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John Fawkes

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What the recent egg-freezing controversy says about your work-life balance

Last week, large portions of the internet lost their cool over announcements by Facebook and Apple that they will now pay for female employees to freeze their eggs for later implantation.  And, admittedly, I got upset about it myself, for a while.  Do Facebook and Apple seriously think of their employees as nothing more than worker drones?

It’s entirely possible that they do, but this piece at The New Republic takes a more balanced look at the issue.  As the author points out, Facebook and Apple also have paid parental leave policies that are very generous by American standards, albeit still terrible by the standards of other developed countries.  More importantly, while many people (myself included) may be horrified by the thought of working 65 hour weeks at a corporate job and putting off having a personal life until their late 30′s, a large minority of employees do in fact want to live that way, and are likely to appreciate this perk.

As the author states, Facebook and Apple are in fact doing a decent job of giving their female employees several viable options for how to plan their lives.  At the same time, they’re making it quite clear that they expect their workers, particularly younger ones, to work long hours, and that it’s hard to have a family while working there.  If you work at Facebook or Apple and feel like you lack work-life balance, it should be clear now that that’s by design, and not the result of poor planning at either company.

At this point I also want to note that this shouldn’t be thought of as purely a women’s issue, as happens all too often in discussions of work-life balance.  It is nature, not corporations, which have decreed that women and not men have babies, but the tradeoff between work time and personal time affects everyone.  The growing work week, and the growing infringement of work on people’s personal time, is everyone’s problem, or at least everyone who works at a certain type of professional job.  And of course, if you’re a married man who wants to have kids, your partner’s challenges in doing so are also your problems.

So what does all this mean for you, in a practical sense?  First off, think long and hard about what you want out of life, and in particular out of your next job and the next few years.  Do you want to work 40 hours a week and do a lot of fun stuff with your friends?  Do you want to work 40 hours a week and have a kid?  Or do you want to work 70 hours a week, make a lot of money, and put off having a family, or much of a personal life, for another five, ten, or twenty years?

Second, do your research before taking a job.  It is very, very difficult to judge what kind of work-life balance a company offers, and recruiters and hiring managers usually won’t be very honest about this question during the hiring process.  The single best way to know for sure if a company will respect your time and allow you to have a fun and relaxing personal life is to speak to someone who used to work there.  Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, can beat the brutal honesty of a former employee.  You can ask your friends if they know anyone who used to work at the company you’re applying to.  If that doesn’t work, the simplest  way to speak to a former employee is to sign up for the LinkedIn premium account and send InMails to five or so former employees asking if they’ll take the time to answer a few questions for you.  This can mean the difference between taking a job you’ll love and one you’ll want to escape from, and is one of the best investments of fifty dollars and an hour of your time that you can possible make.

In closing, always remember that nobody will look out for you, but you.  Even when companies offer great benefits, as Apple and Facebook do, they do so to retain highly valuable employees for their own sake.  Figure out what you want out of life, and do your research to figure out which jobs and companies are going to meet your needs.  If you’re looking for a new job right now, or will be soon, a day or two of planning and research right now can determine how much you enjoy the next several years of your life.

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25 career blogs you don’t want to miss

There are thousands of career blogs out there.  Most of them suck.  Yes, somebody had to say it.  Most of the information you can find is geared towards that I call the Black Hole Strategy- getting on job boards and sending out as many resumes as you can without getting carpal tunnel syndrome.  On top of that, you’ll find a million articles about how adding one or two “power words” to your resume can somehow get you a great job (Spoiler alert: they won’t).  

The following blogs are different.  Instead of magic bullet techniques and spamming resumes into the black hole, each of these writers provides real value: through unconventional job-hunting strategies, advice escaping the corporate world or creating work-life balance, or just a bit of tough love, each of these writers has risen above the pablum of cliched career advice, and each provides their own unique perspective on finding your dream job.

1. Unleashing Your Brand (Lida Citroen)

http://unleashingyourbrand.com/ 

As the name suggests, Lida’s blog focuses on personal branding.  While she didn’t invent that concept, she’s the best resources I’ve found for building and managing your professional reputation, and is a particularly good resource for veterans.          

Recommended reading:

Should you friend your boss on Facebook?

Your body language says a lot about your personal brand.

Are you showing up naked online?

2. Abby Kohut

http://www.absolutelyabby.com/

With 18 years’ experience in HR and recruiting, Abby Kohut can teach you how to get inside the heads of recruiters and hiring managers.  She posts articles every weekday, with each day being dedicated to a specific aspect of job hunting, such as resume, finding the jobs, or interviewing.  This makes her blog a very well-rounded source of job hunting advice.

My favorite articles:

Interviewing your next boss

Wall of shame

Globetrotting

3. Penelope Trunk

http://penelopetrunk.com/

Penelope is one of my idols- she’s started multiple successful startups, writes amazing career advice that appears in hundreds of papers, and still finds time to homeschool her kids.  I started reading her blog for the career and business advice- she has a rambling style that takes some getting used to, but what keeps me checking her blog every week is her radical honesty (or maybe just lack of a mental filter) about her career, family, sex life, and whatever else she feels like talking about.

Some of my favorite articles:

5 time management tricks I learned from years of hating Tim Ferriss

Are you a trend spotter?

How to quit every job and still have a good resume

Voices of the defenders of grad school.  And me crushing them.

And I can’t leave off here without showing you this hilarious tweet.

4. Career Enlightenment (Joshua Waldman)

http://careerenlightenment.com/ 

Joshua Waldman specializes in teaching people to use social media to get professional jobs.  He is a leading expert on the use of LinkedIn, and was one of the first to recognize Twitter’s potential as a job-hunting tool.

A few of my favorite articles:

Social media guidelines for your online job search

Social media laziness and other ills

Top 3 reasons people don’t use social media for their job search

5. Nick Corcodilos

http://corcodilos.com/blog/ 

Nick is one of my favorite career bloggers because he focuses largely on an issue that’s near and dear to my heart: the rampant pattern of abusive and unethical behavior by employers, towards employees.  From bullying bosses, to dishonest recruiters, to companies flat our cheating their own employees, Nick tells you how to deal with some of the thorniest and most infuriating job hunt and workplace challenges.

Here are some of his best articles:

Resume Blasphemy

Say goodbye to your psychopathic boss

The employer is hiding the salary!

Why do recruiters suck so bad?

6. Life After College (Jenny Blake)

http://www.lifeaftercollege.org/

As the title suggests, Jenny helps young college graduates find their footing in life and get set on a path that will bring them fulfillment, hopefully while paying off that monstrous pile of student debt.  She’s worth reading for many reasons, but particularly because she’ll tell you not just how to get a great job, but how a great job fits into a great life.

Recommended reading:

How do you know when to trust your gut?

Stuck?  Here’s how to pivot your career.

Big joy comes in surprisingly small boxes

Order from chaos: What Tarzan, Steve Martin and SNL can teach us about change

7. The Undercover Recruiter

http://theundercoverrecruiter.com/ 

Run by LinkHumans, a London-based social media agency, The Undercover Recruiter is the top career and recruiting blog in Europe and the UK.  Most aspects of job hunting are the same in Europe as they are in the US, but this blog is a great resource for Europe-specific topics such as long-form CV writing.

Selected articles:

Be nice to the gatekeepers, for they hold the key

How recruiters use social media: by the numbers

How a strong online network helps you get a job [Study]

How to respond to a counteroffer

8. The Muse

https://www.themuse.com/

I love The Muse because it pushes readers to focus relentlessly on finding a job they’ll truly love, and in particular a workplace that will be a great cultural fit for them.  As such, it’s a great resource for making career changes, and for making sure you don’t take a job you’ll end up regretting.

A few must-reads:

6 game-changing job search strategies

Why having multiple careers is totally OK

3 ways to get the dirt on a new job before you accept

9. Ask a Manager 

http://www.askamanager.org/

Ask a manager is a daily (and sometimes several times a day) advice column written by veteran hiring manager Alison Green.  As the name suggests, every article answers one or more reader-submitted questions; they range from broadly useful, to occasionally useful and highly interesting, to downright hilarious.

I can’t really pick favorites from literally thousands of articles, so here are a few of her best ones from September 2014.  

How to get along with your most annoying coworkers  

My manager keeps complaining to me about her own boss

I found an ad for my own job, my manager tells us to bill for hours we didn’t work, and more

My employers makes you wait 3 years for a raise and is staffed by lunatics

Asking my boss why he’s disengaged, telling a coworker not to use Comic Sans, and more

10. Alexandra Levit’s Water Cooler Wisdom

http://blog.alexandralevit.com/

Alexandra is regularly featured in places like Forbes, CNN and The New York Times because she offers simple, actionable advice for finding a good job in a fairly quick time frame.  Moreover, she offers much-needed advice on surviving an unpleasant job and tempering your career expectations (especially needed by millennials).  

Some of her best:

The real reason employers aren’t responding to your resume  

The self-employment surge and how professionals can best prepare

Bring back the lunch break!

How to deal when your company sucks

11. Keppie Careers (Miriam Salpeter)

http://www.keppiecareers.com/  

Keppie Careers is the brainchild and online home of career/business coach and social media consultant Miriam Salpeter.  While she offers a great variety of services, what you’re probably interested in is her career advice- she can help you conduct a targeted job search to get a job you love, and turn an “okay” job into one you’re happy to work at.  

A few of her best:

How to be appreciated at work

How to use a video cover letter to get a job

Should you work with a friend?

What happens when you lie on your resume

12. Lindsey Pollak

http://www.lindseypollak.com/  

Lindsay is an outlier on this list, because she isn’t a career coach and doesn’t primarily focus on career advice.  Rather, she specializes in helping companies hiring, manage and market to millennials.  That might make it sound like she doesn’t belong here, but I see tremendous value in reading about how employers view younger workers.  For similar reasons, I wish there was a blog that helped fashion models attract and date skinny white guys who went bald in their 20’s.  

A few highlights for young professional job-seekers:

5 things employers wish millennials learned in college

Introverts’ struggles — and strategies for success — on the job

Is Gen Y ready to be the boss?

How to conquer your job search on LinkedIn in 15 minutes a day

13. Dan Schawbel

http://danschawbel.com/ 

Dan writes about career development and personal branding, but with a particular emphasis on issues relevant to the younger generations, including long-term trends in recruiting and the workplace.  I find his blog particularly fascinating because it’s one of the very, very few career resources which devotes much attention to thinking about how the economy, and the workplace, will change five, ten, or twenty years out.

Here are a few articles that younger professionals shouldn’t miss:

End the 9 to 5 workday once and for all

Why and how you’re a student for life

Job hopping is now a part of career management

The age of career diversification

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14.  When I Grow Up (Michelle Ward)

http://www.whenigrowupcoach.com/

Unlike most of the bloggers on this list, Michelle focuses not on finding a great job, but on building a lifestyle business in order to escape the corporate environment.  Her blog is geared towards women who have decided that traditional jobs simply don’t offer the enjoyment or work-life balance they were hoping for; she offers tips on building income as a freelancer or small business owner, as well as getting by at your day job while building your side business.  

A few favorites:

5 ways to better tolerate your day job

Wanna change careers?  Do these 5 things first.

How to narrow down your career choices (In 3 easy steps!)

15.  CareerBright (Schweta Kare)

http://careerbright.com/

First off, I’ll admit that I’m less familiar with Schweta than with some of the other bloggers on this list.  However, her blog stands out to me because most of the articles provide advice that is clear, actionable, and applicable to most people.  She seems to be a particularly good resource for people who are just entering or re-entering the workforce, and as an added bonus, many of her articles present large amounts of helpful data in infographic form for easy digestion.  

Selected articles:

5 steps to deal with boring work

Top career ideas for people who want to learn on the job

Dashing through the winter job search [Infographic]

16.  Campus to Career (Kirk Baumann)

http://campus-to-career.com/ 

Kirk’s blog, of course, focuses on the needs of graduating students and younger professionals in the workplace, but he brings a unique perspective: he works for both sides of the job market.  Kirk both provides career advice to young professionals and students, and consults with major corporations to help them recruit young professionals.  My favorite articles of his are the ones which focus on networking, a skill which most students don’t seem to learn in college.

My favorites:

LinkedIn: Let’s get personal

How to find your alumni mentor

The lost art of follow up

17.  Career by Choice (Megan Fitzgerald)

http://www.careerbychoice.com/ 

One of the more unique experts I’ve found, Megan focuses entirely on helping people find expat jobs- that is, to move overseas.  Whether you want to live somewhere fun and exotic, enrich yourself culturally, go where the money is, or just want to move overseas but don’t know where to start, Megan’s blog needs to be on your reading list.  Her advice is great not only for finding international jobs and making yourself a better candidate for those jobs, but also for clarifying your goals and narrowing down what you want to do and where you want to go.

A few must-reads for international job hunters: 

Networking and international job search: Having the right mindset and goals for networking success

Choosing the right target cultures, roles & organizations is critical to your international job search and international career success

HSBC Expat releases its 2013 Expat Explorer survey [infographic]

18.  On the Job (Anita Bruzesse)

http://onthejob.45things.com/

Newspaper columnist Anita Bruzzese has been writing about workplace issues for over 22 years now.  Her writing focuses mainly on getting by in the workplace, but also covers job searching, college, and unemployment.  Her writing has the advantage of being short and to the point, and I think it’s some of the best for developing the proper mentality for being a career top performer.  

Here are some must-reads:

Is your need to be “right” hurting your career?

How to salvage a bad job interview

How to know when it’s time to quit your job

19.  Maggie Mistal

http://www.maggiemistal.com/

It’s always a good sign when a blogger tells you exactly what they’re about, and when a coach tells you their approach right on their website.  Maggie helps people find their dream jobs through a process she calls Soul Search-Research-Job Search.  That means that, like me, she believes in front-loading the work so that you ensure that a) you’re applying for the jobs you’ll really enjoy, and b) you can beat the competition by being better prepared than anyone else.  

Here are a few of her best articles from the past three years:

Does your elevator pitch have the personal touch?

Continuous networking and other secrets of success from Kerry Hannon

Wasting time in a job you don’t like?

20.  Jeff Lipschultz

http://jefflipschultz.wordpress.com/ 

Jeff heads the Dallas-based recruiting firm A-List Solutions, and is a featured writer on job-hunt.org.  While he has a lot of advice, he particularly shines at telling you exactly how certain behaviors, words, or job searching tactics come off to recruiters and hiring managers, and how to really see yourself through the eyes of the people you need to impress.

If you’re not sure how you come off in your job search, you should read these:

Interview questions that may have no right answer

Managing unemployment on your resume

Looking at a resume through recruiters’ eyes

21.  Eve Tahmincioglu

http://www.evetahmincioglu.com/web/blog/

Eve earns a place in this article for challenging conventional armchair wisdom in several areas- most notably, the commonly-cited cliche that you need to “find your passion.”  She’s also a great writer on gender issues, including not only the challenges that women face in career advancement, but also the way that men’s work-life balance issues get overlooked.  And like me and many of my favorite writers, she calls out the labor abuse that’s become so endemic in American society.

Here are a few must-reads:

Work-life isn’t a women’s issue

“Do what you love” myth

Workplace fraud: contractors who are really employees

22.  Melissa Cooley

http://melissacooley.com/ 

If you’ve been unemployed for a long time, or have spent years falling short of your career goals, you should be reading Melissa’s blog.  My favorite part about it is the tough love- she calls out people who try to BS their way into a job, or who want better results yet refuse to change their job hunting strategy.    

Read these articles for a swift kick in the pants:

Don’t outsource your career

What if I interview and decide I don’t want the job?

So you want to become a manager.  Do you have what it takes to be a great one?

23.  Margaret Buj

http://www.interview-coach.co.uk/ 

The other British subject on this list, Margaret is a great choice for people who need interview coaching or just a better idea of what they’re doing wrong.  I love her blog because, like me, she’s a huge proponent of building a network at your target companies before you apply, and using that network to beat the competition through superior preparation.  

The following articles are perfect exemplars of the networking approach:

How to penetrate your target companies

Do you fall prey to lotto mentality in your career?

How to keep in contact with your network when you’re not looking for a job

24.  Guerilla Marketing for Job Hunters (David Perry)

http://gm4jh.com/

In both his blog and his book of the same name, David provides a wealth of unconventional advice for job hunters who realize that this isn’t your parents’ job market anymore.  From telling people to take more risks in their job hunt, to “start work before you’re hired,” David’s advice is fresh, creative, and certain to make you stand out.

I consider the following to be must-reads:

Job interviews: Prepare questions in advance

Job search advice: Take risks

How to get a job in a recession- Creative job search tactics that work

Power networking: Getting your name out there!

25.  Ramit Sethi

http://www.iwillteachyoutoberich.com/blog/

Finally, we come to the man who has changed my life more than anyone else (sorry Dad).  Ramit is easy to dismiss because of his scammy-sounding blog name and crazy eyebrows, but it would be a shame if you did.  I’ve followed him for years, and his blog is the only one for which I can honestly say I never miss an article.  His writing and his products have had a massive impact on virtually every part of my life, from investing, to earning more money, to setting goals, and even developing my social skills.  More than anyone else, Ramit is the person who shaped my own unconventional approach to finding the perfect job and having a successful, fulfilling life.

It’s hard to pick favorite articles here, but if you’re not familiar with Ramit, you might start with these:

The 80/20 guide to finding a job you love

How to give advice without being a jerk

5 unconventional truths about money

How to create explosive growth in all areas of your life

Now, more information isn’t always better, and lack of information isn’t usually what holds people back.  In other words, don’t subscribe to all 25 of these blogs and spend 10 hours a week reading them.  Instead, if you’re interested in taking your career to the next level, I recommend you give each of them a look, and pick just a few of your favorites to start reading regularly, leaving yourself enough time to put their advice into action.  

And while you’re at it, you can subscribe to my blog below (for free) and read my free  e-book, The 12 mistakes keeping you from your dream job, and what you should be doing instead.  Additionally, the first 100 people to join my mailing list by next Tuesday, the 14th of October 2014, will receive a free resume consultation from me, in which I’ll tell you how your resume looks to hiring managers, and what to do to skyrocket your chances of getting a call back and an interview for your dream job.  

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Why I stopped eating lunch at my desk

One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that people’s ability to be happy and productive at work depends heavily on how they manage their break times- particularly, on whether they take actual breaks, or just pseudo-breaks where they actually still work.  This knowledge can be used in two ways: to structure the job you have to maximize your enjoyment and output, and as a simple way to evaluate the culture, work environment, and work-life balance at a company you’re thinking of working for.  

I’ve held several jobs over the years, including a couple of office jobs, one work from home job, and a couple of self-employment stints.  At my first job, I always took a full lunch break, and after that I tended to switch back and forth between eating at my desk and taking a lunch break with each job.  I even had one job where taking a lunch break, while not strictly forbidden, was so frowned upon that one time when I did it, I was accused of using my lunch break to interview for another job.

You can guess how that made me feel- like my office was a prison, and my lunch was just some hog feed to keep me going while I worked.  Food lost its attraction for me, and I couldn’t wait to go home every day.  But when I moved on from that job and started taking lunch breaks again?  Suddenly, my life, my meals and my work all brought me joy again.

Now, I’ve implemented a policy of always taking a full one-hour lunch break, and I’m perfectly willing to take longer than that if I need the time to finish my meal, don’t have much work to do, or simply feel like taking longer. Before I explain how best to employ this rule, here are five reasons why you should just say no to eating lunch at your desk.    

You won’t be productive while eating

Your food will distract you, plain and simple.  Ideally you like to work for periods of 10-30 minutes, uninterrupted, with short breaks in between.  While eating at your desk, you’ll work for periods of one or two minutes, take a bite or two, work another minute, take a bit, and so on.  Because of the mental switching costs of alternating between two tasks like that, you’ll barely get any work done while eating.  

You won’t enjoy your meal

In addition to doing a bad job of, well, doing your job, you’ll also end up doing a bad job of eating, to the extent that that’s even possible.  Instead of sitting down to a nice meal and enjoying the atmosphere, you’ll be glued to your TPS reports.  Instead of savoring every bite, you’ll barely notice the flavor while you treat your food as a distraction, rather than the life-giving nourishment and tasty luxury that it is.    

You won’t be productive after eating

Here’s where bosses really get it wrong when they “encourage” employees to eat at their desks.  I think a lot of people realize that it’s hard to be productive while eating, but what few realize is that once you finish your meal, shifting back into productive mode is a slow and difficult process- you’ll remain in an unproductive mental state for hours, maybe even until the end of the day, and you’ll have to stay at the office longer to make up for it.

In fact, study after study has shown that productivity goes down as work hours go up, as The Economist illustrates in this article.  I’m convinced that this works two ways- low productivity forces workers to work longer to get their jobs done, and higher work hours lead to fatigue and lost sleep, which lowers productivity.  Also, higher daily work hours are also correlated with low productivity, and a good break “resets the clock” somewhat, 

You’ll miss valuable social opportunities

In talking to people who love their jobs, one thing I notice is that almost every one of them (barring those who work from home) eats lunch with their coworkers.  My father has told me on several occasions that introducing an employee cafeteria with subsidized food was one of the smartest things Hewlett-Packard ever did because it got employees eating together instead of dispersing to a variety of eateries around town every day.  This made the employees happier, more productive and more loyal, and led them to share good ideas with people they wouldn’t normally talk to.

Additionally, because skipping the lunch break kills your productivity and forces you to work later, coworkers at companies where everyone eats at their desks tend not to do anything together outside of work.  This part is just my observation, but all of the friends I have who regularly go to bars, concerts and sporting events with their coworkers seem to take long lunch breaks, and work at places where that is the norm. 

In addition to being enjoyable, having lunch with coworkers can help you get ahead in your career by providing valuable intra-office networking opportunities.  Derek Halpern of Social Triggers, in his interview with Ramit Sethi for Ramit’s Brain Trust, offers up the best example of this strategy that I’ve ever heard: when he was working at a corporate job, he had lunch with everyone in the entire company, starting with his immediate coworkers, moving on to other low-level workers, and moving up to the managers and then executives over the course of a year or two.  When he got to the CEO, the guy could hardly refuse his invitation- after all, Derek had gone out to lunch with everyone else at the company by that point!

You’ll get stressed out and sick

Long, uninterrupted work hours have a way of stressing people out.  Even work that would be enjoyable for six hours a day, or two four-hour blocks, becomes a source of stress and misery when you’re doing it for eight or more hour without pause.  This stress weakens your immune system, making you more vulnerable to infection.  The stress, anxiety, and possibly just sheer busyness keep you from getting enough sleep, further sickening you and, you guessed it, killing your productivity.  The CDC has a great study on the health and safety risks that come from long work hours, which you can read here.

You’ll resent your job

The net effect of all this: you’ll come to hate your job.  Your work-life balance will suffer, you won’t make as many friends at work as you’d like, you’ll feel mentally and physically fatigued, and you’ll get sick way too often.  Before long, you’ll respond one of two ways: if you’re the complacent type, you’ll rationalize that this is just the price of getting ahead in the corporate world, developing a grim fatalism and maybe even a perverse pride in your suffering.  If you’re the type of person who takes decisive action to solve your problems, you’ll start looking for a new job.  

By the way, to any managers reading this, I want to make that last part abundantly clear: if you make your employees eat lunch at work, you’ll lose a lot of your best employees.  Hopefully you care about their well-being, but if not, maybe you can at least care about this.  

How you can use this

First off, don’t eat lunch at your desk.  Duh.  If possible, don’t even eat lunch within sight of where you work.  And don’t lawyer your way out of this by taking your laptop to lunch with you, or answering work emails on your phone at lunch; take a real frickin’ break people!

Second, you may have noticed that I repeatedly conflate working through lunch with long work hours.  That’s because, by and large, the two always occur together.  You can use this during your job search to get valuable insight into a company’s work environment by simply asking people at the company what they typically do for lunch.  If they say they eat at their desks, move on.  If they say they always grab a quick meal at the closest possible spot, that’s alright.  If they talk about the great food to be found at a variety of places nearby, and don’t suggest that they feel the need to rush through lunch, you’re found a fun company to work for.  

Want to learn more ways to increase your productivity, enjoy your work, and make sure you get a job you’ll enjoy at a company you’ll be happy to work for?  Sign up for my mailing list below, read my free ebook, and watch your inbox for more free career advice.

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What you should know before hiring a resume writer

I get asked about resume writers about once a day. I’ve heard success stories from people who hired a great resume writer and got a great job, and I’ve also heard horror stories from people who wasted time and money on a terrible resume. Resume writers are everywhere on the internet, and it can be hard to judge either the value of professional resume writers in general, or the quality of a specific writer.

While I can’t recommend specific writers, I can give you a few pointers that will help you find and hire a good resume writer, and employ them to the best of their abilities. Alternatively, a lot of the material in this article will help you write a resume yourself, should you so choose.

A great resume writer is worth a lot; a bad resume writer is worse than useless

Let’s do some math here- suppose your earning power is about 50k a year. That means that if a better resume causes you to get a job a week earlier, it’s worth about a thousand dollars. Your job search can be expected to take three to six months if you’re doing things mostly right, or a year if you don’t know what you’re doing- it’s very easy to knock a week off of that time frame, especially if you also get a better cover letter out of the deal.

Likewise, it’s fairly easy to get a 5-10% raise with your new job- going from 50k to 55k for instance. Unlike the time frame, this depends heavily on your interviewing and negotiating skills, so the resume and cover letter alone may or may not get you the raise, but with an improved resume and cover letter, and a few basic pointers on interviewing and negotiating, this is totally doable.

On the other hand, a bad resume will be disingenuous and poorly matched to the job you’re applying for. If the resume writer simply took your existing resume and rewrote it, the new resume will leave out any important information that wasn’t already on your old resume. In extreme cases, the writer will be an Indian with shitty grammar, or even a web-based form that you enter information into, and it spits out an algorithmically-generated resume.

A great resume writer can be worth thousands, and a well-written resume and cover letter should cost upwards of five hundred dollars. Over a thousand is not unreasonable either- top performers writing their own resumes will often spend dozens of hours on it, and in some cases even a hundred hours. So if you want to hire a resume writer here, don’t be an idiot and try to get the lowest price.

Research before you buy

So, clearly you need to do your research to find the best resume writers. For starters, make sure you’re hiring a specific, named person. Don’t go with some generic company with a name like “Resume Pros” or “Resumes R Us” that advertises something like “our top-notch resume writers.” Hire an individual who has some credibility. If you just google resume writers, the top hits tend to be the bad ones, because bad resume writers tend to rely more on SEO to get clients, while good ones tend to rely more on referrals and building a following by giving out free advice.

First off ask your friends if they’v used a resume writer before. Ideally you would get referred to one by your friend, and even look at your friend’s resume to get a feel for the writer’s style. If you can’t do that, build a short list of 5-10 resume writers. Contact them, ask about their style and the results they’ve gotten, ask for references, and look at what kind of free information they are putting out there for their audience. A great resume writer should be offering solid job-hunting information to people, both to build their audience and credibility, and to help their paying clients to maximize the value they get from their resume and cover letter.

Spend as much time as you need doing this research. If it takes a couple weeks, so be it- do the work up front to make sure you don’t waste your money on a useless resume, or worse yet, spend months using that crappy resume and not realizing how it hurts you.

Your resume is not the most important part of your job search

Most resume writers will insist to their dying day that having a great resume is the central component of a good job search. It’s not. They’ll say that with a great resume, you can post it to job boards, sit back, and people will be banging down your door to offer you your dream job- also not true. A great resume can get you some calls from recruiters, but recruiters won’t offer you your dream job, and I don’t recommend working with them.

The most important parts of a top-notch job search are networking and research- build a strong network, use it to get in with the companies you’d love to work for, and prepare so well that the interview is already won before you walk in the door. Even if you use job boards rather than using your network to find a job, the research and preparation are still more important than your resume and cover letter. The resume and cover letter are marketing materials to be used as supporting documents for your job search- they help a lot, but don’t ever think they’re sufficient in and of themselves to get you your dream job.

Most people focus on their resumes too early in the job search

The first thing most people do when starting a job search- I mean the absolute, very first thing- is update their resume. And that’s the exact phrasing people usually use, “update my resume.” But think about what updating something really means- it means making all the information current. “Updating” your resume means nothing more than adding your latest job so that the resume is no longer outdated.

Is that really the standard here? Just making sure your resume is current? That’s setting the bar pretty damned low, and it should be obvious that your resume needs to do more than just list off all the stuff you’ve done. Here, roughly speaking, are the steps a job search should include:

Figure out what kind of job you’re going for- choose 1-3 closely related job titles to focus on.

Figure out your ideal companies. Generate a list of 10-20 companies to apply for.

Meet people who work at your target companies. Get inside information from them, and build a relationship so they can put in a good word for you when you apply.

Put together your applications for each company.

Apply to all of your target companies, either all at once or over a short period of time.

Interview and get job offers.

Juggle your multiple job offers, negotiate for more money, better working conditions etc., and accept one of the offers.

Your resume and cover letter should be written at step 4, when you’re putting together your job applications. That’s generally about two thirds of the way through your job hunt. Writing your resume before you research your target companies is a waste of time, and actually using that resume will lead to suboptimal results.

You should modify your resume for each job application

One marketing manager job is most definitely not the same as another. Having done your research on your target companies, you’ll have a good idea of the unique challenges and needs that each company has. This will include a lot of information that just doesn’t appear on job postings, and using this information will immediately set you apart from the people who just spam out applications.

Instead of using the same resume for every company, you should write one “baseline” resume, and then customize it for each application. Because you are restricting your applications to 1-3 closely related job titles, this customization will be restricted to a few lines rather than rewriting the whole resume. Nonetheless, hiring someone to write each version of your resume for you would be waaaay too expensive, so you should have the resume writer write the baseline resume for you, and do the customization yourself.

Writing a good resume should take time, and involve you too

The way most resume writers work is that they’ll either take your existing resume or ask you a series of questions about your skills, education and experience, then write a resume based on that. The problem here is that by this method, they can only re-word and re-phrase the things you already have on your resume. Correcting grammar and wording is certainly a part of their job, but a good resume writer should also be making higher-level decisions about what should and should not go onto your resume. This requires a lot of back and forth between resume writer and client.

The writer needs to figure out what kinds of positions you’re applying for, what the companies hiring for those jobs really need, what your biggest and most relevant accomplishments have been, and how to present everything to impress prospective employers. This takes time. Many resume writers will advertise one- or two-day service, but in this case, faster is actually worse. A great resume writer will take a week or two, and treat the resume writing as a collaborative process with you. They will also be clear on this time frame up front in order to manage your expectations

Putting it all together

Having read this, you should have what you need to decide whether or not to hire a resume writer. Think long and hard about the decision- in my opinion, whether or not to do it comes down largely to how good of a writer you are. Hire a resume writer if you really need one, but if you’re a good writer, I think it’s worthwhile to write your resume yourself, even if it takes 10-20 hours.

Are you sick of your job? Do you want to learn the entire process for finding your dream job and building a career you love? Sign up for the mailing list below and read my free ebook on the 12 common mistakes that hold people back in their job hunts- then watch your inbox for more insider job-hunting tips.

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What famous rappers can teach you about finding your dream job

Some products are mass market.  Think Coca-Cola- their target market is pretty much everyone, so they advertise everywhere and try to get everyone to like them.  In Coke’s case, this is literally their message: “Everyone likes us and everyone gets along when there’s Coke around.”  

Then some products are for a a big chunk of the population, but not everyone.  Think Microsoft Windows- Microsoft wants everyone to know about Windows, and they present it in a way that avoids putting people off.  They accept that some people will dislike Windows, but they try to minimize that because it’s a large market product.    

Then we have the products that are aimed at a significant minority, like a Macbook Air. Almost everyone knows about them, but most people don’t buy.  Many people will actively dislike these small-market products- my best friend seriously hates all things Apple. But the people who like these small market products, really like them, and will pay a bit of a premium for them.  

Then we have niche products.  Think about the Tesla roadster- it’s a high-performance prestige product, they only make something like thirty thousand a year, they’re really expensive, and people either love them or hate them.  A lot of people hate them, but only a few tens of thousands of people a year have to love them enough to buy one.         

Then there are unique or near-unique products.  A great topical example of this is the new Wu-Tang Clan secret album.  Most people haven’t heard about this, and many of those who have heard, think it’s the worst idea in the world.  But some people wanted that album, and were willing to pay.  Not many people, but just enough to drive the price up to five million dollars for the winning bidder.   

Notice how the examples I brought up got progressively more expensive?  That’s no coincidence- with few exceptions, you make more money by niching down then by trying to appeal to everyone.  Now, you may think that Wu-Tang are jerks for doing that, and maybe they are.  But regardless of the merit of this “only one sale” strategy with regard to rap albums, there are some products that are unique by necessity.  Products like a person’s labor.  You’re not going to take ten jobs are you?  

In job hunting, losers think like Coke.  Most people think like Windows, or at best, like Apple.  High performers, and the really good career coaches, think like Tesla.  The true rock stars, however, think like the Wu-Tang Clan.  Over the next few months, I’m going to be publishing articles and sending out emails explaining how you can become an MVP in your career, get the attention of the right people, receive multiple job offers and generate a bidding war that lets you pick and choose your dream job.  I’m going to teach you to be Wu-Tang, and the privilege of employing you is going to be that secret album.  

Interested in learning how to go from being a cheap commodity to the prize employee everyone competes over?  Sign up for my email list before for exclusive techniques, scripts, and access to personal coaching.  

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