Writing is like an onion.
Strike that. Writing is like a river. No, doesn’t feel right. Writing is like … well, something you have to peel back sometimes. And it’s also something that flows, sometimes beyond its banks, but can never really be stopped.
So maybe writing is like an onion river.
In any case, today’s #GirlsRock guest knows a very specific art of writing: The resume. That sneaky thing we prance about when we’re unhappy at work or … out of a job. It’s the key to everything, yet we often treat it as an afterthought.
Laurie parlayed a successful resume-writing business into a whole new enterprise.
She brings a passion for coaching others and putting us in a great spot during an often tumultuous time in our careers. Please give a warm CD welcome to Laurie James, and be sure to connect with her on LinkedIn.
Eli: When you were little, what did you think you’d grow up to be?
Laurie: When I was little, I thought I wanted to be a flight attendant for a popular airline. At the time, they were the most glamorous women in the workforce. At 5’0”, however, I didn’t meet the minimum height requirement. My career plans changed to fit my physical abilities!
Eli: I had no idea you had to be this tall to work on a plane! So what became Plan B?
Laurie: I finished with a Bachelor’s in Business Administration from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Since I was a fast typist, I began to pick up typing projects on the side for friends and neighbors. This quickly led to a full-time résumé writing career, and the rest is history!
Eli: Who was most influential in your career path?
Laurie: Five people stand out as influencers for my professional résumé writer career:
a) My father: I promised my father that I would finish college, as that was his dream for me. He had the foresight to steer me toward studying business, as he ran a family business for decades. His forte was merchandising, marketing and advertising. As we had similar interests, it made sense that I might have an aptitude for business as well. Earning a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration fulfilled the promise made to my father.
b) Mrs. Robertson, my English 101 college professor: My freshman year, I had earned a high enough score on my ACT to take honors English. However, my English 101 teacher, Mrs. Robertson, told me that I was a good writer, but that she could help me be a great writer! I took her advice and wrote every day in her class. She really pushed me hard to be the best I could be. I earned the highest grade in that class and have never looked back on the decision to learn more about the skill of writing.
c) Dr. Nelda Spinks, my technical writing professor: Senior year, Dr. Spinks introduced me to the art of résumé writing. She had a way of explaining nuances that made the craft seem easy. The craft of résumé writing is NOT easy, but I had a knack for it!! She gently encouraged me then, and she gently encourages me to this day … 35 years later!!
d) Pam Mammet, my mentor/colleague/friend: After college, I spent a year living in Los Angeles. I moved there without a job, so I needed a résumé soon after my plane landed. A local print shop had business cards for a résumé writer. The name on the card was Pam Mammet. I had moved to Los Angeles from Lafayette, La., without a job or a place to live. I called Pam that day, telling her that I had just moved from Louisiana and needed a résumé. Upon that chance meeting, I quickly learned that God works in mysterious ways.
God had put Pam in my path to help guide me in both my career and in my personal life. Pam quickly created an impressive résumé that got me an interview and a job in Los Angeles. When I returned to Lafayette, not knowing what career path to take, Pam encouraged me to write résumés. I started my résumé writing business with a typewriter and $200 in the bank. Pam gave me the confidence to pursue the dream of owning and operating my own business.
We collectively came up with the name “Just Your Type, Inc.” and my start-up résumé writing business was up and running in 1986.
e) My mother: Growing up, my Mom was a school teacher. What I noticed in my teen years and beyond was that my mom was a great listener who genuinely enjoyed helping others. When we visit in person, she often receives phone calls from people that have come into her life over the years. She’ll quickly indicate that people call her to “vent” or to share their problems with someone who won’t judge them, but who will listen and advise. As career coaching is integral to my business, I’m confident that my mother’s example of listening without judgment and honest feedback has helped me succeed in the career coaching aspect of my business.
I am grateful for the skills picked up from Mrs. Robertson, Dr. Spinks, and Pam Mammet. The best influencers, however, were my father and mother, who were always there as an example of how to live my life. I love each of these people, and am grateful for my life and livelihood!!
Eli: What are the biggest challenges of your job?
Laurie: The BIGGEST challenge of my career is not hearing my client’s success stories (of landing that next career position) that could be shared. When clients contact me, they are in crisis mode. My job is to get them out of crisis mode and ready for battle in a new job or career. The hiring process comes quickly, so the client doesn’t always think to let me know that they have progressed in their career. Sometimes I don’t hear from clients for months or even years, because a client won’t need me again until he/she needs to apply for a new job.
Then my process starts all over again.
Eli: When things are really going well for you in your career, what does that look like?
Laurie: The way I have designed my résumé writing business reflects the unique skills I was blessed with at birth. On a daily basis, I:
- Listen to what the client wants and needs;
- Coach the client through the tough situations that arise along the way;
- Execute/train the client how to identify and share their soft (people) skills so they will know what they can bring to a new job or career;
- Encourage the client to move ahead, even if they are scared to death (which is usually the case);
- Research what jobs and careers are available where they are looking
- Market the client on paper (résumé and cover letter) making sure that the document is put together creatively so it will be read
- Follow up to ensure they are getting proactive results from all of your efforts
- Network with family, friends, colleagues and business people to open doors
Additionally, as a sole practitioner, I am my own boss. I am in charge of every aspect of running a small business. I track the progress made with each client to ensure their maximum success rate and a positive referral base for myself.
I proactively and consistently find new clients on a daily basis. Since my practice is 32+ years old, I have built up a solid referral network. However, new people move in and out of our industry, and I consistently market my business.
Eli: Why did resume writing seem to fit your skill set so well?
Laurie: There’s a saying, “Practice what you preach!” I am definitely practicing what I preach and living my dream! I get to coach and mentor people from all walks of life, getting them to their next station in life. That may be a new job, a new career, building their confidence and skills to successfully negotiate a pay raise, conquering time management for a more balanced life, and getting to share my creative writing skills to inspire others in local, regional, national, and international publications!
Eli: Where do you hope to go from here, careerwise and in life?
Laurie: My next career move will likely be retirement … however, I don’t see that happening for a while!
Eli: What advice would you give women when it comes to following a career course?
Laurie: Identify the thing that God put on your heart to do … that one thing that you wake up every morning thinking about, go to sleep dreaming about and get excited about. When you identify that one thing, that’s what you were born to do. Don’t let money influence your career choice. It should be something you would gladly pay someone else to let you do!! When you can identify what that is, then you’ve found the career you were born to have!!