What programs and packages do you offer?
I offer two programs and one package. Those are important distinctions to begin understanding how I work. The Career Planner/Changer Program and the Career Explorer Program are similar because they both use the résumé writing process as a coaching tool for discovery, which ends up with a clear, purposeful story. I also offer a Rapid-fire Resume Package, which differs sharply from the two programs.
These three offerings are detailed in my Packages & Programs matrix. That said, this Q&A page focuses on the two programs.
I have to confess that I'm humbled, delighted, and sometimes staggered at the things clients have shared over the years. The feedback on my Individual Clients & Experiences page is long and glowing, but it's verbatim, with the exception of a few clarifying notes presented in brackets. If you haven't already visited the page, now might be a good time.
Why do you think of the writing process as career coaching?
I began in 1997 simply as a résumé writer. (I fell in love with résumé writing in 1984, but that's another story entirely.) As I passed through retained executive search in the early 2000s, took trainings through the same decade, and grew in my own opinions, strategies, and abilities, clients began to consistently say something surprising: "Jared, this is a lot like career coaching."
A Harvard MBA illustrated it best, perhaps, when he said, "The résumé is a souvenir of what really happened during our work together."
So I started listening, and indeed found that the hard decision-making clients and I were doing to write clear, forward-facing documents, ultimately translated into intensive career coaching. Many have also considered the outcome to include interview coaching, given the intensity and complexity of the work, but I draw a line at claiming that ... for now.
I also draw the line at matters of the heart and what-color-is-your-parachute-style coaching. I'm not qualified for that kind of work, and there are plenty of fantastic coaches who are, including A Path That Fits, right here in the San Francisco Bay Area.
My interests have always been to identify a purpose, and then to use the writing process to wrestle with, plan, and ultimately create a tangible end result.
- Unlike the Career Planner/Changer and Career Explorer programs, the Rapid-fire Résumé Package doesn't dive deep. While I'll still ask many questions, the Rapid-fire client doesn't get the benefit of taking the time to thoughtfully answer thought-provoking questions via my digital workbook (basically, an amplified questionnaire). Instead, I throw questions at them, and they throw answers back, hence "rapid-fire." Turnaround for the Rapid-fire is 3-4 weeks. If you're looking for something fast, I frequently recommend Michelle Dumas and her résumé writing team.
Why do use a questionnaire? (And such a long one, at that?!)
It boils down to answer quality. If I sit across the desk from you and fire off ten questions that you've never considered (as with my Rapid-fire Résumé Package), you'll answer very differently than if you'd given yourself time to reflect, which happens with the Career Planner/Changer and Career Explorer programs.
This dovetails with my philosophy that "periods of hard work and reflective rest" are ideal when identifying career intentions, shaking loose related proof points, and then shaping go-forward stories.
Often, the best answers come to us when we're not actively thinking about them.
On a trail. At a game. At a party. Even in the shower.
That's why I use a questionnaire for the Career Planner/Changer and Career Explorer programs, and why I make crystal clear the difference in depth between my two programs and the Rapid-fire Résumé Package.
- I do no use a workbook/questionnaire for the Rapid-fire Résumé Package. Again, the rapid-fire nature of the work is akin to me sitting across the desk from you and asking questions where you have to spit back a cogent answer. You'll have the benefit of at least a few live work sessions with me to think about answers to unexpected, but the difference between firing off answers and taking the time to reflect and give in-depth answers (in a workbook format) are considerable.
- Note that Rapid-fire Résumé Package clients do complete a somewhat brief LinkedIn questionnaire if they choose to LinkedIn as an additional service.
What types of questionnaires do you use?
There are short, medium, and long questionnaire. My primary questionnaire is significant. It's the tool I use for my Career Planner/Changer and Career Explorer programs, and it has grown into a more of a tool than a questionnaire.
It's proprietary, and at this point it has grown so much that I call it a Digital Workbook.
I stress the workbook's intensity before clients hire me, because of the time and depth of thought required to complete it.
The Digital Workbook is for people who want to go deep, not for people who want (or need) to stay on the surface. Those people may, in fact, be the same person, who might not have the time today, but decide months down the road that it's time to invest in themselves.
Do you have sample questions from the workbook?
There are many, many questions. Some are simply a transfer of information from you to me. Other questions appear simple on their face, but surprise both of us when they turn out to require complex answers. Still other questions create a great deal of reflection to simplify a complicated idea, or authentically bring branding elements to light.
Regardless, all of the questions, and their answers, are "first round" ideas that we use for discovery and story development, and often as fodder for contemplating even deeper questions.
Here's an example of a follow-up question I might I ask in response to a first round answer that you supply to me—and why I think of the Digital Workbook as "shaking the content tree."
Let's say you share that you directed an 18-member team upon hire, but your responsibilities expanded to managing a 650-member workforce through seven direct reports. But then an acquisition and reorg resulted in you managing three direct and 40 functional reports.
Is that a growth story? A demotion story? An efficiency story that you co-architected? A "surviving an economic slump" story?
How do we tell that complex story in a way that is true, reasonable, and valuable?
This answer, alone, can take 15 minutes to unpack, and then we might change our mind three work sessions later after having the benefit of a few weeks to think on it.
The answer will then not only, likely, flow into the written story, it will also ready you for interviewing when that time comes. (Read here to see why I say, "Don't Call it an Interview.")
This is one of many questions and scenarios we might encounter, and their final answer depends on the direction you want to go and your own experience.
What other kinds of questionnaires do you use?
The Digital Workbook is the longest and most exhaustive set of questions (and it's important to note that only the Career Planner/Changer Program and Career Explorer Program use it). There are shorter questionnaires for LinkedIn and executive bio development. I also create custom questions from time to time, depending on the project.
As mentioned, additional questions always emerge along the way. Questions and their eventual answers are really the backbone of the entire process.
How do your two programs differ from each other?
The first major difference is how they begin. The Career Explorer Program begins with three Discovery Coaching calls. Intended for people who don't know what they want to do, or don't know what job titles might be interesting, the Discovery Coaching can adapt "in the moment" to the content of each coaching. I draw on experience and/or a variety of tools to begin putting order around what might feel amorphous to a client if left on their own.
After those three Discovery Coachings, the client usually has a solid idea of 1-3 roles that might represent possible next career steps, so we move into the Job Description Analysis ("the JDA") and interpretation phase.
This is where the programs fall into step with each other, as the Career Planner/Changer Program begins with the assumption that the subject has already identified 1-3 job titles and/or career trajectories to explore.
Indeed, the JDA phase is where the Career Planner/Changer Program begins, and then the two programs are quite similar from there forward.
The next major difference is program length. The Career Explorer Program generally takes 2.5 to 4 months, with the three early Discovery Coachings, the JDA and its interpretation session, and seven live work sessions with iterative story development in between. The Career Planner/Changer Program generally takes 2-3 months, beginning immediately with the JDA and its interpretation session, and then traveling through five live work sessions for story development.
Why don't you offer quick turnarounds?
Oh boy. I used to, and the stress was too much. Being on the hook to start a résumé Thursday night and deliver it by Monday night means I have to turn off the questions. Unfortunately, even a 30-minute conversation can whet the appetite of someone who originally thought they just wanted a quick turnaround, and suddenly we're trying to cram months of work into a weekend.
The answer is simply, no.
It's not how I think. It's not how I work. And while "people who are actively looking for a job" often find that they also "want to go deep," they just don't have the time, unfortunately.
So how would you summarize your work?
My specialization is in taking a long view on the development of career intentions; working with a client to create a strategy, and then guiding them through story discovery and content development.
Is there an alternative for someone who doesn't have the time or resources, but still wants some time with you?
Yes. I offer up to one "no frills, no questions" co-writing package, where I guide a client in writing their own résumé, and do some of the writing myself. I can do only one of those at a time, so availability is severely limited.
I also offer "Pay as you Go" options, but I don't write or edit during those sessions. I simply share high-level résumé writing strategies, give as many observations and tips as possible, and then leave it to the recipient to make the changes in their own document. To do otherwise results in a multi-hour affair that neither of us intended.