Dennison Career Services - "The Job Search Coach"


Christine Dennison, Certified Professional Resume Writer

Wrote or contributed to articles in this section covering the following topics:
>Quoted in an article on HR & Talent -- "Snow Day, Flannel PJs, Hot Chocolate, and Job Searches"
>Contributing author to a career industry journal -- "Career Communication Tips for Job Seekers Returning to the Workforce"
>Featured in an article on -- "Job Search Hints for Baby Boomers"
>Quoted in an article in Crain's Chicago Business -- "Quitting a Job You Just Started"
>Featured in The Chicago Tribune Business Section -- "My Biggest Mistake" series
>Guest author for Splendid Torch newsletter -- "Where's the Greener Grass?"
"Snow Days, Flannel PJs, Hot Chocolate, and Job Searches" -- Quoted in an article by Terri Williams on / HR & Talent, February 9, 2015
As a Southerner who usually only sees snow on The Weather Channel, the phrase "snow days" invokes images of house-bound residents lounging around and sipping warm beverages. However, recent search data from may shatter that picturesque image.
The last week in January, forecasters predicted that Winter Storm Juno would dump several feet of snow on the East Coast, but such cities as New York and Philadelphia escaped Old Man Winter's wrath. So what did these residents do with their unscheduled off day?
According to, they were searching for new jobs. In New York City, reports that job searches were up 40%. In Philadelphia, job searches were up by 45%, and in White Plains, the numbers increased by 72%. Regarding spikes in specific keywords, the word "teachers" jumped 173%, and searches for "remote" and "telecommute" jumped 87% and 56% respectively.
Studies have revealed that American workers tend to be overwhelmed with work to the extent that they usually leave vacation days on the table. In light of this, why would these East Coast residents choose to use their snow day to search for jobs instead of enjoying their unexpected time off?
A combination of HR and career experts offered various theories on Winter Storm Juno job search spikes:
These numbers don't surprise me," says Crystal Spraggins, SPHR, who owns the HR consulting firm Work It Out. According to Spraggins, who is based in Philadelphia, "A survey released by Jobvite last year revealed that 51% of employed people are either seeking or open to new employment." And while it may be harder to get a job these days, she says, "it is pretty easy to apply for one. No wonder people are taking every chance to look for something better."
According to Christine Dennison of Dennison Career Services, "The increase in job search activity related to the Juno storm system was probably influenced by the New Year's resolution mentality as much as the bonus day off of work. In the careers industry, we're also still seeing the aftereffects of the recession, with so many people ready to leave a job they don't enjoy."
...see the HR & Talent Management website for the rest of the article...
"Career Communication Tips for Job Seekers Returning to the Workforce" -- Article published in the quarterly Career Planning & Adult Development Journal, Summer 2014 edition focused on Career Communications. The Journal is published by Dick Knowdell, world-renowned career industry expert and founder of the Career Planning & Adult Development Network. This edition was guest-edited by Louise Kursmark and Wendy Enelow.

Returning to the Workforce After a Long Absence

The rules of engagement for job search have changed drastically in recent years, presenting serious challenges for women and men returning to the workforce after a long absence. Any job seeker can have many issues to wrestle, including confidence, communications, business etiquette, and branding, to name a few. If you have a gap to explain, it can be very intimidating. Take heart, however, in knowing that this is the "new normal," and careers now run in chapters, with very interesting twists and turns. The best companies are sympathetic to the realities of personal commitments and the positive effects of career path reinventions. Let's take a look at how to develop and present your story.

Don't Follow the Pack Into the Black Hole of the Internet

Don't worry about trying to fit into the online application system - your job search should be centered on expanding your network and communicating with those resources. Use the Internet to conduct research, find companies to target, study job postings to build your list of key words and see what's in demand out there.

Find out all you can about the background required for your target positions. Is there anything transferable from your experience? Talk to people in the industry. Don't just ask about an entry-level path. Tell them what you have and dig for anything in your background that might help you find a shortcut to your new position.

Focus on what you have done - don't feel that you have to start from scratch. Take your experience apart and figure out what it means generically. What kinds of problems have you solved, what kinds of people have you dealt with, what skills have you developed?

A huge difference from the typical job search is to focus on companies, not listed openings - catch them when they're starting to feel the need but haven't formulated an opening...or get them thinking about the person in their company who's just not working out but it's been easier to keep the status quo...until your letter and resume show up on their desk.

It is hard to feel like the search is getting anywhere at the beginning. Put most of your time into the effort to simply talk to people (anywhere, and at any level) to gather intelligence about possibilities. Then you'll go after the decision-makers and catch them when they begin to have a need but before they put up the listing. You want to spark the idea that you'd be a valuable business-building or business-retaining person to have on board. Never (well, rarely) ask the blatant question of whether they're hiring. Instead, have conversations about how their business works and what they're struggling with. Be naturally curious, listen, learn...then, the conversation can turn to the possibility of hiring you into an existing position or creating a position that allows you to solve a problem or fill a need.

Resume Strategies

You may be tempted to create a functional resume to rearrange your strengths into categories, but that style of resume is not well received in the job market. Recruiters and hiring managers don't like to work at sorting them out, and the automated tracking software (ATS) systems don't "read" them well. There's an assumption that you must be hiding a negative story. A better approach is to use the Summary section to present your strengths briefly, include your key words, and open the reader's brain in the direction you want them to go.

Usually, a resume provides details going back about eight to ten years and then includes a very brief description of career accomplishments that go farther back than that. If you need to showcase older-but-relevant accomplishments, you can use the Summary to do that without specifying the dates.

If you are a job seeker who has taken time to focus on childcare and/or eldercare, you may be looking for ways to hide the gap or create a clever title such as "Household Manager" or "Senior Care Administrator," but the stronger approach is to be straightforward and describe the commitment briefly. Don't try to turn those personal experiences into a job description.

Not everyone has the time or inclination to volunteer - perhaps all of your time and energy was required to handle an eldercare situation. Then the best tactic is to use a simple statement at the beginning of the Professional Experience section, such as...

Since 2009, focused on eldercare responsibilities. Now ready to bring my extensive customer service management skills and experience to your organization.

...and then continue with your accomplishment-focused chronology of work history.

If you do have volunteer experience that includes transferable skills, it is worth some space on the resume. Include a quote or two from leaders in your volunteer life, if possible. Here's an example from a client who had been out of the workforce for 12 years: 

Summary of Qualifications


  • Extensive organization leadership and program development experience in business and nonprofit environments
  • Strong written and verbal communication skills gained as a proposal/grant writer, project manager, team leader, and trainer
  • Thirteen years of association management and recreation management experience


"______ was a key part of the successful transition of the PTO as we sought ways to offset school budget cuts with strong cultural, arts, and educational programs. She has an amazing ability to establish an effective flow of communication in complex organizational settings, recruit talent, coordinate many projects simultaneously, and connect the schools with community resources." -Xxxx Xxxxx, District Xxxx School Superintendent


"_____ is an asset to any organization lucky enough to have her around. The Park Board relies almost entirely on volunteers, and her energy, enthusiasm, and ability to work with everyone across the community is unmatched." -Xxxx Xxxxxxx, Xxxxx Village Trustee


Professional Experience and Volunteer Leadership


Since 2001, focused on family responsibilities and community leadership. Now ready to bring my extensive program development and administration skills to your organization.

Highlights of leadership in the PTO of a K-8 district with three schools:

  • Publicity & Newsletter Chair - developed effective liaison between the PTO and a newly-established District-wide monthly publication
  • Cultural Arts Chair - identified high-quality sources of new programs to bring into the schools; coordinated and contracted for 20 programs annually
  • Theater Arts Development Committee - established priorities, identified resources and programming ideas for this new committee

[resume continued with her previous career highlights...]

Here's a clip from the resume of a very successful telecommunications sales executive who took a buyout in the economic meltdown of 2001 and decided to pursue a few low-key entrepreneurial projects to be able to spend more time with his young family...ten years flew by and he realized he needed a "real" job. He met a local business owner at his health club and they had enjoyed a series of conversations...the next thing he knew, he was in need of a resume, ASAP: 

Summary of Qualifications

-Sales and Operations Executive- 

  • Strong combination of entrepreneurial and Fortune 500 business knowledge, known for ability to achieve multi-million-dollar B2B sales goals in highly competitive markets and challenging economic cycles. In-depth experience with tangible products and intangible services, big ticket systems and smaller, high-volume items.
  • Attack complex business problems with an analytical mind, moving quickly to formulate practical game plans leading to double-digit gains. Whether "wearing all the hats" or leading a team, maintain focus on time and budget constraints to reach aggressive goals.
  • Established reputation as a sales and operations manager across a long tenure with the [major telecom] organization in the midst of constantly evolving corporate structures and priorities. Built high-performance teams, generated consistent top sales results, and managed profitable branch operations.
  • Developed key account relationships with senior executives, business owners and dealers across numerous vertical markets, including wholesale, healthcare, communications, securities, industrial, professional services, and manufacturing.


Professional Experience


[His investment LLC] - Xxxxxx, XX

2002 to Present

Established a profitable residential real estate investment and management company that afforded the flexibility needed to balance professional and family obligations. Now ready to bring a dedicated business operations and sales development skillset to your organization.


[major telecom company] - Xxxxx, XX

1988 to 2001

Joined the organization as an Account Executive on the non-regulated business side, selling a broad range of network, voice, video and data products to mid-to-large sized companies. Earned a series of promotions through the sales organization as a leader in revenue production, customer retention, new branch development, product rollouts and corporate restructures. [followed by accomplishment details...]



Cover Letter Strategies

Make it easy for the hiring manager to read your cover letter quickly. What about "canned" letters? Of course, you'll create a general framework, but then be sure to personalize each letter at least slightly. It's worth the time to find the names of specific people and proper titles whenever possible. A lot of job seekers use a "Dear Hiring Manager" letter so they can get massive quantities out quickly - not very impressive to any hiring manager.

Focus on the company and/or the person you're targeting first - mention something that you've discovered in your research. The cover letter can say something like, "I see that you've just returned from giving the keynote speech at the ______ convention, talking about ____....In my job search, I'm talking to organizations that can use my experience in building strong connections between the company and the customer...". The cover letter must be specific to them and take advantage of the chance to tell a part of your story.

A cover letter also reflects your writing skills and personality. Strike a balance between formal and informal. You don't want the style to be stuffy and old-fashioned, nor do you want to come across as eccentric or quirky. Forget the hype. Many people write what I call the "leaps tall buildings in a single bound" letter, telling the company all the wonderful things you will do when they hire you. Enthusiasm is fine, but don't tell them what to think - let the reader draw his or her own conclusions about you based on your track record.

The resume and cover letter should not list personality traits (hardworking, intelligent, etc.) but you can use the cover letter to subtly reflect some of your values by telling a short story or two. Instead of writing "I'm a quick study and possess strong communication skills"...try something like "I thrive in situations where I have the chance to learn new concepts and then present that information to colleagues or customers..."...or..."One of my proudest moments at XYZ Company was when I successfully met a project deadline that was shortened by 3 months and still managed to meet a very ambitious set of goals." Have someone you trust review your letter to give you an objective assessment of flavor and content.

Here's a sample cover letter for a client with a 12-year gap who took a retail (but related) job to segue back into the market:

            When I saw the posting for the Part-time Youth Department Early Literacy Librarian position, I knew that I wanted to find out more about it. I'm pursuing a return to my Librarian career after taking some time to focus on raising a family, and have targeted organizations in need of a professional with my experience in developing early literacy programs.

            For the past seven months, I have had the opportunity to bring my Librarian approach to running the storytime and outreach programs in the Children's Department at [major bookstore chain]. I'm proud of the improvements I've been able to institute, and thoroughly enjoy being back in a literary environment. I'm constantly reminded that the reason I obtained my MLIS degree and pursued this career was to be able to instill a love of reading and learning in young children as well as the adults in their lives.

            In my current position as well as in my earlier Librarian positions in the youth services department at the [local public library], I have always enjoyed being able to contribute to the quality of the services, materials, physical environment, communications, and smooth operation of the department. My managers have also appreciated my ability to develop warm relationships and become a trusted resource for our patrons.

            I look forward to the opportunity to discuss your plans for the Youth Department. Thank you for your time and consideration.                     


"But I Don't Know Anybody" - The Wonders of LinkedIn

For a job seeker with a dusty Rolodex, the thought of networking can be very overwhelming. The Internet offers many resources to help you build your network, and LinkedIn in particular can be a goldmine. There are many seminars, blogs, and educational resources to help you understand the basics of LinkedIn, and it's well worth your time to learn. Here are some tips on how to use LinkedIn when you've been out of the market for a while:

The Headline is that phrase that shows up in the box with your name. The default phrasing that the LinkedIn system puts into that box is your title from the most recent job in your profile. That may not be your strongest and clearest "branding" message - you can replace the default title with your own strategic phrasing. You may notice that a lot of job seekers put something like "Seeking xxxxxx." I recommend positioning yourself instead as the expert in whatever it is that you do - rather than someone begging for a job. Skip the hype but do include your key words.

As someone returning to the workforce, you're not as likely to attract the attention of recruiters, so you will want to focus on using the LinkedIn system as a database of people and companies. As you create a list of target companies, you can use LinkedIn to study the profiles of people who work there, and then begin to reach out to them to "talk shop."

When you send Invitations to build your network, change the phrasing at least slightly from the default sentence - don't miss the opportunity to personalize it. The default phrasing is well known and can look like spam. Build your network thoughtfully - 25 is a minimum to gain traction, 50 is a reasonable goal - and continue to build it. You can upload your email address book and then pick and choose people to invite into your LI network - don't send out a mass invitation to your entire list. You can also search through past employers and affiliate groups and find people your know from those sources.

Ask the people on your reference list to submit a recommendation to your LinkedIn profile. For those who have already written a recommendation in the past for you, you can make it easy for them by emailing a key paragraph or two for them to paste into the LI box. Continue to request new recommendations as needed from your network. The good news is that it's easy for recruiters and decision-makers to see them on your profile - people will frequently check out your profile even before they've contacted you. There's a newer feature called Endorsements, related to the Skills section - these are somewhat useful, but recommendations are much more powerful.

Join Groups to extend your network and increase your search results. Take a look at alumni groups, industry groups (your previous industry and your targeted industry), and professional associations. Become active in the Discussions - a great way to "meet" people and increase your online visibility. Don't use the Discussions to make your job search pitch - that's considered bad form.

Stay Positive

            A job search is one of the most challenging projects you will ever tackle. Do everything you can to spend time with positive, supportive people. Break it down into small chunks of manageable tasks - create a schedule and track the details. Take care of yourself - make sure that your schedule includes time to exercise and relax. Keep your mind open and your antennae up - the best job leads come from surprising corners!


Featured in an article on – “Money / Career” section

Job search hints for Baby Boomers...

 Résumé and Cover Letter Tips to Stand Out From The Crowd

By Bradford Dworak


Christine Dennison, a job search coach and owner of Dennison Career Services has been helping job seekers for more than 20 years. With the national unemployment rate above 9 percent, Christine says she's busier than ever. Many of the calls she's receiving are from baby boomers ready to start their first job searches in decades.

So, boomers, it's time to get that résumé and cover letter updated. Learn how you can get ready to face the "new media" market.

Amp Up Your Résumé

"A résumé is an important tool for your job search, serving as a concise presentation of your experience, skills, knowledge, credentials, education and attitude," Christine says.

These tips have helped her clients land new jobs:

Get Rid of the Pitch

You know what this is: the opening line on your resume. For example, "Seeking accounting manager position with a progressive, dynamic organization which will use my CPA credentials and offer rapid career advancement." It's all clichéd, meaningless and overdone. Instead, try filling that space with your target position title or area of expertise.

"Include a brief bullet-point presentation of your skills, expertise, credentials and accomplishments," Christine says. "Your objective is conveyed by what you choose to include in the summary, which can be changed to fit different targets."

Bottom line: Tailor your résumé to each industry you are applying for, be different and really highlight your skills.

Make Your Case Through Examples

Don't tell employers what to think about you. Instead, lead them to make the right conclusions by explaining how you get things done. It's important to demonstrate that you can adapt to any work environment. "Show you can handle change and that you're not set in your ways," Christine says.

Prove You Never Stop Learning

Christine recommends putting an emphasis in your continuing education—whether that's through seminars, workshops, courses or self-study. Sure, advanced degrees help, but you don't necessarily have to have every degree under the sun to prove you're capable of learning. Put those weekend work seminars you attended on your résumé…you were there and you probably learned something that can help you. Or, include a class you took at a community college. Even if it's that once-a-week cooking class, it shows you have the drive and motivation to learn something new. 
Don't Include Everything

One of the biggest résumé trends Christine has seen with baby boomers is that they list every piece of experience they have. Instead of trying to fit everything on your résumé, focus on your past 10 years or so of experience.

"[Add] a very short reference to [your] early career path," Christine says. "[These] are ways to make yourself look current."

Be Prepared

Instead of putting the old phrase, "References provided upon request," on your résumé, Christine says it's assumed you'll come in for an interview armed with this information.

Create a business card version of your résumé and keep it with you. Include your contact information and a brief description of your qualifications. You never know who you will run into, and you don't want to miss the golden opportunity.

Reconsider Regular Mail

If you're trying to send your résumé to someone you don't know, Christine says to forget e-mail and try regular mail.

"Unsolicited e-mail doesn't get read," she says. "At least an employee is going to open up the mail, so there is a better chance that it's going to land on somebody's desk."

Christine also advises spending less time on the job boards. She says that less than 5 percent of job seekers find employment through them. Instead, she emphasizes the importance of networking and meeting people. Although she says it's hard and can be very intimidating, people need to get past these barricades if they want to have a chance at finding employment.

Write Stronger Cover Letters

Cover letters are another great self-marketing tool. When there are vast numbers of people applying for a single job, a good cover letter can take you from lowly applicant to potential candidate.

"The résumé certainly shows your qualification and track record, but the cover letter gives you a chance to speak to the company a little more," Christine says. "Most people miss an opportunity with the cover letter."

Do I Even Need One?

Yes…the answer is yes! You need a cover letter to tell a company who you are and why you're interested in working there. It's important to keep them short and concise, but don't skimp on your research.

"Find out what's going on with [the company] and connect your qualifications to that." Christine says. "If you show that you've done a little extra digging, you'll definitely stand out from the crowd."

Tell a Personal Story

Since a cover letter showcases your writing skills and personality, make it a reflection of you. Christine says to keep it balanced between the formal and informal because while you don't want to sound stuffy or old-fashioned, you certainly don't want to come across as eccentric and weird. At the same time, figure out how to intertwine a personal story or two to illustrate your qualifications. Show, don't tell. 

Don't Rewrite Your Résumé

A résumé and cover letter are two separate documents—please keep them that way. While it is okay to put the most relevant points of your résumé, don't rehash it.

Christine says you have to have hope that they will actually read your résumé. "Emphasize your availability for interviews, flexibility on relocation, if appropriate, and indicate if you plan to call to follow up," she says.

Forget the Hype

"Many people write what I call the 'leaps tall buildings in a single bound' letter," Christine says. "That's when you tell the company all the wonderful things you will do when they hire you."
Enthusiasm is great, but let's not overdo it. You need to allow the reader to draw his or her own conclusions about you based on your track record.

Also, don't throw all your wonderful personality traits into a long list. Look for ways to present them indirectly…again show, don't tell.

Christine says that while you could have the perfect background and everything an employer is looking for, you might not get an acknowledgment from every application you fill out.

"People get frustrated and can't figure out how to get past that," she says.

Just remember to keep thinking positively. You can do this. You will get back on your feet again.

- – Copyright 2009 -




Quoted in an article in Crain’s Chicago Business
By Shia Kapos and Rita Pyrillis


New hires weigh sinking feeling that it's all wrong against sense of obligation, dread of failure

Justin Ahrens knew as soon as the elevator doors opened at his new job that he had made a mistake in leaving his own business to work for someone else.
"I thought I was going to vomit. Nothing felt right. People were saying, 'How are you? How's it going?' and 'Glad to see you.' What do you say to that? 'Hate to see you?' " recalls the graphic designer, who had landed at a design firm after facing financial troubles running his own company.
To make matters worse, Mr. Ahrens was guest of honor at a welcome reception with co-workers that first day. "I had a doughnut, went to my office and closed the door. I put my head on the desk and thought, 'What have I done?' "
Mr. Ahrens, who prides himself on keeping commitments, felt he owed it to his wife and four children and the friend who recommended him to stick it out on the job. But after 30 days, he knew it would never be right.
"I realized I was beyond the position and that I needed to slug it out to make things work in my own company," says Mr. Ahrens, 35.
It took two more weeks to get up the nerve to tell the company's vice-president. As he expected, it didn't go well. "It was a horrible experience," he says. "They thought I was a flake."
Mr. Ahrens is among the legions of "quick quits," employees who decide to leave a job soon after beginning it. For the employee, the quick quit has ramifications beyond the short time spent on the job.
In the long term, it can be a catalyst for finding a career that brings happiness. Mr. Ahrens went on to buck up his struggling company, Geneva-based design firm Rule 29. "Looking back, I think it was one of the greatest things that could have happened," he says. "I re-did the way I run my own company. . . . We're doing better work and are more stable than we've ever been."
In the short term, though, it can wreak havoc on a psyche. Employees are often distraught over making the wrong decision and stressed out about searching for the "right" job — again. The experience is seldom discussed with friends or family because there's a sense of failure. And it's almost never revealed on a résumé or in a future job interview.

"It happens more than you'd think," says Anna Marie Buchmann, a consultant with RHR International Co., a Wood Dale-based management psychology firm that works with companies in improving people skills. But it's difficult to say how often, because people usually don't talk about it.
"It's embarrassing," she says, "because you thought you were making an intelligent decision."

It's not unusual for someone to quit quickly once in their career, Ms. Buchmann and other career counselors say. If it's a pattern, however, then there are likely other issues.
"You can make one mistake, but if it happens again, you have to examine your sources of satisfaction and feelings of confidence. It also means you have to do your homework on a company and get a better sense of its culture" before accepting a job, she says.

Sometimes, you simply can't see the whole picture during the interview, says Christine Dennison, a Chicago job-search coach. "Companies put their best face on, but not until you're there do you realize your boss is psychotic or something else is wrong. You can look for other opportunities in the company, but usually that doesn't happen.
"People feel trapped because it was most likely a tough job search to begin with, and now they feel they have no choice but to stay."

Career counselors recommend that job candidates talk to would-be peers, or to direct reports if it's a management job, to get a better sense of the culture. And they recommend candidates take a lesson from interviewers and come prepared with a list of their own questions, such as "Why is the position available?" "What are the short-term expectations vs. the long-term expectations?" and "What are the priorities of the job?"
But once a mistake has been made, career coaches and hiring executives say life is too short to stress yourself out and try to slog through.
Ms. Dennison recalls a co-worker from her days in the financial services industry.
"She took a position that seemed fabulous — great company and great pay. But the month she started, a (company) scandal hit the media and she had to decide whether to ride it out. She tiptoed away and never put it on her résumé," Ms. Dennison says. "For most situations, there's an unofficial grace period of a couple of months where you can pretend it didn't happen."
But the experience doesn't always disappear from an employee's track record.
"In a lot of fields, it's a small world — everyone knows everyone else. In Chicago, it's one degree of separation," Ms. Buchmann says. If questions arise about the short job experience, it may be best to face it head on.
"Say it wasn't a good match," she says. "But it's critical not to cast aspersions. People are more understanding than you'd think."
Sometimes companies share the blame, especially if they drop the ball as soon as new employees walk through the door. After the initial round of handshakes and welcomes, they may forget to stay engaged with the new hire, says Keith Swenson, managing partner of Capital H Group in Chicago, a consulting firm that helps companies figure out how to avoid employee turnover.
"It can be discouraging for a new employee," he says. "When you bring people in, do you 'onboard' them in a way that makes them feel comfortable? Or do you plop them in a desk and say, 'Hey, figure it out'?"
Ms. Buchmann recalls a company that hired a college graduate into a program that offered experience in three areas of the company before sending them on to graduate school. The company sent the new candidate overseas, but then he quit within weeks.
"The company didn't know that when this man was in school, he went home every weekend," she says. "He had a strong support system and couldn't work in an environment where he didn't have that support. So he quit."

Sarah Wortman, marketing vice-president at VOA Associates Inc., a Chicago architecture firm, quit a job fast after a confluence of personal events.
About 12 years ago, she took a producer job at a radio production company, doing media tours and setting up client interviews with radio personalities. The position paid straight commission and offered no insurance, but that didn't matter to Ms. Wortman. She was excited to land the job, and her husband already had insurance that covered them both.
But two weeks after she started, her husband learned he would have to quit his full-time job to finish his psychotherapy degree. And Ms. Wortman was offered a position by a company she had interviewed with earlier — and this job had insurance.
"I went to the employer who hired me and said, 'I'm very sorry, but this unusual chain of events happened and I wanted to tell you as soon as I could so you could look at other candidates,' " says Ms. Wortman, 49.
"They were obviously a little irritated and disappointed," and she felt she had put the friend who recommended her in a bad position. "I had led them to believe I wanted to work there, and it was true at the time," she says. "But my priorities had changed."
Fast forward to 2007, and it was Ms. Wortman on the other side of the desk hearing her new marketing communications assistant say the job wasn't right for her.
Ms. Wortman was surprised and "a bit put out." But she also found herself reliving the stress she had felt when she had to quit suddenly.
"It was interesting talking to her when she was telling me she was leaving. She was surprised that I understood," Ms. Wortman says. "But I knew how hard it was for her to tell me because I'd had to do it, too."
©2007 by Crain Communications Inc.


The Chicago Tribune, Business Section

Dennison Career Services featured in the "My Biggest Mistake" series

"I failed to tell them what they would be receiving"

Fifteen years ago I decided to take my corporate experience and apply it to a resume-writing and job-search coaching business.

Having spent the previous eight years working with corporate clients as a headhunter (and reading thousands of resumes), I knew the ins and outs of career-path choices and the hiring process. Before being a headhunter, I had worked in business operations, training, marketing and promotions. I've always been interested in organizational dynamics and structure, and I was confident that I would be very successful.

When I decided to set up my own business, my strategy was to have resume-writing as the core service that would lead to selling other services. Although people could use my services for just the resume, my hope was they would like those services so much that they would hire me to help coach them through the rest of the job-search process.

A big mistake early on in my business was to assume that my clients would automatically understand (and love) the results that I produced. Instead, although my clients liked my writing, they were concerned that their resumes didn't look like all the other long-winded, detailed ones they had seen.

The reason I started my business was that I knew how much everyone struggles to translate their experience into a winning resume. Resume technique, like everything else in business, has changed over the years. What many people learned early in their career about what you should and shouldn't have in a resume no longer applies.

When clients came to me for that first meeting, I was focused on their history -- finding out what I needed to know about their background to help craft a resume that would effectively tell their career story. I would probe their career history and their current situation, digging for accomplishments and how they made a difference.

What I failed to do was to tell them the details about the product they would be receiving. Instead of explaining that a good resume is a snapshot, not a detailed report, I assumed they knew. It was a huge error. My clients thought they were buying one product, and I was selling them something else.

When the clients returned to go over their resume, instead of being thrilled, their reaction was, "This is great, but ... uh, it's so short."

These new resumes showed their skills, career progression and results but almost no job description information. I then had the challenge of educating them in the new techniques of resume writing -- changing their assumptions -- instead of talking to an eager client about using more of my services.

When I changed my process and took the time to explain what their resume would look like and what information it would contain, I found that I was getting almost 100 percent acceptance of the work. It became much easier for us to put our heads together to finalize the resume.

My original business plan now worked. Within a year, I tripled the number of resume clients who stayed with me for job search coaching services.

I've learned that assuming people understand your service can be a costly error. Getting a client to "buy into" what you're doing is critical to building any business relationship -- an important lesson learned.

---Copyright 2004 Chicago Tribune---

Newsletter Article
Splendid Torch

When you’re ready to start your job search . . .

Where's the Greener Grass?

Guest Writer & Career Coach, Christine Dennison

Ideas can come from anywhere – your industry journals, general interest magazines, the newspapers (don’t overlook the small local papers), Crain’s Chicago Business, friends, clubs. Keep your mind open to identifying interesting people and companies to target.

Don't limit yourself to what's "hot" at the moment. There are always people and companies that are running counter to the trends. Great careers can still be found in traditional departments and mature industries. Also, companies that are basically strong but having some current turmoil can be a good place to make your mark.

There's no such thing as job security anymore. Nowadays, all you can do is be ready to make your moves on your terms. If you keep looking for the "perfect company" to spend the rest of your working life in, you'll find yourself unemployed. Instead, look for a company that's a good match for your style and speed, and make the most of your time there.

Scan the classifieds and the Internet. Yes, I know it's boring and frustrating, but it will also give you ideas. Don't feel it's a complete waste of time to respond to ads -- some people do actually get jobs that way. Don't spend a lot of time on it, but also look at the ads beyond just your category. Look for company information that sounds intriguing. The important point is to make this a part of your search, not all of it.

Use the Internet as a great source of information, but remember that your search isn't going to be successful until you're talking to human beings -- if you just post your résumé and wait for the phone to ring, you're not going to get very far.

Networking. Amazingly enough, our greatest success is achieved through relationships with others, and networking is the path to creating the relationships that will help most in your job search. Networking is a scary, misunderstood concept, but if you realize that it’s nothing more than the exchange of information or services between individuals, groups or institutions, you can make it work for you. Most people think of networking as asking for help or favors or business from others. If, instead, you put your focus on offering information or help to others, you will find your network to be incredibly productive for you as well.

Get names. It's worth the time to dig so you can direct your résumé to specific people and proper titles whenever possible. Get names from articles, from company information, from directories, from everywhere, and then check them by calling the company. Send multiple copies of your résumé to the same company, hitting the Human Resource Department and other departments and levels.

Isn't HR a waste of time? No more or less than any other department. Take it from someone who's worked both sides -- there are HR people who are helpful, and there are those who get in the way, but don't ever treat them like they're something to get around. One point to keep in mind is that most HR departments are busy trying to fill current openings. If you get your résumé in front of other managers, too, you might inspire them to create a position or replace someone.

---Copyright 2003 Splendid Torch, Inc.---