I have a bunch of random questions I want to answer and I don’t feel like putting them all into one short-answer post, so brace yourself for a possible coming flood of mini posts. Like, a lot.

Or maybe not. It’s possible that I might just eat potato salad and watch a lot of Law & Order instead.

{ 20 comments… read them below }

  1. Belle-Lettrist*

    Please do post some of your spot-on advice!
    I met with a career coach earlier this week and was nearly traumatized; so any nuanced, fact-based information you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I have a friend who was similarly traumatized by a meeting with a career coach. There’s a real overabundance of cheesiness out there.

      And would love to hear your horror story…

  2. Belle-Lettrist*


    Thanks for the quick response and the invitation to do a bit of Internet venting. Please prepare yourself for some serious reading.

    Basically, I am a print journalist who is trying to transitioning into public relations/marketing career for a nonprofit. About six months ago, I completed a year of national service with a nationally known nonprofit (did grant writing, marketing and event planning) and am now repackaging myself from a straight newspaper reporter into a nonprofit person.

    To do this, I have reworked my resume about 15 times, signed up for several resume services, attended networking meetings and am using my federal education award to get certifications in electronic marketing and nonprofit management from a local college.

    I have been hesitant about the best way to update my resume and cover letter since returning to school a few months ago. Therefore, I contacted one of the more reputable career coaching/resume review organizations in the capital city/college town where I reside.

    My first attempt was met with some confusion as the lady with whom I spoke on the telephone failed to confirm it with the certified resume writer, which I only discovered as I was grabbing my keys to walk out the door and made a last-minute call to confirm the appointment. To date, no explanation has been given for the confusion.

    Not to be deterred, I e-mailed a request for another standard 15-minute meeting. This one happened on Tuesday morning. The woman assigned to me is 65-years-old and doesn’t understand social media. She also kept trying to fit my career goals into a one-page checklist sheet, instead of asking me about my background (educational and professional), my networking efforts, my volunteer efforts, my short- and long-term career goals, my salary and location restrictions. So, I spent an hour and 20 minutes having my resume critiqued according to a useless and generic checklist while listening to her discuss her own career path and how she met her husband.

    In case you wanted to know, she’s originally from upstate New York, graduated with a sociology degree, came to my area 42 years ago to do national service where she met her husband (also doing national service) and has been here since. She also volunteered on McGovern’s presidential campaign; and she knows about all the downtown buildings that were demolished 25 years ago, and will happily discuss their vital importance to her time of doing service.

    At this point, I should mention that I brought two copies of a hybrid-chronological resume with me that I had put together based on the suggestions of another career coach. Each resume had a different general purpose (0ne more business oriented, one more nonprofit centered), but both edited for each job application. I also took fairly copious notes during the discussion (old journalistic habits die hard).

    The resume review of the 80-minute meeting lasted only for about 30 minutes, including when she insisted that other local resume/career coaching groups were useless and wrong. In particular, she gave a general slam to all university career centers (can she really make such a generalization??).

    But the kicker of the entire meeting was when she returned from making the required copies of my two resumes and the god-awful checklist. She handed the copies to me and kept the originals from our lengthy chat. She MISSPELLED my last name on the checklist sheet, even after staring at my two resume copies for more than an hour.

    Wow, she can denigrate everyone else’s efforts all she wants, but at least those folks could correctly spell my last name after seeing my resume!

    Sorry for the lengthy post, but I needed to vent a bit.

    Thanks for the kind Internet ear, Alison.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Wow. I don’t think you’re at all alone in having had this experience. There seem to be a LOT of hacks out there in this realm. I’m not sure why that is.

  3. Liz in a library*

    I think either option is valid. My preference would be for the onslaught, but potato salad is a rough competitor.

  4. Anonymous*

    YIKES, Belle! My first resume writer experience was also quite frightful. My “final draft” contained many typos, grammatical errors, superfluous adjectives and “keywords” that had nothing to do with my industry . I walked away wishing that had I requested more of her sample work before paying $500 for two pieces of useless paper.

    1. bob*

      Wow, I think I would have discrete word with the boss at whatever agency or company that was, show them your final result then ask for your money back and suggest they make some changes to whomever is reviewing the resumes. For $500 it should have been gold plated and bulletproof.

      Maybe we can find find a standardish format someday? I have rewritten my resume several times during the 2 years I’ve been out of work based on what some other alleged “expert” said it should look like and I just don’t think it matters that much. Of course now I only listen to what AaM says…

  5. Belle-Lettrist*

    Wow, Anon 11:27, you really have my sympathies! At least I didn’t pay for my resume services because it’s funded in combination between county and private not-for-profit funds.

    I’m truly sorry that you paid $500 for lousy and ultimately unsatisfying advice. Please don’t get discouraged.

  6. ImpassionedPlatypi*

    I’m not really a fan of potato salad, so I’m gonna vote for the questions and answers. Have a good holiday weekend no matter which you choose though. It’s beautiful outside today.

  7. Another Anon*

    As one of your fans eagerly reading your blog on a Saturday night I say…go for the potato salad. You have SO earned a night off!

    Looking forward to your next post, though.

  8. Jane Atkinson*

    I wonder if this conversation about questionable “career coaches” is worthy of its own post.

    It sounds like “I read a book on this one weekend ten years ago, and now I’m an expert.”

  9. Jennifer*

    I’ve been waiting for the onslaught of posts all day. Love love love your blog and was hoping to hear more of your sage advice. That said, I’m glad you took the day off. Hope you enjoyed the potato salad and Law & Order!

  10. Belle-Lettrist*

    Jane Atkinson brings up a great point. I wonder if others who visit AAM’s site have stories of horrendous and terribly inaccurate job-hunting and resume advice they would like to share. I’m positive there are many such stories out there.

  11. Kimberlee*

    I like how, despite the fact that Law and Order clearly won, there is still a question posted here with some lively debate! People just can’t get enough.

  12. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Ha! I haven’t even watched any Law & Order yet — but I HAVE eaten some potato salad. And I watched Valmont, in which you can see a very young Colin Firth.

    Flood of posts is still coming though — later today and Monday!

    1. ThomasT*

      Oooh, that’s even pre-Pride & Prejudice – I’ll have to check it out.

      I’ve been working my way through L&O: Criminal Intent on Netflix – love D’Onofrion in that.

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