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About this Blog

Debra Wheatman, President of Careers Done Write, provides expert insight to the job search process that puts your career in gear with tips for interviewing, networking, job search strategies and how to create a winning résumé and cover letter.

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Resume and advice blog from Debra Wheatman


Conflict Between Work Events and Family Events 

Dear Deb:

I am required to attend an annual corporate golf trip.  All of the management team will be there, including many from home office and our top clients from the pharm side of business (my clients).   It’s basically a time to really connect on a deeper, more personal level with clients.  The only problem is that it’s the same weekend as my wife’s sister’s engagement party.  I already get a lot of “feedback” from my in-laws about the hours I work and the business entertaining that is part of my job.  It’s my career and I feel strongly that I need to choose the business trip. (Even though it is golf – it’s business)  How do I navigate this situation without the wrath of my in-laws?



Dear Ben, 

The timing is unfortunate.   It sounds like you need to be at the corporate event.  Talk to your wife and your sister-in-law. Let them know that this trip is a job requirement and that it would be detrimental to your career not to attend this annual client trip. Offer to provide a flower arrangement for the engagement party in addition to an engagement gift.  Confirm that you will be there for the wedding.   Get that wedding date on your work calendar and do whatever it takes to be sure that you are not working that weekend!  There would be no suitable excuse to miss your sister-in-law’s wedding.

If the subject of work-home balance is recurring, perhaps it’s time to talk with your wife and commit to some positive changes.  Find ways to spend more time with your wife and provide more support at home.  It’s great to be successful at work, but there is nothing more fulfilling than a loving partner and family.

All the best,



Resumes Lessons from a Can of Soup

Many food companies are savvy enough to know that most shoppers read food labels, despite being short on time. A label with eye-catching key statistics can give that product an edge over another product, especially if that product touts qualities such as low sugar, low calories, and zero trans fat.  Companies are wise to invest in smart labelling strategies.  

What does the calorie count on a can of soup have to do with your resume?   Resumes designed with the candidate’s top values visible at a glance are highly-effective.  Like grocery shoppers, recruiters and hiring managers are short on time.  Your resume is like that can of soup on the shelf with 100+ other cans.  Getting noticed means communicating your value quickly.   Your top values should be communicated at the top of your resume.

Tips from a Soup Can:

1.) “Ready in Minutes”

A feature of your favourite soup may be that it is ready in minutes.  Can you hit the ground running?  Demonstrate this by including a core competencies section to show your major job skills, as well as a technical expertise section to show your computer proficiencies.

2.) “140 Calories per Serving”

Counting calories helps to manage your weight.  Counting words on your resume are also important. If it takes you 45 words to describe an accomplishment, challenge yourself to say it in 25 or 30 words.  Like the label reader, resume readers want you to keep it concise.

3.) “See Recipe on Back”

If you have a can of mushroom soup, you can make a number of quick dinner recipes ranging from beef stroganoff to sauces.  Are you adaptable?   Show your adaptability on your resume by sharing several projects that you led, listing your range of skills and giving examples of the range of functions that you performed or supported.  Show various facets of your experience that relate to your career goal.

4.) “2.5 Gram of Fat”

That’s a lean soup.  Are you a lean manager?  Are you known for trimming the fat in the budget?  Do you consistently deliver projects under budget?  Have you consolidated operations or technologies to reduce expenses and boost profit?  Those are terrific accomplishments to include on your resume.

5.) “Made with Organic Ingredients”

Many shoppers are looking for the lowest price.  Others will pay a bit more for organic products.  Do you have a unique selling feature that brings a benefit to your target employer?  Perhaps you have an Ivy League education, earned your Project Management Professional certification, or have 13 years of experience in the Latin American marketplace.  Those are characteristics that distinguish you from others.  Share that information in the top portion of your resume. 

Borrow these lessons from a cap of soup to create a powerful new brand via your resume!  Share your key values at the top of your resume in the profile section and the core competencies section.  This will entice the readers to continue reading, just as the can of soup draws the shopper to pick up the can.


Resume Help: The Wrong Way to Handle a Career Break

Marlo is quite self-conscious about her eight-year career break.  Like many parents, especially mothers, she took a hiatus to raise her two children.  When her children were of school age, she decided to return to work.  She is so worried about showing that she was filling her time with worthy pursuits (other than raising her children).  That is what drove her to prominently feature a “Career Break” section at the very top of her resume.

This top section is in the high-value section of the resume.  Often a reader will quickly glance at the top of a resume. If they don’t like what they read,   they may eliminate that candidate. If they are intrigued, they will continue reading.  For that reason, I would not recommend creating and placing this career break explanation in such a high-profile part of the resume.  The reason is not because a career break is seen as a negative thing.  It is because this information does not support the candidate’s career goal.  A career break section is an unnecessary defensive move.

Another issue is that she leads with the line, “Elected to take an eight-year break…”  Employers are not concerned about a candidate’s personal choice. It is not a bad thing to break and it is very common to break to raise a family. However, it is not something to feature at the top of the resume.

In Marlo’s case, I recommend that she moves those experiences to appropriate sections on page two or the bottom of her resume.  Sections such as “Community Service” and “Professional Development” are suitable places to include most of that information.

Are there exceptions to placing career break experience near the top of the resume?  Yes, there are.  If a candidate performed duties within her career path or held a leadership role or for a charity or other organization for a significant period of time (several months, rather than a one-weekend event).  In that case you would label it as “Community Leadership” or something else that matches the experience. However, it should not be labeled as a career break – ever.   If you list recent experience in a “Community Leadership” section near the top, place it after the “Summary” and after a “Core Competencies” section.  Present it as you would any paid job on your resume.  Give an overview of your responsibilities and bullets with your major accomplishments.  Include measured results too.

Remember, a break to raise your children is a good and noble experience.  However, on a resume, be strategic with the way you present your experience. A resume is a marketing document to feature your accomplishments, skills, and experience most relevant to your target employer.   Craft your resume to feature those top selling points.

If you have questions about your career path or your resume, contact me. For more resume help, check out these blog entries.

Resume Help: Creating a Compelling Profile

Resume Help: Asking Questions to Uncover Accomplishments