I was really looking forward to our one-on-one resume appointment; after all, she’d been smiling and engaged all through the group presentation just a few days before. Adding to that positive first impression, she’d called ahead to advise me of a slight conflict with another appointment and respectfully asked to make a small change in our appointment time. (This kind of respect for other people’s schedules goes a long way). Finally, she’d also mentioned that she had, on her own, taken efforts to use the ideas I’d shared with the group; full marks on initiative and personal accountability!
So as I say, I was really looking forward to our meeting.
It started off well enough as she was on time, nicely dressed and there of course was the nice smile I’d remembered. As requested, she’d come prepared with a job she was interested in applying for too; a part-time Receptionist position with a local funeral home as it turned out. While she didn’t have a résumé and we were starting from scratch, she had obviously put pen to paper and with this data, it would be quicker to take what she’d put down and re-work and re-word things to fit the posting.
Ah, this was going to be a nice time together…probably just an hour I’d imagined.
After we had reviewed the job requirements from the posting, highlighting each one to make sure we’d note these somewhere on the résumé, I remarked that her last employment was some 7 years ago. “Why the gap?” I wondered to myself; so I asked.
“I took time off to start and raise a family…and I got a divorce.” Everything had been normal until she mentioned the word, ‘divorce’. In a seconds she was fighting for tears, looking expectedly around for a tissue, and not seeing the box behind her, was wiping away the tears from her eyes and apologizing profusely.
Instantly I realized the résumé could and would have to wait. This kind of thing happens more often than people might think. Years of working with people have taught me a number of things, and one is that for someone to break down so quickly at the mere mention of divorce suggested to me it was fresh, the rawness still very new, and yes, there was the distinct possibility she’d been on the receiving end of some kind of abuse.
As it turned out, it was a case of past abuse, for when asked if she had someone she might talk to about her experience, she mentioned she was seeing a Counsellor provided through a local women’s shelter. The mere mention of the shelter told me enough, as I wasn’t the right person nor was this the right time to have a counselling session. Still, it costs nothing to give someone your full attention and pause, assuring them that its okay to express their feelings.
I wondered if this woman was ready to work. I mean, it’s extremely probable that she’s going to be asked about the 7 year employment gap on her résumé in an interview, and would she share to them what she shared with me, and would this repeat itself anew?
When I very gently asked if she was ready to work, she said that she had original been thinking about volunteering to get going again, but the part-time job appealed to her as she hoped it would be through the day so she could still take care of and see her 3 children. “How silly of me though! I think I should just forget the job and look at volunteering somewhere.”
This could be a classic response of someone who was told things like, “No one will ever hire you” or, “You’ll never make it without me” etc., so it was really important to point out a couple of things to boost her fragile self-esteem. First of all, she was still sitting with me and wanted to do a résumé, which while she had broken down, she hadn’t gathered up her things and bolted for the door. So it was important to her. Secondly, she had the skills required for the posting; and if granted an interview, she’d feel good knowing the résumé worked. If she got a job through the interview, it would bring added stress – but good stress, and if she didn’t get the job, she’d be no worse off for the experience.
Well we finished that resume together, and near the end, I again pointed out some positives. The smile was back on the face for the world to see, and she genuinely liked how we had marketed herself on the résumé which made her happy.
When you work with people in this field, it’s key to remember that the agenda you have all nicely laid out shouldn’t be so rigid that its importance outweighs the people sitting before you. While not a formal counselling session, this had been more than a résumé appointment.
This interaction highlights the difference between working solely with a résumé expert and a resume expert who works in the context of serving people first and foremost. Total cost for the 1 1/2 hour resume/listening/support/self-esteem repairing session? Zip.
For the record, I share not to get any praise or accolade. I share to highlight and remind us who work with people that establishing and nurturing a trusting relationship will take you places while remaining detached will have you wondering why your resumes don’t turn into jobs.