Samantha Nolan is a Certified Professional Resume Writer with a graduate degree in Marketing and Communication, and owner of Ladybug Design, a full-service resume writing and interview coaching firm. For more information, call 1-888-9-LADYBUG or visit http://www.ladybug-design.com
Sarah, a senior in college, came to me seeking to differentiate herself on paper and gain entry into the highly competitive fashion, apparel, and merchandising business. Sarah's original resume, despite her having significant retail experience, did nothing to set her apart from the hundreds of other soon-to-be graduates seeking the same competitive internships. With Sarah's ideal job being an assistant buyer or merchandiser with a leading area retailer, my goal was set—to help Sarah see how qualified she was by developing a unique presentation on paper that would surely differentiate her from her peers.
Through a discussion with Sarah, I pressed her on the challenges she had faced in each of her retail roles, asking her to expound on the ever-so-brief bullet points she had presented in her original resume. Being sure to focus on what she had done in the past that related to what she wanted to do in the future, I took three pages of notes to fuel the content of Sarah's new resume.
While Sarah was seeking entry into a fashion-forward field, I recognized that she needed a professional and somewhat conservative resume, in order to show her targeted audience she was a serious candidate. To do this I created a clean, crisp, and highly structured presentation of Sarah's candidacy which, at face value, had some "meat" behind each of her roles.
Opening Sarah's new resume with a professional title of "Assistant Buyer/Merchant Candidate," I immediately positioned her candidacy in the appropriate light. Moving then to include the tagline "Upcoming graduate with retail experience with leading brands including…," and the presentation of the logos for the brands with which she had worked, Sarah's new resume had life, personality, and pizzazz! The qualifications summary which followed presented her merchandising, branding, and visual styling experience while working in retail settings, and again, leveraged the power of the brands with which she had worked.
Sarah's education was presented next, an appropriate placement given she was a soon-to-be graduate with an undergraduate degree in fashion and retail studies.
Next, I presented Sarah's recently received merchandising internship, an internship she was about to start but that she wanted on her resume as she was about to apply for her "dream job." Despite not having started her internship, just the fact that she had been selected for the role was a big plus in her picture as a candidate, so the role was explored in terms of what she would be tasked with while on the job. Following this soon-to-be completed experience were Sarah's retail positions with leading national chains including Justice, Nordstrom, and Hollister. In each of these positions, I made it a point to not only explore what Sarah's "job" was, but also how she had contributed value over and above expectations. Presenting the value Sarah had provided was truly key in differentiating her from her competitors, many of whom would also have worked within a retail setting while completing their college degrees.
Soon after having her resume completed, Sarah called me to ask if we could coach her in preparation for the interview for her "dream job!" Sarah did indeed get the interview she wanted and was eager to ensure she was as prepared as possible for sitting before a panel of interviewers at a national retailer. After the interview coaching process, Sarah called me to deliver the good news—she got the job! She also was kind enough to tell me that the managers she interviewed with told her she had the best resume they had possibly ever seen! Once Sarah was in the job, I updated her resume with her new merchandising internship, and she is happily engaged in that role as she nears graduation.
Sarah was also nice enough to write, "Samantha gave me my perfect resume and referred me to an interviewing coach who landed me my dream career. Thank you, Ladybug Design for everything!"
If there is a message to take away from Sarah's experience, it is to not underestimate the value of the experience you do have. Even if you are entry-level, you still will need to dig deeper to differentiate your candidacy, ensuring you are positioning yourself ahead of the pack by showing hiring managers how you have delivered value in your past, albeit entry-level roles. Best of luck to you all in 2012.
View Sarah's before and after resume on www.ladybug-design.com/blog
Samantha Nolan is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and owner of Ladybug Design, a full-service resume-writing firm. Do you have a resume or job search question for Dear Sam? Reach Samantha at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more about Sam's resume writing services, visit www.ladybug-design.com or call 614-570-3442 or 1-888-9-LADYBUG (1-888-952-3928).