to show the breadth of your experience, but which you do not feel comfortable listing under your “key skills and experiences.”


When deciding which accomplishment stories, which metrics, which achievements, which skills and experiences to include on your resume, ask yourself: Is this relevant to the job I seek? Is this something that is required? Is this something that I enjoy doing and want to do more of? If the answer is yes, work it into your resume.

Just because you CAN or DID do something doesn’t mean it is relevant or wise to include it on your resume. Think of what an employer NEEDs to know to hire you: What kind of person do they need? What skills? What personality strengths? Make sure you answer these questions and don’t worry about leaving out details that are irrelevant.

Job Targeting

How to write a resume based on the job description:

Many job seekers want to cry when they learn that you most likely will not get hired by submitting the same resume to every job application.

Unfortunately, when 200+ resumes often get submitted to many job postings, the best way to ensure your resume gets pulled is not only to write a killer resume but then to also tailor it to each and every individual job description.

There are a few short-cuts that you can take to make this process easier and less painful.

Tip #1:

The first time you write your resume, write it so that it targets your top three job postings. This will help to ensure that you get the most important requirements, skills, and experiences in your resume and that it is well formatted for the work you seek. And you can use it to apply to each of these three jobs.

Tip #2:

Use my favorite resume scanning tool CVScan to re-match your resume to each job description. Your goal is to have a minimum 80% match; when I write resumes for clients I aim for greater than a 90% match.

When using CVScan take and copy both your current resume and the new job listing into the online application. Make note of the words and phrases CVScan highlights as red; when you update your resume to match the new job description, make sure to get these words into the first half of your resume. Rescan.

Tip #3:

When applying for jobs, write the job title EXACTLY as named in the job posting on the top of your resume above your performance profile. This will assure the bot and the hiring human that you actually want the job for which you’ve just submitted an application.

Note the difference in these titles:


PERFORMANCE PROFILE: Business Process Analyst

PERFORMANCE PROFILE: IS Business Analyst/Relationship Manager


Let’s say you submit an application for the Relationship Manager position above with a resume titled “Test Analyst,” maybe the skills required for these jobs are similar, but quality assurance tests are different from customer relationships and the hiring manager will immediately doubt your fit.

Take 30 seconds to update your resume and make sure the correct job title is on the resume header.

Tip #4

The first thing that often happens once you start applying to multiple jobs and customizing your resume to each one, is that you quickly lose track of which resume went where. This can result in an embarrassing conversation down the road.

To avoid this do two things: Save each resume using your Last Name or Initials plus the company name and the date you applied.

For example: Rakoto.HR Costco.15.04.2019

And then use a spreadsheet that tracks each job, resume title, date applied and any notes. Here is a link to an excellent online job tracking spreadsheet (no need to reinvent the wheel).

Performance Profiles

If you are looking to learn how to write a resume objective or how to write a resume professional summary, I recommend that you start thinking instead about your “performance profile.” Who are you as a professional and what do you offer an employer?

Your Performance Profile is easily the most important part of your resume. Your performance profile is a proactive and future-forward replacement of the “objective” and sometimes called a “professional” or “power” summary section.

Your “performance profile” tells an employer what you can do, it speaks to your values and your strengths, it aligns your goals with that of your employer and ties your past achievements into your future accomplishments. It shows how you will perform on the job.

Every kickass resume starts with a performance profile. Every. Single. One.

The performance profile is built upon a solid professional narrative. It is versatile, you can use it for your LinkedIn summary, as an elevator pitch and when you are networking! Write it once, but then modify the language slightly to match the keywords and phrases that show up in each individual job posting.

Your performance profile should be uniquely yours. It should not sound like a job description; you can even write it in the first person. Resumes that incorporate the first person are what we call “human-voiced resumes” and when done well they are highly effective.

If you are new to the “human-voiced resume” consider writing your performance profile in first person and the remainder of your resume in the third person.

Some recruiters advise against human voiced resumes and prefer robotic sounding text; my take on this is that if the recruiter wants to hire a robot, he should employ a robot; if he wants to hire a human, hire a human! I’ve used human-voiced resumes with clients since 2014 and since 2004 for myself!

Digital Marketing Executive Sample

With a growing passion for mission-driven technologies; I continue to value data inspired, and human-driven product design. In this, I anticipate working with a diverse set of high-level thinkers to collaborate and creatively solve business and user problems. Leveraging my experience to guide teams to generate brilliant and disruptive digital experiences around an organization’s core mission — the end goal — facilitating brands’ seamless and positive integration into people’s lives.

Software Developer Sample

Personable Senior Developer with twenty plus years of progressive experience, I delight in stuff that works. Committed to continuous professional development and learning: the pleasure is in doing the work, and in seeing the results. I enjoy collaborating with end users and maintaining open lines of communication with all stakeholders. Adept with requirements, solutions, coding, and communicating meaningful results, I am particularly enjoy testing and quality assurance.

Customer Relationship & Sales Manager

As a charismatic and results-oriented sales professional, I delight in solving customer problems with the best product or service. An early adopter of anything tech,  I am on top of current trends and I anticipate continuing to deepen my knowledge. I understand the importance of listening skills and customer empathy in finding innovative solutions. I look forward to contributing to a positive team atmosphere.

How to write a resume that will impress a bot

This isn’t actually a joke. Nearly all resumes get scanned by ATS (Automatic Tracking Software) before going to an actual human being. You need to write a resume that impresses both the bot and the human.

One of the most important reasons NOT to use a cutesy or unique or stylish or trendy resume template is that many of these templates are NOT bot-friendly. For the same reason, avoid using your mad design skills to create image boxes and fixed tables or include another image on your resume.

These things cannot be read by the BOT!

To write a bot-friendly resume you should do the following:

  • Create your resume in a format that allows all of your text to be read in the order of appearance on your page and in a single cohesive text box; for this reason avoid putting your name and contact info in a Header, instead create your first-page header in the body of your document. Multiple text boxes on a single page can result in gibberish and missed text when scanned.
  • Print off or copy the text of 3 to 5 job listings; now highlight the keywords and phrases used in each description and make sure to use these in your resume. Your jargon should match the jargon the bot is scanning for! This is a crucial reason you need to modify your resume for EACH job.
  • The keywords, activities, and requirements listed in a specific job description should appear in the first half the resume. If you want to create interest with synonyms and other technical terms, do so in the second half of your resume. Bots weight the first part of your resume.
  • If specific certificates or educational requirements are a must in the job description, make sure you list your education using the same language in the job description.

If you don’t believe me or someone has told you otherwise (so many resume writers are PIMPING Canva resumes), here is another article that discusses how ATS software reads (or doesn’t read) your resume. If you want to get hired you gotta pay attention to these details!

How to format a resume and get noticed

Writing a resume is hard. It sucks to dive in and dig deep, recalling all the things in our past and figuring out what is the most important or crucial items to list on our resume.

Our biggest fear is that we will come across sounding boring, robotic and just not-good-enough. Selecting a sexy resume template seems like an easy and clever fix to the resume doldrums, but I assure it is NOT.

Writing a resume is uncomfortable, so it’s really easy to lost searching out the perfect format. All the online templates created by apps like CANVA make it easy to put too much emphasis on the formatting and forget that it’s the content that really counts.

Yes, your resume needs to be readable and easy on the eyes, but unless you work in graphic design, you are not being hired for your design skills, the content of your resume is more important than a sexy template. And, as we discussed in the previous section you need to address the BOT!

To get hired, spend most of your time working to ensure the content of your resume is relevant, interesting, and that it tells a positive story about what you can do. Use your words and your experiences to stand out, not some fancy type and trendy color combos.

Your resume should look good, but it is the story it tells that people will remember and that will get you hired.

If you’ve got 6 hours, put 3 of them into writing your Performance Profile, 2 into writing the resume content and 1 into making sure the format looks good and that the grammar is correct.

Design DOES Matter: Top Formatting Mistakes to Avoid

That said, the design does matter. For this reason, I’ve shared a few simple, clean templates that you can download and use or modify.

The easiest to make mistakes involve fonts, colors, spacing, borders and the use of image boxes, some tables, and columns (often used with skill ranking systems).

Let’s look at these in detail.

Type Font and Font Color:

If you use an application to create your resume, choose common fonts, such as Arial, Verdana, Times New Roman or Helvetica. These fonts are common because they can be read by all types and ages of computer systems.

Article on type fonts: If you don’t believe me, go to MIT for proof!

You and your hiring manager will likely NOT be using the same type of computer or software; so, to make sure your resume can be read use a common type font and save your resume as a PDF.

When you select your font color (and your backgrounds) take time to think about what it will look like printed in Greyscale. You might format your resume to be bright and cheery, but trust me, a recruiter who prints off 100s of resumes a day won’t be investing in using her color ink to print YOUR resume.

If you want to add variety to your resume, you can use shades of blue or grey fonts that won’t change a lot on different systems. Beware of greens and red or orange as what looks pretty on your screen might look like puke or poop on another. Trust me, I’ve seen it!

Lastly, make sure your resume still looks good and is readable if printed in black and white!

Spacing & Borders

Resumes need to be readable and spacing issues can be awkward. Keep your borders reasonable (don’t go under ¾ inches (0.75) or 1.5 cm on the sides or ½ inch (0.5) or 0.5 cm on the top and bottom.

Double check that line spacing, period spacing (one), page pagination, and all that jazz is consistent and looks good. If you use block formatting make sure that awkward spaces don’t appear in your blocks.

If your resume goes onto two or three pages (for those of you in very technical fields or with 15+ years of experience) make sure your name and the page number are in the header of the additional pages.


In general, avoid using a border on your resume; different systems produce different results and it might be that your border gets off centered or moves over your header text or drops onto an additional unnecessary page.

Image Boxes, Tables & Columns

Image boxes cannot be read by ATS systems period. Don’t use any part of your resume from your name to any details in an image box or logo. The information will be lost.


If you use MSWord, GoogleDocs or Pages to create a hidden table to list skills this is a good way to get extra content in your resume. Do this.

If you use a design template like Canva to create a table it is HIGHLY likely that all or part of your table may be missed by ATS software. Don’t do it!

Hitting Save As > PDF.

As with everything the best way to ensure your PDF lands in the format that you sent it in, is to save it as a PDF. All current versions of Word, Pages and GoogleDocs Allo

Resumes & Linkedin: Are Resumes Still Important?

With the advent of online portfolios, LinkedIn and other forms of social proof, sometimes a resume may seem like overkill; however, resumes ARE not DEAD.

Regardless of the sad number of dead trees involved, if I’ve got to compare 20 or 200 hundred candidates and share them with my colleagues, it’s a heck of a lot easier to share a stack of printed resumes than 200 links, which may all have different amounts of information and load time.

Write a resume that stands out and have it at the ready, ready to share if someone asks for it in both print and PDF form. And then have another version in Word, GoogleDocs or Pages that you can quickly modify to fit a particular job posting.

Luck comes from preparation, if you are not prepared, you’ll never be lucky!

Career Coaches & Resume Writers: Are they worth it?

The number one reason you might hire a resume writer and or career coach is to reach your goal in the shortest amount of time.

The second reason you might hire a resume writer and or career coach is to find work that meets not your minimum requirements but your ideal wish list.

And the BEST reason to hire a career coach and resume writer is to learn the skills and self-knowledge that will ensure you are on the right path for long-term career satisfaction and success.

Resume writing and job search skills are life-skills, the earlier you learn them, the better off you will be!

How to Pick a Career Coach or Resume Writer

First, I’d check out their LinkedIn profile and recommendations. Just because someone has a website and even testimonials doesn’t make them legit. In this day and age, it’s difficult to “hoax” your LinkedIn.

If your ideal coach or resume writer has nailed her LinkedIn, she can likely help you too. If she’s got reviews (and recent ones) that is also a good sign.

Referrals are another great way to find good writers and coaches, so if you’ve got friends that have just found new jobs, inquire if they got any help!

Writing a good resume takes time and thought. Any service that offers you a 24-hour resume return and for CHEAP is likely just going to play with your formatting and keywords. There is no way that anyone can get to know you and write an effective resume in that amount of time.

Career Coaching also takes time, so anyone promising you a quick fix, may not know what he or she is doing. Take the time and invest in your future. $200 or $500 spent today, is nothing when you consider how much it may increase your future income.

I recently coached a young man expat for an interview with an American company. One of the subjects I coached him on was salary; thanks to my coaching he got more than double the salary he’d been thinking of asking for…which means my hourly fee of $125 had about a 320x return!

Can I buy a book instead?

If you want to BUY a book instead of hiring a professional the only book that I can recommend is Knock’em Dead Resumes (Amazon affiliate link). The best thing about this book is that he walks you through a detailed process of questioning and identification, very similar to what I do with my clients.

If you put the time into this book and do as the author says, you’ll get a good resume. If you find yourself or you don’t have the patience to follow all his steps, you might be better off hiring help!

What about Templates?

Yes, I get that you want to take the guessing out of formatting your resume. A top resume search term is “Fast & Reliable Templates,” but the trick is that there is no simple formula.

Many resume templates are super attractive, but for the most part, they are difficult to manipulate and customize for specific jobs and many, such as templates created in CANVA often cannot be read by ATS bots.

If you REALLY want a pretty resume, then do a traditional resume for submitting to jobs online and a general “pretty” one to print off and keep on hand for in-person networking.

You can also use a pretty PDF template if you know for certain that your resume is going directly into a hiring manager’s inbox. Just remember to respect the font and color recommendations I discussed above.

Two Templates Just for YOU

Basic One Page Chronological Resume — modify as you see fit!

Functional Resume for a Career Pivot or to hide a GAP — modify as you see fit!


Some Tips for Specific Concerns:

  • How to write a resume as a freelancer: write a resume that supports targeting your ideal client and that highlights the skills you wish to focus on; if you’ve pivoted fields, make sure you’ve got a narrative that backs you up.
  • How to write a resume as a consultant: this will vary depending on your field, but focus on keeping it relevant and using accomplishment stories. Don’t just use action verbs or power words; show people what you do and what you are like to work with.
  • How to write a resume as a stay at home mom: Focus on your strengths and values; don’t discredit volunteer work, describe what you’ve done, learned, managed (going above and beyond titles) over the last few years. Use the language that shows up in job descriptions and show both your drive, your motivation and your understanding of what needs to get done. Your performance profile is your ticket to success — create an image of the professional you can be before they read the rest of the resume!
  • How to write a resume before graduation (and after): Make sure you align your values with those of your ideal employer. Instead of talking about “my goals” or what “I hope to get” show how your goals, skills, drive, ambition will allow you do succeed in a role and solve the employer’s problem — honor your goals but write to the employer’s.

In Conclusion

Your resume is one of the most important investments you can make in your future. You may feel uncomfortable and even annoyed that you’ve got to dig deep and do a good job, but if you want a job you love, you need to put some love into your resume!

Shortcuts and quick fixes, too much of a focus on design and not enough focus on your content will just send you barking up the wrong tree or getting ZERO call backs. Be intentional and thoughtful with your design, making sure that your resume is READABLE by all!

Do You Need Reliable Resume Writing Tips? Look No Further.

You need to know how to write a resume…

If only resumes could write themselves, you wouldn’t need to waste your time reading a book. But they don’t, and you do. Except that this book is not a waste of time.

This book follows the idea that one way to conduct a successful job search is to position yourself like a product or business with a future employer as your customer.

If you need a solid book on resume writing tips, buy this book.

Why You Should Read This Book:


The key advice or resume writing tip of the book (and I concur) is to primarily target your resume to ONE job, even if you can do multiple. As Martin says, “No one needs a human swiss army knife,” which is a headline I’ve unfortunately seen on a job seeker’s LinkedIn profile. Don’t be that job seeker. Read this book!

The author’s main intention is to provide you both clarity and a proven box of tools in your quest for your next (or first) job. He believes that as the most financially impactful document in your life, the biggest investment in your future is, in fact, your resume. Indeed, your resume will influence the job you get, and the job you get will contribute to your long-term income potential, so his claim is not so far fetched.

If you need help to find the best resume writing format and understand how to craft and follow your resume objective, this book is an excellent resource. When you finish the book you will be confident you know how to make a resume.

Why this book and not another?

This book is overall relevant, actionable and practical.

The techniques and resume writing tips shared are a mix of standard resume writing wisdom and over 40 years of resume writing experience, accented by powerful explanations and exercises help you to focus your resume objective and build a resume that stands out or “Knocks ’em Dead!”

  • If you carefully follow Martin’s advice and strategically implement it in your job search and to create your resume, you will learn a valuable life-long skill.

  • If you need a resume writing template, he provides multiple versions and styles. You won’t go wrong following one of his resume writing templates.

  • If you need resume writing examples from various periods in your career or for a career in transition you will find what you need. Martin provides resume writing examples from many different career choices and periods.

  • If you want answers to questions like what is the best “resume objective” and what is the best “resume writing format?” the book will deliver.

Originally published in 1988, completely revised in 2008, be sure to find the most recent version, so that you have the up-to-date and current information (this is a review of the 12th edition from 2016). Resume writing is a rapidly changing field and picking up a decade old book will not serve your goals.



LinkedIn: The Newest of Resume Skills

In today’s market, your resume skills need also to include writing an impactful LinkedIn profile.

And while I didn’t come across any errors or bad advice in the book, the only place I’d offer a critique is the author’s description of LinkedIn and how it is changing the face of the resume and the job search.

We will agree to disagree on the use of the 1st person versus the 3rd person in your LinkedIn profile. I appreciate and see daily the impact of 1st person LinkedIn profiles.

They are conversational and persuasive; when I read a profile written in the first person, I feel like I know the person.

That said for the purpose of optimizing one’s LinkedIn profile if you follow Martin’s advice you won’t go wrong.


Expert Advice: Resume Writing Services

As a resume writing instruction book, Knock Em Dead Resumes is a solid authority. You might read other material regarding how to style your content or discussing the use of 1st or 3rd person, but overall you cannot go wrong with Knock ‘Em Dead Resumes.

Martin is the CEO and Owner of Knock ‘Em Dead Resume Writing & Career Coaching Services. He runs his own Resume Writing Service as a certified professional resume writer and a New York Times bestselling author. So it shouldn’t be surprising that the book is comprehensive walking the job seeker through all aspects of job targeting and resume creation.

He’ll have you identify problems to solve related your target job, filling out a thorough questionnaire and worksheet that have you outline all pertinent resume content.

He’ll then walk you through creating a professional brand, identify your transferable skills and professional values and then figure out how to demonstrate your mastery. The book provides lists/examples and guides you through the process of putting it all together.

He provides insights and advice into techniques that are likely to bring you the most success. We are in agreement that a combination style resume is best in today’s job market (over purely functional or purely chronological).

He also provides a questionnaire and template that I highly recommend, the closest thing I’ve seen to practically sharing all his secrets as a resume writer.

One of the best tools in the book is a basic template to collect required info and pieces into a document (master resume) that you can later use cut and paste into your chosen resume template.

Who Will Benefit Most from the Resume Writing Tips in this Book?

The book is written primarily for those following a traditional career path but covers techniques to help those in job transition.

Sample resumes included are for:

Copy Writers

Web Designers

IT Professionals

Finance Professionals




and more!

If this is your first resume or you haven’t written a resume in years, if you don’t know where to start or you are simply looking for a way to simplify the resume writing process this book will be your guide.

As an experienced and successful resume writer, I will endorse an investment in this book and tell you that tossing $$ at an online resume mill is a simple waste of time.  

Why? This book walks you through your work history, Martin asks you tough questions, he makes you do the work and the associated research to accurately target your resume. He provides the support and effective formats for different types of work and situations.

That said, hiring a strategic resume writer can be immensely useful, just be make sure to hire someone like Martin or me, who takes the time to walk you through all the steps in this book (or their own process) and then also provides you the value of their guidance and experience.

Buy the Book on Amazon Today!

Again: Don’t Waste Money On a Resume Mill

Resume writing is not easy nor should it be. If you want a job you love, you need to invest some time and effort in your resume and your job search.

A $150 resume writer might spend one or two hours organizing your work experience, writing a summary and tossing in a handful of “action” verbs to make you sound fabulous, but in this amount of time, it is highly unlikely that they will create a compelling resume.

Indeed, they will follow your guidance, and if you don’t yet know your own weakness, or if you have not yet taken the time to target your job search appropriately, your resume will still fall flat.


A better option? Learn how to do it yourself.

Buy this book.

Read it, follow Martin’s instructions and take a few weeks or a month to carefully and strategically write your resume.


Still need help? This book will help you write a resume, but if you truly want to invest in your career, hire a personal resume writer that specializes in strategy. A career strategist will do the work, will guide you, will ensure that together we accurately target your resume and your job search to find you success.


Tell me the best resume book you've read?

About Alison

Alison has interviewed, hired and coached 100s of employees. With over 20+ years progressive experience in hiring, training, interviewing and staff development, she knows how to maximize your resume and LinkedIn profile to engage your target audience.

On LinkedIn since 2005, she’s watched the network grow and influence the field of resume writing and the overall career search process. Want a LinkedIn geek? You’ve got one in Alison.

Today, Alison, focus on the writing of resumes and LinkedIn profiles, guiding and coaching her clients towards work they love.


Alison Rakoto is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. Of course I only link to books that will be of real benefit to you on your career search!

How to Avoid Stress as a Freelancer

From location independent digital nomads to stay-at-home parents and experienced professionals ready to find freedom as consultants, the desire to rid ourselves of the corporate rat race is a common theme. I grew up in a Freelancer household — my dad quit his 9 to 5 job when I was 4 to become a freelance illustrator.


And yet, it took me until I moved overseas to consider the possibility for myself. And honestly, if I’d never met Leah of the Freelance to Freedom Project, I am not sure if I would have taken the jump.


A quest for happiness and a release from the 9 to 5 is a crucial motivator to turn “freelance.” And, stress is the main reason new freelancers give-up. Fear, anxiety, and an inability to find adequate clients or sufficient secure income is a critical reason that new freelancers return to an office job.


So how do you avoid stress as a freelancer and find success? Due to the wide variety of freelance and consultant positions and diverse individuals who fill these roles, there is not one magic answer. That said all freelancers and consultants can benefit from mastering and paying attention to the following nine subject areas.

1) Focus
2) Processes
3) Community
4) Investments
5) Accountability
6) Budgeting
7) Self-Care
8) Accepting Failure
9) Relationships

As an experienced and successful Freelancer who works with a diverse clientele, in this article, I share with you not only why these nine subjects yield actionable tips for success, I also share some of my favorite groups, classes, and resources, to help you, whatever your niche, on your path to freedom.

1) Focus:


If you take a quick survey of “successful” versus “failed” freelancers and consultants, one of the first things you will notice is that the successful freelancers precisely focus their offerings and target a specific audience.

Many failed freelancers try to offer 50 different services in a desperate attempt to snag a client. Don’t be that freelancer. If you try to be everybody to everyone you will crash and burn.

People hire relationships; people hire for specific needs. They need to know the moment they come across your LinkedIn profile, your Website or your Upwork page that your skills match their needs.

If I search “web designer” under people on LinkedIn, I pull up over 465,000 profiles. This doesn’t mean you cannot be successful as a web designer, but it does mean you need to find your market and excel at meeting the demands of YOUR market.

If I want a Divi website, don’t sell me custom-coded.

If I wish to have a site built on WordPress, don’t sell me Squarespace.

If you want happy and repeat customers, you must accurately represent your skills and your offers.

And then find reliable referral partners to send potential clients whose problems do not align with your solutions.

The best way to build repeat clients and your own word-of-mouth income stream is by knocking-the-socks off of your clients and you can only do this if you define and focus, set your sights on becoming an expert.

Success Lesson 1: Define your offer and your specialty. Focusing your business goals on a particular audience will make it easier for you to find success and to earn repeat clients, as well as, word of mouth referrals. Set goals in line with your experience level and appropriate to your skills set, income goals and resources.

2) Design your processes:


You’ve got experience, you’ve settled on your offer, built a website and written up a LinkedIn profile.

Now what?

How are you going to get a client and what will you do once you HAVE a client?

A key reason for freelance failure is a lack of processes and organization during the client onboarding process that results in stress, confused expectations and even failed projects. Before following the procedures outlined in “Stress Less & Impress,” within the Freelance to Freedom School, I experienced scheduling stress because I couldn’t seem to control when my clients replied and returned materials. If you need processes, check out Leah’s freelancer school. You won’t be disappointed!

Finally, after refusing (and losing) a client, because he disappeared off the planet for over a week and then expected a rush job finished over Christmas, I sat myself down and followed the Freelance to Freedom Program’s “Stressless and Impress” Course. I followed the simple instructions for setting up an onboarding process and most importantly created a “How I work” document that I share with all new clients in a “Welcome Package.” Now, instead of clients being frustrated, and me stressing out from unexpected deadlines, my clients instead report back that they are thrilled with my responsiveness and turnaround time.

The other expectation management tool I now use as a result of my membership in the Freelance to Freedom School is a course titled “Consult Call Success.” I’ve found that starting all my client work with a short 15 to 20-minute call closes my sales and means that my clients and I start off our relationship with a clear understanding of expectations, again reducing stress and setting us up for success!

Success Lesson 2: Processes, processes, processes: follow a plan and manage expectations through well-designed processes. If you define and focus your offer, it is almost natural to then set-up the associated processes. This planning assures your success not only because it improves your client relationships, but also because it means that you save time and reduce your anxiety, by establishing easy to follow and consistent procedures. As Leah says: “Stress less and Impress!”

3) Find an Online Community:


In our quest for freedom, many freelancers often find themselves surprised to discover that they hate being alone or that they suddenly feel cut off from society. Working from home means no more “water cooler chat,” and no more “popping over” to a coworker’s cubicle to get their feedback or toss around ideas.

The solution? Find a group or several of likeminded Freelancers. My saving grace has been the support and friendship that I’ve found with the Digital Nomad Girls (and now the Inner Circle) and the Freelance to Freedom Project (and the school).

Facebook groups are a dime a dozen, and I’ve joined my fair share of duds, but the groups where I’ve found value are real keepers. Not only do I find them a lifesaver when it comes to practical business advice, but I’ve made both colleagues and friends, and I’ve found clients.

Success Lesson 3: Find a Community. Depending on your demographic and industry, I’d search Facebook groups and Google to identify that right community for you. You might need to start out by joining five groups or even ten.

Jump in and introduce yourself and then interact with a few posts, you’ll be able to tell reasonably swiftly if you’ve found a group of that will support you. If the group is a dud, drop it and find another. And, if you can’t find a community you like, build your own. Leah’s got a class for that too: Create Your Own FB Group!

4) Invest:


As I mentioned in #2, to avoid stress and find the success you seek, setting up processes and managing expectations is crucial. From the beginning I cannot overemphasize the value of investing a little time and if necessary money into applications, memberships, and resources that allow you to automate, scale and manage your business like a pro.

Some of my favorite applications work fine using the free versions, such as Trello for goals, editorial calendar, project management, and tasks or AND CO for client management including proposals, contracts, billing, and expenses. Whereas others I’ve found work best if I invest in the paid versions, like Zapier, G Suite, LinkedIn, and Grammarly. (G Suite is INDISPENSABLE. Get yourself a business email, nothing shouts amateur like a personal email, especial Hotmail, Comcast or even AOL.)

Similarly, I’ve found that investing in lifetime memberships or continual access to certain groups or platforms more than pays for itself and in fact contributes to my longterm financial success and growth. My total expenses on a monthly basis for memberships and business applications is around $200. This used to freak me out, but now I realize that if I am paying for something, it is because I’ve received a service I value and that I’ve invested in myself and my business.


Success Lesson 4: Find the applications, groups or resources that will support your success and invest in them. If you want your clients to value your work, then you need to appreciate yourself. Your happiness and success are worth the investment in the tools and the communities that will support you on your journey.

5) Accountability:


One of the most common questions I see in Freelancer groups is “how do I stay on task?” The first step towards staying on task takes us back to lesson one: plan and focus, but even then, it’s easy to get side-tracked, procrastinate, over or under-whelm yourself on your way to success.

For me, I’ve found three golden tickets to accountability success. The first is long-term planning — assessing where I’ve been and where I am going — I need to have a plan if I am going to have a schedule. I need to have measurable goals if I am going to make progress.

After my planning, I’ve found that the best way to stay on track is through working with a voluntary accountability partner. Janice, The Career Introvert, and I met through the DNG group last November, we had overlapping interests and wanted to uplevel our game in 2018. We do daily check-ins and monthly goals setting. It’s been amazing to see the positive influence on my business! Accountability for the win!

Success Lesson 5: Be Accountable, you don’t have a boss to follow-up with you or co-workers to keep you on track, so figure out ahead of time how you will manage yourself. The days I miss my morning routine sometimes end-up near to total losses. For me and for you, real freedom ironically comes with an accountability plan!

6) Budgeting:


This one is boring, but whether you abhor or adore spreadsheets if you don’t make a budget, you won’t have income goals or know your real expenses. And if you don’t have income goals or know your expenses, how will you know if you are a success or not?

Money in must be greater than money out…

Regardless of your geographic location or your status as a nomad or a local freelancer, you’ve got expenses, and you’ve got to pay yourself. You don’t need to spend hours on this, but you do need to at least sketch out a simple budget and set-up a way to track your expenses and your income.

The good news is that there are dozens of finance and CRM apps. Hop into your favorite community group and ask what your peers love (or hate) to find something that works for you.

Success Lesson 6: Set-up your financial success with a budget and income goals. Do this from day one, and it will become a habit. Do this from day one, and you won’t get any nasty surprises, from the tax guy to your banker. Do this from day one, and you will be better positioned to charge what you are worth, and you will know better than to take work that won’t keep your lights on. 

7) Self-care:


When I decided to become a freelancer, I realized that the reason I never loved the 9 to 5, is because I grew up in a freelancer household. As I mentioned earlier, my father is an artist and worked as a successful freelance illustrator for 40+ years.

His ticket to success? A morning routine, accountability, focus, and self-care. Every night before bed he wrote out a to-do list for the following day so that he could sleep peacefully. In the morning, he got up, ate breakfast, took care of his animals, drank a few cups of coffee and then went to work. Every hour or so he would break to refresh his coffee and talk to the cat (or me or my mom).

He listened to talk radio and always stopped a 1 PM for lunch. After lunch he took a walk and then he went back to work. He did on occasion work evenings to finish projects, but he always stopped for dinner and regularly put me to bed. He never worked on holidays and rarely on the weekend.

I’ve found that I too do my best work when I’ve had a break. When I really need to focus, I’ll do a Pomodoro session. Once every two weeks, I meet a group of girlfriends for coffee, and I start my day with yoga. I find some of my best ideas and solutions come when I am running, and so that is also part of my self-care routine.

Success Lesson 7: Self-care is crucial to freelance success. If you work 24/7 without proper breaks for real food, exercise, leisure or socializing the only thing you will accomplish is burnout. Determine what you need to do to take care of yourself and make it part of your calendar and your accountability plan. If you don’t take care of yourself, who will do your work?

All the steps leading up to #7 will make it easier for you to focus on self-care. In fact, planning, investing, budgeting, and accountability are all part of successful freelancing. You need a plan and clear expectations not only for your clients but also for yourself!

8)Accepting Failure:


Don’t worry, I don’t mean outright failure as a freelancer, but rather the ability to accept that at times on your journey you will likely fail. Sometimes big, sometimes small. And then you will learn, and reassess, and come out stronger and wiser. Failure isn’t a weird thing, it is a perfectly natural thing.

When I first started my Freelance journey in 2013, I’d just left a 60+ hour-per-week job that I loved, with status, so I could move overseas. My superpower is writing, specifically, strategic writing. Throughout my career, I’ve written myself into employment and promotions. I’ve helped friends and peers with their resumes for years. And so, I knew that I could sell my skills as a writer, but my biggest block was a fear of failure. 


Success Lesson 8: Accepting failure and learning what will work for you may be a multi-step process. Don’t give up when you fail, instead, take the time to reassess and determine what will work best for you. Set goals, but don’t throw in the towel when you find you need to readjust.

It took me several years of freelancing and working on a vast array of projects, before finally joining the Freelance to Freedom Project and realizing that success and fulfillment for me, meant sitting down and focusing purely on strategic writing for people searching for a fulfilling career. 

I let go of my desire to just “be a writer” and instead concentrate on what excites me and gives me a feeling of satisfaction. Since that moment, I’ve come to understand that failure is part of the learning experience and that redefining and setting new goals is part of the process.

9) Relationships:


This might be last on my list, but folks, it does not diminish the importance of relationship building — otherwise known as marketing and networking. Or Every day I see freelancers setup websites or write generic LinkedIn profiles, and then sit back and wait for people to come to them like flies to honey.

But, honey, that is not how it works! People buy relationships. You need to get out there and network, engage, market, send cold emails, make cold calls. Your website or LinkedIn profile is your digital calling card and sales page, but you need to get out there and write proposals, talk to people, and apply for jobs. If you don’t interact — how will anyone find you?

Provide value. Be personal. Ask. Share.

“Alison, can I give you a hand with your website design?
“Tom, can I give you a hand with your customer service?

Make sure that your LinkedIn profile, and if you have one, your website tell people what you do and that they have a clear call-to-action. Make sure that you target everything to a precise audience.

If you don’t know how to do this then take my LinkedIn Success Masterclass at the Freelance to Freedom School.

Success Lesson 9: Build real relationships. Network. Market. Market. Market. Differentiate. Show your value. Engage. Provide Value. 

Ready to be a Success?


What do you think of these 9 Actionable tips? Do you see how each tip is interconnected? Do you understand that you need more than an idea or an experience to achieve success as a freelancer? You can, and you will find success on your journey to freedom, but first, you must focus, set up your processes, build your community, invest in your business, be accountable, budget, manage your self-care, accept failure and last but not least, build relationships to market your wares!

What is your experience with freelance success? Where do you need help? Share in the comments and share this article to help your fellow freelancers!

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

What is your performance profile?

🚙  Family car or 🏎  race car?

🚜  Tractor or high-speed train?

What is your performance profile?

When you commit to a vehicle you consider it’s performance profile: what features and levels of reliability do you need in a car?

That yellow corvette might be gorgeous, but if you’ve got two kids, two dogs, and a mountain road to tackle, you’ll buy the Subaru Outback.

You might get a thrill from riding a high-speed train, but if you’ve got a field of wheat to harvest, you’ll buy a tractor.

Employers do the same thing: what are the skills and personality of their ideal employee and how do you measure up?

Don’t make your resume look like a Corvette if your ideal boss needs a Honda Civic. In the working world, reliability and practical features bring more value than pomp and circumstance.

Employers need to be able to imagine you solving problems and getting the work done.

Are you overqualified? Talk about your core skills and motivations. Demonstrate that you understand the job description and what is required to accomplish the tasks at hand successfully.

It is rare to expect a Corvette to do the work of a Honda Civic, so create an ideal performance profile for the task at hand. Then make sure your resume and LinkedIn profile align with this performance profile.

Identify the right work and the right company. Get noticed. Get hired.

11 Ways You Can Easily Improve Your LinkedIn Profile Today

11 Ways You Can Easily Improve Your LinkedIn Profile Today

​Who is on LinkedIn? Pretty much anyone who matters! Prof Scott Galloway @profgalloway

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A Dynamic Personal Brand

LinkedIn is an invaluable relationship building tool and it is your platform as a professional to define and brand yourself. I like to call LinkedIn the “new resume,” but it is so much more than a resume. LinkedIn puts the power in your court — don’t let strangers from the crowd define you — take your professional profile into your own hands and define yourself.

LinkedIn is also a dynamic calling card. A one-stop shop to highlight your interests, demonstrate your expertise and leverage your contacts. If you do not want to bother with a personal website, LinkedIn is a perfect substitute. It is easy to update, easy to read and if you customize your URL, it is easy to share your profile.

Everyone from the CEO of Microsoft to recent graduates to your local foodie should be on LinkedIn. Whether you are an employee or a CEO, a business owner or a student, you need to be on LinkedIn.

11 Guaranteed Ways to Effectively Power-Up LinkedIn

Is your LinkedIn profile incomplete? Do you even have a profile? Or does one of the below statements sound like you?

  • Why should I bother with LinkedIn? Who needs another social media profile?
  • I copy and pasted my resume to LinkedIn, isn’t that good enough?
  • My profile is complete, but how can I get the attention I need without sounding braggadocious?
  • I hate how I look in pictures, do I really need to put up a profile picture?

Yes, you need to invest a bit of effort into your profile, but for many people, once you have a vision for your profile, all you need to do is to keep things up-to-date and to be consistent in your actions, and your network will grow in a positive direction. If you want to actively use LinkedIn to find leads or develop your reputation as an influencer, I will cover those steps in another article.

7 Different Reasons People are On LinkedIn:

  1. To find a new job or a first job.
  2. To find a job at the next level, a new challenge.
  3. To find freelance clients or B2B sales partners.
  4. To market their company’s services or products.
  5. To recruit new talent or place talent.
  6. To provide a human face and personal story behind a successful start-up or company.
  7. To grow their authority as an expert or influencer.

11 Key Steps

In this article, I discuss 11 key steps that are proven to maximize your LinkedIn profile and make your time on LinkedIn worth the investment.

Depending on your professional goals you may want to take your LinkedIn experience farther, but to build yourself a solid foundation start with these 11 steps.

  1. Identify your Target Audience (Define your purpose)
  2. Select a Profile Picture & Background Image
  3. Learn Basic Keyword SEO (Spying 101)
  4. Headline Optimization
  5. Write a Compelling Professional Summary
  6. Develop a Narrative (use your experience to support your goals)
  7. Maximize Skills & Endorsements
  8. Recommendations and Relationships
  9. Rich Media (Videos, PDFs, etc.)
  10. Extras: Education, Awards, Volunteer, Groups
  11. All-Star Rating

Optimize Your Presence on LinkedIn.

Snag that All-star rating!

Is your LinkedIn profile incomplete?

Are you afraid that your colleagues will think you are bragging if you list your accomplishments?

Do feel uncomfortable talking about what you do? Or what you want to do?

You are not alone.

LinkedIn @Work studies consistently find that only 35% of people feel comfortable talking about their professional achievements. And yet 87% of recruiters want to see an interesting summary on your profile!

If you are looking for proven and efficient tips to help you set-up or tidy-up and maintain an effective profile in less than an hour, this guide is for you. I’ll also let you know what you don’t need to do.

LinkedIn is more than a traditional resume that simply recounts your employment history in static form. LinkedIn is a dynamic space to promote what you can do or hope to do in the future. Use it to find clients, a new job or market your business.

LinkedIn is your personal branding platform.

The vital sections of your LinkedIn profile include the Photo, the Headline, a personalized URL and the Summary. Your experience, of course, supports these vital sections, as do your recommendations and skill endorsements.

LinkedIn is a very user-friendly and effective professional tool, but only if you use it correctly. Sure you can upload a video, but if it is a terrible video, why bother? Only take on what you can showcase effectively and efficiently. Setting up an All-star profile on LinkedIn does not have to be a huge time-sink!

Follow these simple tips, and you will be the owner of an efficient and complete LinkedIn profile.

BOOM! It’s almost like magic!


You do not need to hire a professional photographer, but your photo picture does need to be professional.

The first mistake is often to ignore the photo. We skip the picture, we upload an old photo, or we use something unprofessional.  All three are a big “no-no.” That said, you don’t need to get hung up on getting the perfect photo — just get a photo that is professional and approachable.

Ideally, your face and nose should be looking slightly towards the center of the screen, so you appear friendly and approachable to viewers. If you are looking to the left (away), you may appear distant and closed off. A gentle or genuine smile or a simple neutral look is best. Avoid sultry or goofy (unless of course, those looks fit your industry). A selfie is okay, but it’s best if you can get a friend or family member to snap a headshot with a neutral background.

Do it now. Brush your hair. Apply some lip gloss (or not!). Put on a professional top. Snap-it. Crop-it. Post-it. Done.

The Headline

This is where you create the job title you wish to have, not necessarily your current job, but what you want to do!

After your photo, the Headline is the second place people will look when perusing your LinkedIn profile and it is vital that your “headline” is clear and concise. This is your brand statement! It can also be a slogan if your business has one that is short and sweet. The headline is limited to 120 characters and optimized for 40 to 80 characters; unless you upload on mobile and then you can have a longer headline.  

However, we will not start with how to write a headline, first, let’s work through your summary and experience, we will come back to this key component soon. I promise!

Your Personal URL

How to make a custom URL on LinkedIn

Many people don’t realize that LinkedIn provides the option to have a customized URL that you can then put on business cards, your resume, your website or your email signature. When you first create your profile you are assigned an URL that consists of your name and some random numbers and characters. Delete the characters and see if you can just validate the URL with your name. If you have a common name, this may not be possible. If this is the case, add an initial or try reversing the order of your first and last name. You can also add modifiers, such as “consultant” or your business name; however, don’t get too crazy, as it may not be possible or practical to revise your URL in the future!

How to personalize your URL:

  1. From your main Profile page select “edit your public profile.” Generally, this is found in the right column of your profile. Recently LinkedIn implemented numerous formatting changes, so if you don’t see it immediately, keep looking!
  2. Towards the right side of your “Public Profile,” you should see a box that says “Edit My Public Profile Link.”
  3. Click the Edit icon (pencil) next to your URL and edit away!

Professional Summary

First person, active voice. At the most basic level, think of it as a classic 30-second elevator pitch: Who are you? What are you accomplished at doing? And what is your goal or offering? The summary can be longer than three or four sentences, but only add content that builds out these three concepts. Avoid writing about your past experiences and accomplishments in the summary.  Your work history does this on its own.

The Professional Summary goal is to catch profile views and interest with the first 300 characters. You want your target audience to engage above the fold and click through to read your profile.

The summary should:

1) Clearly, and in moderate detail, state what you offer your audience;

2) Define your audience, make sure they know you are talking to them;

3) Tell your audience a bit about how you work and why you are great at what you do;

4) Offer up some of your unique personality and situation;

5) Indicate the action you’d like viewers to take: get in touch and how.

If you are a business owner, consultant or freelance provider, you can include your offerings in the summary, but take the time to ensure that what you share is an effective marketing pitch and not just a listing of skills or products. LinkedIn is a sales profile, so think of your summary as an opportunity to brand and sell yourself. If you are looking to change jobs or transition careers, use words and phrases that highlight your transferable skills. If you have a professional manifesto, start your summary with it!

Keywords & Key Phrases

Don’t be scared by keywords. It is easier than you think to optimize your own profile.

Keywords need to show up in your profile in several locations: your headline; your summary; your work experience; and, your skills. Before writing your profile or even simply cutting and pasting your experience from your resume, spend 10 to 20 minutes online building a keyword list that may be used by LinkedIn’s own Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) in your field.

Make two lists, one that is for job titles and a second for job skills. Start by using LinkedIn Job search to find 3 or 4 job postings that appeal to you. Next move to Google. Jot down at least 15 words and skill-set phrases that are prominent in these job descriptions. Now, rewrite your summary (and even your job title) using these keywords and phrases.

Writing a Headline

Now that you have your keywords, your job title, and you have written an effective summary, it is finally time to focus on your headline.

At the most basic your Headline can be your ideal job title. If you would like to add in a complimentary adjective, such as “accomplished” or “expert” go right ahead! This is not the place to be humble. If you are comfortable with words, feel free to be more creative, as long as the Headline remains searchable for your keywords and job title.

The most effective headlines answer the question of “who am I?” for your target audience by stating “I am an X that solves Y for Z.” This is why sentence headlines are effective, they tell people what you do mixing both action and accomplishment.

Sample 1:

Smart and Dedicated Team Leader & Manager | I build Relationships, Teams and Make an Impact | Organizational Development

Sample 2:

C-Level Executive Assistant | Personable, dynamic, and a trusted advisor to high-impact executive teams, facilitating operations and event management.

Sample 3:

Technical Senior Manager | Software Engineering | Collaborative & Strategic | Innovative & Visionary


I generally recommend that individuals complete their job experience in a paragraph form only adding bullets to highlight key achievements or details. Formatting mistakes are a huge online eyesore and will not be to your benefit. Instead, type your experience in your favorite word-processing software. If you already have a well-constructed resume, don’t hesitate to cut and paste directly, but make sure you have included your keywords from the last section. Spell check it. Edit it. And then copy and paste to LinkedIn.

Don’t take too much time on this part. Unless the job was particularly high level or held for many years, 3 or 4 sentences generally suffices for each position. Later you can go back and fill out your experience. What is important today is that you GET IT DONE. Make sure you correctly type company names so that if the company has a logo uploaded, LinkedIn should automatically pull it into your profile. Be honest. If you are not, your coworkers and past employers will notice in a heartbeat!

If you are not currently employed this may negatively affect your profile rating and move a once “All-star” profile down to an “expert” level. If possible, figure out an honest way to add current experience. Do you volunteer every week? Are you a consultant? Do you run a side-business from home? If not, don’t dismay, this won’t prevent recruiters or hiring managers from finding your profile.

Education, Awards, Volunteer Work

Don’t leave these blank. But also don’t stress about listing every detail right away. To start, list your most significant points of education and maybe a few volunteer jobs or an award. If you have the time and the means, feel free to upload PDFs of any awards or diplomas and link them to your profile.


Everyone should have a minimum of 3 recommendations.

If you are actively job searching or networking, or you work as a consultant, make sure to request “recommendations” from former clients. Actually, everyone on LinkedIn should have asked for and given at least three recommendations. Think of three people you can ask for recommendations from today.  Click on “Ask to be Recommended” and select both the position and the company. You can simply use the “autofill” text and hit send, but I prefer to take a few seconds and write a brief personal message.  Say something nice about when you worked together and then suggest a few items that you would like the person to mention. Make sure to be both authentic and humble.

Let’s say Big Bird would like a recommendation from Elmo:

Dear Elmo,

I have always enjoyed working with you at the Sesame Street Workshop. Would you please write me a recommendation for my mediation skills? For example: “Big Bird is very approachable and empathetic. He always knows the right thing to say and is the best when it comes to resolving disagreements.”

Thank you in advance for your help, please let me know if you have any questions.


Big Bird

Keep your recommendations fresh. As you finish projects or encounter former clients, make asking for recommendations into a habit. At the same time, don’t just ask any and everyone. Make sure that you had a good working relationship and that the individual will be able to genuinely recommend you! When you are done asking for recommendations, don’t forget to set-aside time another day to offer at least three recommendations to your own contacts. Networking is about relationships. We need to give too, not just take!


Make sure you have identified at least 10 skills. Don’t spend too much time on this part, but don’t ignore it either. Periodically take a look at your skills and endorsements. Make sure the skills that you value the most are listed first. If you find that skills that you don’t wish to advertise are more heavily ranked, delete them or move them to the end.


Join groups. There are groups that you should follow because of their content, consider these places both an opportunity to learn, but also to share your own knowledge and build out your image as an expert in your field. If you are unsure which groups to join, look at profiles of professionals who are similar to you and note the groups they have joined and the profiles that they follow. Avoid any discussions that could become heated or unprofessional.

Background Image

Did you know you can upload a background image? I wouldn’t worry about this very much. Don’t waste hours looking for something just right. You can get away with simply uploading a clean white background or something attractive such as a city line or nice view. I use a 4:1 ratio or 2000×500 pixels to create my background images. 

If you are in a design field or if you have a company logo that can be used to complement your profile this is the place to add it but keep in mind you should only add an image if it IMPROVES your overall profile. Avoid confusing people with overly personalized or clever background images.


Sometimes less is more. You don’t need a video or anything crazy for an All-star profile. However, you need to upload at least one document to your profile to earn an All-star rating. 

You can upload creative media to various parts of your profile, but I don’t recommend this for everyone. Are you a musician? Then upload some video of your music. Are you an artist? Upload images of your work. Designer? Add something from your portfolio. If you are a teacher or in a technical field, say a Business Analyst or software engineer, you can add PDFs of certificates or awards.

Not everyone needs to be creative with their media. If you can do a video well and you are confident that it adds to your profile, then go for it, but don’t sweat this section. Just make sure you upload at least one document.

Going forward

The following are networking steps to take as you have the time. Remember that at the base, LinkedIn is a networking platform. To really make use of your profile, you should spend some time each week on LinkedIn. If you are actively looking for a job or for new clients, I would spend a minimum of 20 minutes per day on LinkedIn.

What to do during these 20 minutes? Be active, so other people see you. Share an article valuable to other people in your field. Like a few interesting things shared by your peers. And, take a look at one section of your profile and make it your “Letter of the Day.” Make sure it is complete and error free.

Even if you are not actively searching for a job, I would schedule time into your calendar at the beginning and end of each week for LinkedIn. This way you have at least two touches and time to respond and think in-between to any comments or messages. Networking is relationship building over time, so be consistent.


I generally do not recommend accepting friend requests from complete strangers. The strength of LinkedIn is really in knowing your contacts. I occasionally make an exception for recruiters or people that you meet (and admire) professionally online.  Networking is about building real relationships, so use common sense and follow your gut!

Great work! Now you have a functional and effective LinkedIn profile. Please share your experiences below! If you have a question or need clarification, don’t hesitate to ask!

If you want an All-star rating, but still don’t have one, review your profile with a fine-tooth comb. Did you complete the skills section? Did you really fill out a complete work history? Do you have a title and a headline? Do you have a current position listed with no end date? Have you uploaded any media?

If you are having problems editing your profile or if the information will not update correctly, you may need to clear your browser history or contact LinkedIn. I once had an error in my profile that wouldn’t go away. I contacted support and they somehow “reset” my page. LinkedIn also has a help section that can walk you through the steps to edit your profile.

If you found yourself stumped by your keywords or content, don’t despair. Contact me!

I help people write effective and appropriate resumes and LinkedIn profiles every day!

All About Resumes

All About Resumes

Siri, why do I need a resume?

Good Question.

Siri, resumes are confusing!

I’m just trying to help you.

Siri, tell me how to write a resume.

I’m on it…

Into to the Future? Or Back to the Past…?

If you ask Siri for resume help, she will give you a  list of resume writing tips stuck in Career Services circa the year I graduated from university in 1999. How can it be that with nearly 15 years of LinkedIn under our belts, ancient resume advice is still permeating the web?

So, how do you write a resume in 2017?

An effective resume targets your intended job market, and it defines what you can offer to your potential employer. A winning resume distinguishes you from your peers and demonstrates to employers what you can do and how you will make a positive impact if they hire you.

My standard template for a winning resume is the following:

  • Professional Profile Summary
  • Skills & Experience
  • Work Experience
  • Education (new graduates your education should come second)
  • Optional: awards, special recognition or relevant memberships

Your relevant work history might include both paid work and internships or unpaid volunteer work. Your highest level of education and or appropriate job training can both be included if relevant. New job seekers should list education before work experience; experienced job seekers should list education towards the end. Your resume should not contain everything you have ever done nor should it be so chock full of detail that you sound like a robot or that your career objectives get lost in translation.

Keep your resume relevant to the position that you are applying for right now.

Every time you change your work objectives, you must update your resume accordingly. Never send an identical resume to 10 different companies. Customize your resume for EVERY. SINGLE. JOB.

Resume Content Checklist


Is format important?

The first link Siri shared with me, starts by suggesting that the first thing to do is to  “format your text,” so that you can make a good impression. Sure. How your resume LOOKS is important. Recruiters, hiring managers, your future boss needs to be able to READ your resume. But please, don’t start by spending an hour finding the perfect type. Select something easy on the eyes. Something that will save easily as a PDF. Arial, Garamond or Times New Roman are all good. The critical part of your resume is the CONTENT.

The next suggestion Siri gives is to set up your margins. In the last 20 years, I have yet to come across a word processing software that does not have pre-formatted margins. Have you? The key here is not to cram your resume so full that you feel motivated to customize your margins down to practically nothing. Leave your margins at 1-inch and carry on.

Multiple pages: ok or not ok?

Probably at least 50 percent of folks (yes YOU reading this post) should only have a 1-page resume. ONE PAGE.  Even people who have had 4 or 5 or even ten jobs can probably fit them (or at least the relevant jobs) on a single page. You don’t have to list every position you have ever held. If you have held a bunch of different jobs, consider listing “relevant” professional experience and leave off “irrelevant” experience.

On the flip side, if you are applying for executive-level jobs or senior level jobs, go ahead and use the full two pages. Just make sure your content counts.


Focus on the skills that count for the job you want. If you have multiple skill sets and or you are applying for different jobs, make two or three different resumes. You don’t need to list every accomplishment. And sometimes it is better to highlight the skills or knowledge that allowed you to achieve an achievement, then the specific accomplishment itself. 

What about references?

Other advice that pops up towards the top of Siri’s list includes listing “references.” This is terrible advice. You don’t need to list or even mention your references. Most standard applications have a space to fill in references, and if not, your hiring manager will ask you for them. Some jobs don’t even care about references. Real-estate on your resume page is valuable, so don’t waste it on references.

What Siri doesn’t tell you: Do Some Spywork

First, find two or three online job listings for companies that you would like to work for. Identify the language keywords, key phrases, key skills) in the job listings and use these as an outline for your content.

Use LinkedIn or company websites to research the executives, the companies mission and even try to find your potential hiring manager. Then review job listings and your peers’ resumes or LinkedIn profiles for keywords and strategic phrases that you might want to include.

Draft your professional summary (who are you and what do you offer) and re-vamp your work experience. Make sure you use action words that show what you have accomplished. Write in an active voice. And last but not least, proofread, spell check, and ask a friend to do the same. Every time you make a change, double check for errors!

Of the first 10 or so links that Siri shared with me, NONE of them cover what makes a resume STELLAR. None of them tell you how to: “Rock that Resume. Every. Time,”so here are a few additional tips.

Templates that are easy on the eyes

With all the design apps and design software available to us today, it is easy to get caught up in designing the perfect resume. This is dangerous territory. Color prints are still expensive to make. Templates don’t always transfer correctly. Text can easily be lost or fall out of alignment.

When I use resumes, I use a simple and clean format with black text on white. It’s easy to read and easy to understand. I like to loosely base my resumes off of a “Harvard” style format, what you probably envision as a traditional resume.

Below I share two slightly more modern resume templates. One for the recent graduate. One for a more experienced job seeker. Both remain simple suggestions. Clean layouts. Copy these or do something similar. Remember: keep it simple. You don’t need fancy formatting or fancy colors. If you are not a graphic designer in real life, resume creation day is not the time to become one.


Basic Resume Sample template


Sample resume for experienced job seeker

What do you mean by “professional profile?”

You will notice that I like to start resumes with a “profile.” In the past, this space has been used for a “job objective” or a “professional summary.” I try and stay away from the word “summary” because this space is most effectively used to demonstrate who you are,  what you can do, and why you want to do it. It’s not a summary of your skills, but rather a performance profile, highlighting what you offer an employer. 

In this section, you will actively paint a picture of the value you offer an employer in a short paragraph in ideally 3 or 4 sentences.  This is a space to show your human side, to show your unique brand, and to sell yourself. You can use this same professional profile to start off your LinkedIn Profile. I often write these in first person. 

Relevant and Interesting

Your resume should be easy to read, relevant, and interesting. Never list your tasks and responsibilities in simple bullet points without any explanation. This will make you sound like a robot. Instead, if appropriate use “I” statements and talk about your achievements. If you want to write a more traditional third-person resume, start by writing “I statements” and then go through and remove the “I”s.

Show potential employers your strengths and your passions. Bullet points are OK if you want to make your resume easy to read. If you use bullets to make sure you write in complete sentences! Take the time to demonstrate that there is a competent and interesting human behind the paper.

When your resume is done save it in PDF format and ask a friend to read it over one last time. 




Do you want to achieve your dreams?

In the world of resumes and job searches, there are always more losers than winners. For every single job offer posted, remember that easily 50 or 100 or more candidates apply! Let me help you write a winning resume, so you can clinch that dream job. I want you to be excited to go to work every morning!