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Tell The Truth - Do You Need To Go To Confession?

September 10, 2009
by Gwen Darling
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Growing up Catholic, we had two kinds of sin - mortal sin and venial sin. In case you didn’t spend every Monday night of your life from kindergarten thru twelfth grade in CCD class (take that ARRA, HITECH, CHIME and all the rest of you acronyms), I’ll explain the difference. Venial sins were the little ones – the ones covered by statements like, “I promise I didn’t leave my tricycle in the driveway right where you told me not to when the telephone man ran over it,” or “nope, those aren’t my brussel sprouts hidden in the linen napkin under the couch cushion,” or a little further on down the road, “no Officer, I had no idea I was doing 63 in a 45.” Mortal sins, on the other hand, were the biggees. The official definition in our catechism book, as I recall, described them as a “grave matter.” I remember thinking that meant if I did commit a mortal sin, it would mean a life spent in that scary confessional booth, and since I was afraid of the dark I took great pains to stick to the lesser offenses.

So, other than being mildly educational, what can this introduction to the two types of transgressions possibly have to do with you? Well, I’ll tell you. After reviewing hundreds of resumes from Healthcare IT professionals, I have come to a painful, sweeping conclusion. Instead of gingerly broaching the topic, sugarcoating the hell out of it, and then tactfully letting you down gently, I’m just going to come out and say it: 99.9% of you are committing a mortal sin when you write your own resume. I know, it hurts. But I’ve thought about it, and think I know what has led you down this wayward path.

At this point in your career, you are an accomplished Healthcare IT professional. You’ve been there, done that, and have the certificate to prove it. Several certificates, actually. You’ve supervised, created, led, spearheaded, developed, implemented, budgeted, troubleshot, strategized, consulted, produced, guided, and negotiated. To get to your level of experience and expertise, you must possess the ability and the need to see and assimilate both the big picture and the minutest of detail. However, as I continue to receive 5-page resumes with attachments and addendums and links to even more information, it’s occurred to me – perhaps therein lies the problem. Due to the nature of your position, with its multiple layers, responsibilities, and required skill sets, it would be a very difficult task to pare it down to a manageable list of important bullet points. Especially for you, because in Healthcare IT, it’s all about the details. And this is just one position out of several that you need to tout, so it’s completely understandable why the document that needs to be Reader’s Digest-like turns into more like the Iliad, the Odyssey, and Your Resume.

Okay, it’s completely understandable. But now what? How’s a Healthcare IT professional with years of experience, a wealth of knowledge, and a slew of great accomplishments supposed to handle this natural tendency to cover her/his career from A to Z? This is where it gets simple. Hire a professional. But the good ones are expensive, and you can write, so why not do it yourself? There’s one answer to that question: Hire a professional.

Here’s why it’s worth it: Your resume is often your one and only chance to make a good first impression. The recruiters I talk to every day tell me that a typical resume gets 15 seconds to either warrant a phone call or the trash can. It is no exaggeration to say that your resume may very well be the single most important investment you can make when it comes to your career development. (Well, that and reading this blog.) Many recruiting firms and executive search consultants offer resume critiques and resume writing services to their job seeking clientele. You may very well know more than they do about the particular position you’re applying for, but they know more than you do about how to present yourself in the best possible light, so use their expertise for your benefit! If these services are not offered, if you’re applying for a position directly, or if you are currently employed and haven’t updated the last version of your resume, then I highly recommend hiring a professional resume writer who specializes in writing for Healthcare IT executives.

One such resume writer, Erin Kennedy, CPRW, CERW (who has offered to extend a discount to Healthcare Informatics readers, btw) offers this advice on her site:

“Always ask these questions before hiring a resume writer:

1. Are you a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW)? Does being certified really matter? YES, YES, YES! Before 1990, there wasn’t a standard to which a resume writer could be judged. Now, all CPRW candidates must go through a comprehensive set of tests before achieving certification. Testing consists of 4 modules that cover several areas including industry knowledge, resume knowledge, grammar/punctuation/spelling and proofreading, strategic thinking, content use, focus, ethics, and more. NOT EVERYONE PASSES. If you are not sure, you can check: or and check to see if the writer is certified. Advanced resume certifications are also available (CERW, MRW, CARW) and offer similar types of training followed by rigorous testing. Do your homework.

Think of it this way: would you want a Dentist to replace your crown or someone who “knows a lot about teeth”?

2. How long have you been writing resumes? There are so many mom-and-pop resume writing companies popping up out there that it is blowing my mind. Because of this recession, I’ve heard of many people who got into resume writing recently because they were laid off from their sales job and “was told by friends I can write a good resume.” While that may be true, writing two resumes and writing several hundred, or even a thousand are much better. Practice makes perfect. I am the first one to admit that when I first started, my writing was less than perfect. Way less. There is so much more to understand about resume writing than just putting words to paper. It can take me up to 2 days to decide the right strategy for a client–the best way for them to be positioned for optimal results. It takes time to learn this. I’m not saying someone has to be writing for 10 years to be a good writer, but I think they need actual practice before working on your resume.

3. What association(s) do you belong to? This is important for the obvious reasons. Belonging to a professional association keeps you up-to-date on so many things including resume writing strategy, client focus, new trends, industry updates and much more. In my opinion, I couldn’t imagine NOT being in them. They are a wealth of knowledge! I get to interact with other writers/business owners/career coaches, share information, pose questions and more. My favorite organizations are CDI (Career Directors International) and PARW (Professional Association of Resume Writers), but there are several others that are good, too: National Association of Resume Writers (NRWA), Career Management Alliance (CMA), and Association of Online Resume & Career Professionals (AORCP).

4. What is your process? Most resume writers have a process i.e. information they need from you, resume strategy, structure, and time line. It’s good to know ahead of time what the writer’s process is. You might have developed a great rapport with a writer only to realize they won’t have it ready for 2-3 weeks and you need it in 2 days, etc. Or they may require more from you than just your existing resume and you don’t have time for that (although I wouldn’t advise that– if you want a great resume, you have to do a little work).

5. What do you need from me? Some writers do a lot of listening and not a lot of talking, or vice versa, as do the clients. Ask the writer what information they need from you. It’s important that the process is a collaborative one with mutual information sharing. Your writer has to literally be you in order to create an effective resume that is unique and branded. So give them as much information as possible, no matter how busy you are.

'Fess up - you know you're worth it!

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