They say, “Like father, like son…” My late father, Arthur Cooper, was a practicing New Orleans psychotherapist whose profession involved individual psychiatric counseling, psychiatric social work, crisis intervention, and group therapy. Although many people over the years he was alive and after he passed, expressed to me how much he had helped them, I recall that I never desired to go into psychology or psychiatry. However, I have now found that as a professional resume writer and career coach, I am currently, in many instances, doing essentially the same thing my father was doing decades ago.
Most of my clients are perfectly happy, well-adjusted overachievers who are simply exploring ever-greater rewards and career advancement. After all, my services are not insubstantial in price. A fairly typical client of mine would be a Pharmaceutical Sales Representative making $85,000 per year who is paying me $500 to craft a resume to gain another $20,000 in base salary by hopping to a better firm.
But in today’s volatile and rocky economy, I have seen an increasing subset of my practice that consists of the underemployed or unemployed, those struggling with poor paying jobs who are finding it difficult to make ends meet, those who have been jettisoned by brutal downsizing, those who have been forced into the job market by evaporated 401ks, hurricane victims who lost everything and haven’t had a successful rebuilding process, or those who are simply down and out for a variety of reasons.
These clients find me mainly through referrals, often from a friend or relative who has successfully used my resume writing and career coaching services to get a new job or promotion, and then recommending that they pay me a visit. At one time, I seemed to get many more women than men who came to my office in a state of depression, but the current wave of desperate jobseekers now knows no gender, no average age, and no one story line.
Sometimes it is a student who has just amassed $150,000 in student loans at a prestigious university, only to find that an M.B.A. and two dollars will get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks. Or a semi-retired Baby Boomer who had a sizable nest egg scrambled in the stock market plunge. Or a divorcee who is seeking a job after parting paths with a primary breadwinner. Several have been former business owners whose firm bit the dust in the recent recession and are back on the job market. You get the idea.
Many of these folks, in desperate straits, seem to be socially isolated, often abandoned by fair-weather friends who act as if career and financial woes are contagious, and thus, they have no one else to relate to. In just the past 8 weeks alone, I’ve had no less than a half dozen clients, male and female, young and old, actually break down and cry in my office… and no, John Boehner is not a client! Not being trained in psychological counseling, as my father was, I attempt to do the best I can in such circumstances by providing an empathetic ear, showing concern with their plight, and giving them new tools and cause for hope.
I have been amazed that by simply giving them the latest methods to constructively improve their job search skills, creating a hard-hitting resume that elegantly highlights their value proposition, and pointing them in the direction of social networking and targeting the hidden job market, there is a dramatic and obvious improvement in their self-esteem.
Let’s face it, people who are depressed and desperate don’t make the best or most successful job candidates. As I said earlier, most of my clients are go-getters and high achievers. Their confidence and determination, influenced no doubt by a stable financial status and a network of colleagues and connections, allows them to pursue opportunities with zeal and optimism.
To start off, I let my less confident clients know that worrying about their perceived lack of qualifications, fretting about the competition, or focusing on how bad the economy is, just doesn’t help. I remind them that they only need one good job, I tell them how many other jobseekers would just love to have the background they have, and I help them to envision a clear path to a successful job search.
In many cases, I have found that by simply crafting their new resume, letting them see in black and white just how good they are, and thereby revealing accomplishments they never fully appreciated, their self-esteem begins to return. I recount accurate and encouraging examples of clients, often with similar or tougher challenges, who have recently landed a great new job and are now gainfully and happily employed.
The difference in my clients’ attitude, emotion, body language, and confidence, from when they first walk through my office door, depressed and down, to when they head out for their job search equipped with a great new resume and enhanced self-esteem, is the difference between day and night. So, perhaps I can say with some semblance of accuracy that, in counseling my clients and providing supportive resume writing assistance and career coaching, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.