Career makeovers: jazzing up a resume to break into an industry

J.P. HansenMichelle Clements has been an educator, Realtor and graphic designer. But the most satisfying work has been volunteering to help a family set up an executive office in Birmingham, Ala.

"What attracted me to the family office industry was my own family," Clements told WalletPop in a telephone interview. "Six and a half years ago, I sat in on a seminar where I heard a man well known in the family office world, James Hughes. Everything he said about retaining relationships and continuity in a family was something that struck a chord. So while trying to fulfill the needs of my own family – setting up a governance structure that we could all live with and abide by – I learned what a gift it was to work with other families."

Despite four years of valuable experience helping a family set up an office to manage issues like estate planning and other issues from the ground up, the 43-year-old Birmingham resident could not parlay it into a full-time position. She even joined the Institute for Private Investors in the hopes of networking.

Frustrated by her search, she turned to WalletPop for help. We tapped J.P. Hansen, author of The Bliss List and an executive career coach with 16 years of experience, specializing in sales, marketing and general management.

During a 30-minute telephone conversation and several e-mail exchanges, Hansen, who is also founder of the Hansen Executive Search Inc., recommended that Clements do the following:

• Use bullet points to highlight accomplishments like securing $100,000 in donations for an event or saving $10,000 per year by securing a grant. When describing what you do, write in full sentences.

"Someone spends 30 seconds or less reading a resume," said Hansen. "Use bullet points for point of emphasis. Hit him hard with five accomplishments. 'Wow, look what she did with this family. She could do it for us.' Then you wow them in the interview."

• List volunteer experience, especially if it is in the industry you want to work in. Hence, don't be wedded to a strict chronological listing of your past positions and experience.

• Place most prestigious educational experience first. "I want you to hit them with intelligence, trustworthiness and integrity," explained Hansen. "Intelligence is implied with Stanford."

• Ditch the passive voice. "I hate the word 'assisted,'" he said. "Why not 'developed?' 'Created?' 'Designed?' I liked 'negotiated.' "

• No matter what the experts say, you are the one who has to live with the resume. Be sure you feel that it best reflects your accomplishments and does the right job marketing you.

It took Clements four weeks to revamp her resume, but the effort was worth it. She said that while it was hard to get her accomplishments down on paper, "J.P. was great. He did a great job reformatting it and making it more readable. I've sent it out to some people and they remarked on the huge difference. The biggest lesson I learned: come up with specific accomplishments."
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