Updating Your Resume? Get Professional Help

Photo Credit: ResumeWay Flickr via Compfight cc

The Internet is packed with articles for and against hiring professional resume writers. Some say you can do it yourself or that hiring a resume writer is too expensive. Others say professional resume writers are more up to date on keywords and formatting and are able to provide better focus and structure to the average resume.

The bottom line is if you’ve spent hours and hours updating your resume and are not getting responses from prospective employers, if you’re over 50 and haven’t updated your resume in years or if you have unusual circumstances such as career gaps, then it’s time to think about hiring a professional.

But How Do You Choose the Right One?

Google “professional resume writers” and you’ll get more than 10 million results, which can be a bit overwhelming. Never fear. There are ways to find the right agency/professional to meet your needs—and your budget. Here are a few ideas.

  • Query your LinkedIn groups or connections. I belong to about a dozen groups on LinkedIn. They are great resources for learning more about your field of expertise. Choose a group that is active (i.e., with recent posts) and post a query like this: Have you ever used a professional resume writer? If so, do you have any recommendations? LinkedIn and personal referrals will always be your best bet as a starting place.
  • Read Yelp reviews. Yelp is a great resource for finding everything local. Type “resume writer” into the search bar and select your location; you may get several hits worth reviewing.
  • Get help from your alma mater. Most universities offer career services. Call yours and see if they either offer free resume writing services or can refer you to a reputable service. There is no statute of limitations on how long after graduating you can take advantage of the free services provided by your university.
  • Check out professional resume writer associations. The two I know about are The National Resume Writers’ Association and the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches. They both offer rigorous certification programs for resume writers. If you conduct an “Easy Search” with the NRWA, you can get listings of resume writers in your field.

How Much Does It Cost?


By kolijoriverhouse (http://kolijoriverhouse.com/dollar-sign/) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Certified professional resume writers are not cheap. Depending on your career level (recent grad vs. executive level), a professional rewrite of your resume can run anywhere from $250 to $1,000. High-level executives are even more. I checked the fees of six certified professionals and their fees were about $250 to $500 for professional, non-managerial resumes. Another service, which I did not include in my results, started at $1,295. Forget about that one. 

It’s important to note that resumes are no longer just a listing of your responsibilities at each job. A well-written resume is an effective marketing tool that comes with a strong summary and includes just the right keywords for the position you’re seeking. They also need to pass the applicant tracking system (ATS) test. Most larger companies use ATS software to conduct an initial screen. A resume that doesn’t pass an ATS screening may never be seen by human eyeballs! Don’t let it be yours.

What Should You Get for What You Pay?

A standard resume writing package should include:

  • An initial consultation
  • A first draft within a reasonable amount of time (3 to 5 business days is reasonable)
  • At least a couple of revisions (one company I looked at set a 1-week deadline for the revisions)
  • The final product in Word so you can tweak it

When interviewing your prospective resume writer, be sure to get referrals. Make sure you check out samples of their work, and if they’re certified, double-check that it’s current.

I got lucky. I went with an online service called TopResume. (They have received mixed reviews. Therefore, I don’t feel comfortable recommending them even though I had a good experience.) Their rates are less than $200 for a professional-level rewrite with two revisions. Their turnaround time was about 2 days. I really liked the Summary they wrote and the Areas of Expertise section they added. So, a service such as Top Resume is another option, but you are taking your chances.

For me, the important thing was the results. Before getting my resume rewritten, I wasn’t getting any calls. After buying the service, I began to get calls the same week I uploaded the finished product to job board sites. In other words, if it works, just do it.

Posted in Career, Get a Job | Tagged , | 1 Comment

What Is Running at the Speed of Life About?


This image is an excerpt from my vision board. It represents what I aspire to (except the kids. Those are my nephews. I love them and envision getting to spend more time with them). Love, gratitude, two cats and a crazy puppy I already have. I live outside of Chicago. I’m working on the book. The country home with a barn and horses have yet to be realized.

My vision board represents one of the many tips and tools I intend to share with you on my newly revamped blog. You can read more about my blog here. Thank you. I hope you keep coming back.

Posted in Blogging, Career, Lifestyle | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

‘Have You Ever Heard of Elton John?’

While I was shopping at my local grocery–not the big chain, but the little neighborhood store that has great deals on meat–an old Elton John song was playing in the background. I started singing along absentmindedly while waiting for the late-teens, early-20s cashier to ring up my purchases. When I realized I’d been singing to the music, I tried to cover my embarrassment by asking the young lady if she knew the song. She shook her head.

“Of course not,” I said. “This song came out when I was a teenager.” (Actually, I was 10 when “Bennie and the Jets“* was released.) “Heck, I think it came out before I was a teenager,” I joked. She just stared at me and smiled, waiting for me to hand her my card.

Elton John“Have you ever heard of Elton John?” I asked, thinking maybe she’d at least heard the name, if she wasn’t familiar with the music. She shook her head again as she handed me my receipt.

“Well, he was this really famous musician once upon a time. Long before hip hop had ever even been heard of,” I said, laughing. She smiled and thanked me for stopping in. I grabbed my shopping bags and left the store to the sounds of Elton John wailing about electric boots and mohair suits…feeling a little creaky.

* The YouTube link is a version of “Bennie and the Jets” that includes lyrics! Confession time: I had no idea he was singing about a fatted calf and duking it out with our parents in the streets to find out who’s right and who’s wrong…learn something new every day!

Posted in Humor, Music | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

Email Scams Are Getting More Sophisticated

Photo by Túrelio, available under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike license. Some rights reserved.

Identity theft on the Internet is just as real as somebody smashing in your car window to steal your wallet. Sometimes the online damage can be worse.

Scam artists thrive during tough economic times like these. I recently almost got taken in by one of them.

After spending the past three years trying to get my business off the ground, I’ve decided to go back to work. It’s a tough economic climate right now, so I’ve been broadening my horizons, as it were. I saw a few customer service representative listings on Craigslist. After my experience with the unnamed international shipping company and because I need to pay my rent, I thought, why not? The work can’t be too difficult. I’ve worked on phones before. It’ll do for now.

So, I applied to three different CSR jobs. A few days later I received an email from what I thought was one of the companies. (Two of the ads were blind ads without specific company or contact information.) The email included a link to a legitimate website, listed a legitimate address and requested that I complete a pre-screening survey.

No Immediate Red Flags

I followed the instructions in the email, answered the survey questions and attached another copy of my resume. The alleged “HR” person wrote that I would be contacted within 72 hours of completing the survey.

Sure enough, within 72 hours I received an email from “Carole” telling me I had passed the pre-screening and could come into the office either the following Monday or Wednesday for orientation! Yay! Now I just needed to provide a couple of more pieces of information and click on the link in the email to conduct a “soft” credit check, after which I would be required to send only the reference number to the credit check, not the actual report, to another gentleman in the company.

Although red flags were starting to go off in my head, I was still prepared to move forward with the process. Fortunately for me, I’m a stickler for details and wanted to know some little piece of information that was not provided in the email, so I went to what I thought was the company website to get the phone number (there was no contact number in the email; the correspondence had strictly been electronic). Imagine my surprise when I find a big read headline at the top of the homepage: “Beware of Telegenisys-jobs.com.” Now, I was seeing red flags AND hearing warning sirens…

Danger, Danger

It turns out the scammers set up a dummy email account on telegenisys-jobs.com and when people responded to their phony Craigslist ad, they sent out emails with links to an outsourcing company called Telegenisys.com! The business website was legitimate, but the emails about the job were not! According to comments on the company’s blog, the fake ads were running on Craigslist and Monster.com all over the country.

I dodged a bullet. I’m sure other people weren’t so lucky and may have become identity theft victims. Fortunately, it sounds as if the scam was nipped in the bud pretty quickly by the legitimate company (which was getting phone calls about these nonexistent customer service jobs).

I consider myself to be web savvy and reasonably intelligent. But I’ve just learned you can never be too careful. Always verify the legitimacy of the company and the site’s security (look for that little lock icon on the bottom right corner of your monitor) before ever giving out personally identifying information such as social security number or checking account or credit card information.

Protect Yourself Against Identity Theft

Here are a few links for more information on ways to avoid identity theft and what to do in case it happens to you.

  • Federal Trade Commission is the official government agency that regulates Internet commerce.
  • Dunn County News Article is kind of obscure, but it provides good information. I wrote the article last year after reading a police report about a college student who was allegedly scammed when trying to get a car loan on the Internet.
  • Protect Yourself for Free An article in the Chicago Tribune suggests you don’t have to pay for credit monitoring services–you can do it yourself.
Posted in Career, Resources | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Baby Boomers Can Be Hard to Win Over, But…

I track what people say about baby boomers on Twitter because, well, I’m a baby boomer and am writing a book about baby boomers and I’m basically just nosy. Lately, it seems like baby boomers are getting a bad rap!

I’ve seen tweets such as, “Baby boomers are dying from all sorts of diseases. Yeah!!!!!”  (sic) There are tweets about how we’re going to “flood” the healthcare system and bring Medicare and Medicaid to its knees.

C’mon! We’re not so bad. Haven’t you seen “The Big Chill”? Although we do represent a pretty large demographic, we are a diverse group and contribute a lot to the U.S. economy!

After reading several negative baby boomer tweets in a row, I came across a link to today’s editorial in the Le Mars, IA, Daily Sentinel. I chuckled and took heart when I read the following sentence: “[Baby boomers] may be savvy and egotistical, but [we] are also loyal and offer referrals to people who go out of their way to take care of [us].”

Even Laundry Detergent Earned My Loyalty

Bingo! And I am a living, breathing example of that sort of brand loyalty. For instance, when Surf laundry detergent first began to penetrate an already saturated market in the 198os, they sent me a free sample in the mail. It was the liquid version in a little plastic pouch. I let the sample sit around forever collecting dust until one day I was out of detergent, didn’t want to run out and get more, found the sample and thought I’d give this unknown brand a try.

It was the BEST detergent I’d ever used. Not only did my clothes come out cleaner than I’d ever seen them before, they smelled nice, too! From that one little direct-mail sample, I became a Surf fan forever–not because of clever TV ads (the World Wide Web didn’t even exist yet), but because of the quality of the product! I’d still be using Surf today if I could find it anywhere. None of the stores I shop at carry it anymore.

A Recent Experience Provides Anecdotal Proof

This week I had an experience with an international shipping company (ISC–not naming names in this case) that I believe is a PERFECT example of what the editorial is getting at: Baby boomers may be nitpicky and hard to please, but when you do your best to provide exemplary service, you will earn our loyalty–sometimes, even when you screw up!

The following is a message I sent to this company, commending them for their great service–in spite of a small, but costly, error. This company will now be the first one I think of for all my shipping needs.

Note: The text is exactly as I submitted it; I deleted the company name ’cause I’d hate to get in trouble for publicizing the company’s name in this sort of forum. Who knows, I might wind up working for the company someday.


Letter from a Satisfied Dissatisfied Customer

Hey [ISC]-

Because of an overnight delivery SNAFU, I got to experience the most exceptional level of customer service I have ever received from a company–ever. And, as a service-oriented professional,  I do not say this lightly.

Here’s what happened: My [relative who shall remain nameless] overnighted an envelope to me via ISC. I was supposed to receive it this morning. I am a guest at a dear friend’s home. She has 3 dogs. Every time I heard the dogs bark, starting at about 8 am, I was at the front door looking for your [delivery vehicle]. This was a very important delivery that my entire day’s schedule hinged upon.

By 11 am (and several trips to the front door later–the dogs bark a lot at NOTHING), no delivery. So I tracked the envelope online (it was a very simple process, thanks to your well-organized website) [Standard of Excellence (SE) 1] and it was noted as “delivered.”

Because it was important that I get this envelope as early as possible in order to get the things done today that I needed to get done, I immediately called your 800 number and after just 2-3 voice prompts (SE2)  I was speaking to a real, live person who sounded as if she could be my neighbor, rather than from an out-sourced call center…. (SE3)

Her name was [Marcia]. She listened attentively without interrupting (SE4), grasped the problem right away (SE5) and offered a quick solution (SE6). She told me the driver would be contacted and asked for a number where I could be reached.

I continued to pace and respond to the barking dogs for another 1.5 hours or so. When the driver showed up at about 1:30 pm, he was clearly perplexed, b/c he knew he had made the delivery but didn’t recall this particular address. He told me he was going to check the truck and backtrack, that maybe he had delivered to the wrong address.

Well, that’s exactly what happened. Turns out he left the envelope across the street at 8:30 am (which would have changed the entire trajectory of MY day if I had actually received the delivery at that time).

The driver was sincerely sorry. I could see it in his eyes. He really felt bad, b/c he could tell how upset I was (that tiny little mistake basically screwed up my whole day).

Still pretty pissed off (not at the driver, not really even at ISC, but at the situation) I called your 800 number again. This time I was able to get through to customer service after only one or two voice prompts (SE7). I spoke with a young lady named [Jan]…who, like Marcia, listened attentively and with great compassion (SE8) and without interrupting let me vent for a couple of minutes my tale of woe and said repeatedly how she understood and that if it had been her, she would have felt the same way.

I requested at least a partial credit for the delivery charge, ’cause, regardless of how nice and professional everybody was that I came in contact with, a mistake was made that pretty much screwed up my whole day (but it’s to YOUR benefit, ’cause I now have the time to write this lengthy email). 😉

Again, Jan was VERY understanding and kind. She put me on hold after explaining that she was going to contact another department to try to issue a credit. (Turns out the invoice has not been generated yet, so Jan gave me an 800 number and politely (SE9) asked me to call that number in 5-7 business days to see about getting a credit.

So, I don’t even know yet what the outcome of this situation will be. Nevertheless, I am so impressed by the level of care and service I have received, I felt compelled to take the time to let you know that you have earned my respect and loyalty today–by making a mistake! Imagine that!

I guess it’s when things go wrong that a consumer can learn the true mettle of a company. You guys definitely earned points today. Jan even promised me that the driver would NOT get in trouble for his error (’cause that’s not the point, either).

If you have been working on continuous quality improvement with your frontline people, it definitely shows. You guys did a great job screwing up today.

Phoebe King
(A satisfied unsatisfied customer) 😉


Now how many Gen Xers or Millennials do you know who would go to all that trouble, eh? (No offense to either demographic–some of my best friends are younger than 40.) From MY baby boomer perspective, the Daily Sentinel got it right: I may be a tough sell, but if you treat me right and provide exceptional service I may become a fan for life.

Posted in Marketing, Musings | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Keeping It Short and Sweet

Hey Baby Boomers! When was the last time you called your mom or dad just to say, “I love you”? They love to hear from you–even if they act like they don’t!

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Parenting My Parents: A Baby Boomer’s Tale

Part I. Money Woes

My mom’s phone call, asking for help, was the day my parents began to give up their independence. Although I don’t remember the day or what I was doing at the time, I will never forget the call itself, because my mom had a terrible habit of not wanting to “be a bother.” (Here’s an extreme example of what I mean: I didn’t find out about my mom’s radical mastectomy until she was recovering from the surgery in her hospital room. When I asked her why she didn’t let me know about the operation ahead of time, she said, “I didn’t want to be a bother.” But that’s another story for another time.)

Dealing with Harassing Phone Calls

In this case, Mom told me she was calling for help because she knew she was getting “forgetful” and didn’t know how to deal with the harassing phone calls from creditors. (She was eventually diagnosed with cerebral atrophy, which had a big effect on her ability to manage the household and day-to-day living.)

My mom retired at age 81 after a successful career as a surgeon that spanned more than five decades. My father, 95 years old at the time, had started an organic farming business on my parents’ beautiful 96-acre farmstead in Michigan after retiring as a deputy marshal when he was about 78 years old.

Unbeknownst to me, my parents had decided to re-mortgage the property and had taken on a ton of credit card debt in the previous couple of years in order to keep the farming business afloat. These decisions put a lot of pressure on their finances after my mom got laid off from her job at a local community hospital. They were living off of Social Security checks and my mom’s modest pension when the debt load started to become too much to bear.

By the time my mom picked up the phone to ask for help, the bills coming in were staggering. My parents had fallen behind on making even minimum payments, so the interest rates on these major, very popular, credit cards had skyrocketed upwards of 29 percent on cards that were carrying high balances. I remember crying as I went over those statements. I was also angry at the credit card companies for taking advantage of my elderly parents and allowing them to take on so much debt at that stage in their lives.

The First Step: Asking for Help

But I’m getting ahead of myself. It would take many months and the hand-holding of a dear friend who is also an accountant and the assistance of an attorney before we unraveled the entire mess. I spent several weeks at the farm that summer, sorting through piles of unpaid bills, cleaning out the refrigerator filled with spoiled food and basically helping my parents get their affairs in order. The transition from rural farm life to assisted living in an urban setting was not far off at that point.

On that fateful day, however, I had no idea of the depth and breadth of the financial trouble my parents were in–I remember speculating that it must be pretty horrible, though, in order to induce my kind, but reluctant, mother to pick up the phone. Our conversation went something like this:

Me: Hi, Mom, how are you?

Mom: Well, honey, we’re not doing so well and I don’t know what to do! The phone has been ringing day and night and we can’t pay our bills and I haven’t been able to find a job…I guess I’m calling to ask for your help.

Me: [after taking a moment to retrieve my jaw, which had dropped to the floor] Of course, Mom. I will do everything I can.

To be continued.

Warning Signs that Your Parents May Need Help

According to the Financial Planning Association, money mismanagement is just one of many signs that may indicate the need for children to step in and help their aging parents. Elderly people also are prone to fall prey to financial scams, may purchase inappropriate financial products, engage in compulsive gambling and become victims of financial abuse by caregivers or family members, according to the FPA.

Finances are just one indicator that something is amiss and that adult children may need to begin parenting their parents. Marye Audet lists a number of signs to watch for.

Transitioning from daughter to caregiver was a long, sometimes difficult, road, and I am the first to admit that I made many mistakes along the way. After researching resources for this article, however, I am very grateful that my mom was still lucid enough to recognize there was a problem and willing enough to ask for help.

Many adult children are not as fortunate. How do you address role reversal with parents who insist they don’t need your help? Here are a few links I came across that explore this very topic.

And, finally, Boomer Books provides a number of checklists and forms to help you decide whether it’s time to intervene and become a parent to your parents.

Posted in Caregiving, Family, Resources | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

You Know You’re a Baby Boomer If…

  • you remember when you actually had to DIAL a telephone.
  • you remember having to get up and walk across the room if you wanted to change the channel on the TV.
  • you watched film strips in grade school during which the teacher is prompted to advance the slide by a “ding” sound.
    The Kenner Close ‘n Play phonograph played 45 rpm records and was all the rage in the ’50s and ’60s.
  • you had a Close ‘n Play.
  • you’ve seen every episode of The Brady Bunch (from 9/1969 to 3/1974) at least two times.
  • you participated in “duck and cover” drills in grade school in case of a nuclear attack.
  • you know what thisimage of 45 RPM adapter is used for.
  • you recited “The Pledge of Allegiance” at least once a week.
  • your baby teeth were worth somewhere between a nickel and a quarter.
  • your favorite songs were on “45s” and the “B” side always sucked.
  • the family car didn’t have safety belts–at least not in the back seat and DEFINITELY not in the “way back” seat (station wagons).
  • you thought the transistor radio was a really big deal.
  • cigarettes were still cool when you were a kid…and you remember when they were advertised on TV.
  • you were not a Boston Celtics fan, you knew you were pretty much SOL.
  • you loved “Laugh-In“–even if you were too young to get the jokes.
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Memories of Mom: Sunday Morning Pancakes

My mom’s been gone for a little over two years and I still experience twinges of grief at odd moments. I’ll hear a piece of classical music on the radio that reminds me of her, or a scene from a movie will spark a totally random, long-forgotten memory.

Shortly after she died I found myself making pancakes all the time–without even thinking about it. I’ve been known to go through phases with favorite foods. I’ll eat a lot of some sweet, carbohydrate-rich food for a period of time until I get sick of it and move onto something else–or abstain. It dawned on me during a carboholic pancake-craving moment that one of my fond memories of Mom from when I was little was Sunday morning pancake breakfasts.

Vera and Phoebe, circa. 1964, admiring a blue spruce in the backyard.

Mom and me in the backyard, circa. 1964

Mom, who was not a very good cook by most accounts, would make these amazingly light and fluffy pancakes on the Sunday mornings she didn’t have to work. She would get up pretty early–or maybe I just got up late. Whenever I heard her singing along with the radio–the local classical music radio station must have had an opera program on Sunday mornings–and smelled bacon sizzling, and sometimes burning, in the pan, I knew my brothers and I were in for a treat.

I’d go downstairs and perch myself on the stool next to the stove, watching her work. Mom would dip a soup ladle in the thick, slightly lumpy batter and carefully pour just enough onto the griddle to make perfectly round flapjacks that would bubble up with tiny little air pockets when it was time to flip them over. I’m sure I pestered her every time in the way little kids are so good at: “Are you going to make my animal pancakes, Mom?” I’d ask, even though I don’t ever remember a time when she didn’t. She’d smile and tell me to go set the table.

After using up most of the batter for the traditional, round flapjacks, she always made a few special pancakes for me in the shape of animals. She had the most success with bears, but she also tried making lions and elephants, too. That little gesture went a long way in making me feel special.

Posted in Caregiving, Family | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Can a Song Put Your Life in Perspective?

Quick: What’s the first thing you think of when you hear Vanilla Ice? A frozen dessert on a stick? A refreshing summer sorbet? A famous ice sculpture?

For me, it’s “Ice Ice Baby,” the white rapper’s signature hip-hop song that exploded onto pop charts in 1990–a mere 20 years ago. The video is available here.

I was 27 years old the summer “Ice Ice Baby,” with its heavy sampling of one of my favorite songs–“Under Pressure,” by Queen and David Bowie–hit the charts. I had just moved back to Chicago after having spent the previous three years in Colorado as a ski bum. Unlike most of my peers, who followed a typical U.S. middle-class trajectory (college, career, marriage–not necessarily in that order), I was still “finding my way.” But I was definitely, by most people’s standards, what would be considered an adult.

So, when I read the following post on a friend’s Facebook wall this morning I suddenly felt…uh, mature:  “Another song I LOVED when I was little was Vanilla Ice–Ice Ice baby. My grandparents have it on video!!” I was, like, “when I was little?” “GRANDPARENTS?!” OMGawd, I’m a fossil!

I’m exaggerating, of course. I jokingly posted on my friend’s wall that the comment made me feel ooooold, but I know I’m not really a fossil–yet. Nevertheless, the wall post did get me thinking about the music I was listening to when I was little, and it sure as hell wasn’t rap!

I grew up mostly on folk and classical music. My parents’ record collection (neither cassette tapes nor DVDs had been invented yet, let alone the doomed 8-track tape) included Pete Seeger; Big Bill Broonzy; The Weavers; Peter, Paul and Mary–stuff like that.

My first-ever album was Peter and the Wolf, a story by Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev. He created a classical  piece in which various instruments represented different characters in the story. I think the album we had was the version performed by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Leonard Bernstein conducting, from 1960.  Rap was not even part of the music industry’s vernacular until the mid- to late 1970s!

So, when somebody posts on a popular social networking site that one of her favorite songs when she was a kid and that her grandparents have on video came out when YOU were in your 20s or 30s…does it make you feel old? I think it sparked a bit of nostalgia for me–and gratitude that my parents and siblings exposed me to different kinds of music that eventually led me to rock ‘n’ roll, R&B, soul music and jazz.

As for the grandparents who have “Ice Ice Baby” on video? I think they sound pretty hip!

Posted in Lifestyle, Musings, Social Networking | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments