“What Do You Think of My New Professionally Written Executive Resume?” (& Other Things You Wish You Never Asked). How to Network Like the Leader You Are.

Sometimes a client will tell me that once they received their newly created executive resume, or while networking, they showed their new professionally designed executive resume to a colleague, mentor, or recruiter, whose opinion they trust, and asked:

“What do you think of my resume?”

This is a loaded question. Whether intended or not, this question is perceived as: “Can you find something wrong/missing/that needs changing on my resume?” That’s right. You didn’t just ask for their opinion. You just asked for their help—based on their “expertise”—which is a compliment to them, and they do not want to let you down. From their personal/professional perspective, to which you have given great authority, they will happily “help” you.

If you have ever been in this situation, you know the result: it does not help. Instead, any negative or critical feedback on the layout, color, content, etc., makes you doubt yourself and the company you hired to write your resume. The amazing executive resume you were genuinely excited about an hour ago now needs more work. It takes the wind out of your sails and leaves you to question every word and phrase, wondering what else in your executive resume was missed, is wrong, or could be better, or… (insert new doubt here).

I know. The negative feedback is confusing to you. It is a confidence shaker. And it is not a position you should ever put yourself in willingly as a leader.

In these cases, Hemmingway himself could have written you the world’s most perfect executive resume. But ask five people what they think of it, and I pretty much guarantee each person will identify something that THEY think could or should be changed. It isn’t the fault of your well-intentioned friend/spouse/recruiter; the fault is in the way you asked the question.

I don’t think the emotional and mental toll of a career transition receives the weight it deserves. Even under the best circumstances, it’s emotionally challenging. And I am speaking about top leaders—big company C-Suite executives with amazing career histories. High-level transitions can be, and often are, stressful, even for superstars. They require resilience and a good plan. It’s like launching a new product and embarking on an extensive marketing campaign, but not with a company, as a solo practitioner. You would do well to go easy on yourself, take the path of least resistance when you can, give yourself more time, compassion, and self-care than you think you need, and above all, do NOT open yourself up for any kind of  criticism or critique that causes you to spend time analyzing conflicting opinions. Conserve. Your. Energy.

A caveat: don’t be afraid of the occasional helpful tip, and do not ignore consistent feedback from multiple sources, that may indicate your resume may not be having the effect you desire. Assuming the executive resume writing firm that wrote your documents did a great job, here is how you can preserve your energy, your positive attitude, and your confidence throughout your executive career transition:

  • Trust your resume writer instead of asking what several people think of your executive resume. If you trusted your resume writer enough to engage with them in the first place, trust them to take you through the process. If something fishy is going on, it will start to smell pretty quickly, and you probably won’t have to work very hard to figure it out.

  • If you really must ask for a second opinion on your new executive resume, ask another certified executive resume writer. Vet resume writers carefully. Look for award-winning writers through the Career Directors International (CDI) association. They should be able to offer you an objective opinion. You can take that feedback to your original executive resume writer, and now you can have a thoughtful discussion about anything that needs to be addressed.

  • Control your networking encounters like the leader you are. Rather than asking what someone thinks of your resume, offer a high-level framework of what you want to do and achieve. These details will inspire and reinforce their confidence in you. Take the lead, so you are not asking for help and putting yourself in a submissive position where they become the authority instead of you. There is a way to share your goals without even having to show your resume as part of this type of conversation. Offering an unsolicited resume indicates you wish for your networking contact to “do something for you.” Unless your contact is a recruiter, you may want to initially hold off on the resume and start by casually sharing your goals. It’s all about timing and expectations. Good leaders empower others and themselves. We show our clients how to gain the biggest ROI from these conversations in private advisory coaching sessions; we even offer online tutorials. We also provide this information as part of all of our resume packages.

  • On this same topic of demonstrating good leadership in an executive transition, please don’t say you are “wide open” to exploring a range of opportunities. In today’s job market, you must demonstrate your value very specifically. Furthermore, don’t ask them if they know of any opportunities and if they could pass along your executive resume. Finally, as stated before, don’t ask them what they think of your resume!The response will be a waste of your time, and your time is valuable. Learn how to network so that you stay in control of the conversation. In my experience, many executives are afraid that they need to take a passive and reactionary stance in a job transition. You can and should still take a leadership role in your career transition—this is your natural tendency, after all. I advise my clients how to network in a confident and dignified way that feels gracious, respectful, and natural, and they love it. It preserves their sanity and confidence and gets them great results!

  • If you HAVE NOT had your resume professionally written and you want someone to critique it, your best and safest bet is to go to CDI and look for help and support there. Ceoresumewriter.com also offers complimentary resume critiques. Resume writers are a compassionate and heart-centered group that finds helping others achieve their career goals deeply satisfying. You have a great shot at talking to someone who really cares and can really help you at CDI. Writers who take the time to obtain difficult certifications and pay money to keep them current every year take their careers as seriously as you do. And in an unregulated industry such as career services, you need that insurance to help protect your interests and investment.

  • If you HAVE had your resume professionally done, then I will share with you what I share with all my clients, which is this: you need three main things in your job search to be successful:
    • A clear direction and focus,
    • A great resume and value proposition letter (cover letter) that supports your focus, and
    • The right job search strategies.

Generally, after you have paid a certified resume writer to analyze your career situation and craft a resume to get you where you want to go, your entire focus should be on the right job search strategies. I show my clients how to go directly to companies by tapping the hidden job market because it works so well. Remember that every job search is different, and some job search strategies will work better than others in specific scenarios. You may take a multipronged approach to your career transition outreach strategies, which could include recruiter, venture capital and/or private equity firm distributions, direct mail, targeted networking, working through associations, and learning how to use social networking like LinkedIn to land interviews, to name a few.

In closing, I have not seen it beneficial for you as a job seeker to hold up your resume and ask, “WHAT DO YOU THINK?” Not because I, as a professional executive resume writer, am trying to avoid criticism. Nor am I trying to protect other professional resume writers. I am also not stating that there might indeed be things in your executive resume that need improving. But if you want the right advice, your safest bet is to go to the experts. Doing otherwise may derail you and detract from your ultimate goal.

Mary Elizabeth Bradford is the Founder and Executive Director of CEOresumewriter.com and Maryelizabethbradford.com and a past executive recruiter. A thought leader in the career services industry for over 20 years, she holds 5 distinct advanced certifications for senior-level resume writing, online branding and executive-level job search coaching (CERM, CMRW, CARW, MCD, NCOPE). She has been seen and heard in major media including Forbes, Time, WSJ, Newsweek and NBC affiliate stations. She holds 2 CDI TORI awards and is a top tier judge for the elite CDI TORI awards for four consecutive years. Mary Elizabeth Bradford’s elite team of award-winning, certified, top executive resume writers, former top executive recruiters, and global HR executives help many of the world’s premier C-suite, board members and thought leaders secure the transitions and compensation packages they want. She works with clients all over the globe.

If you are a Director, VP, CxO, or Board Member interested in an executive resume package or working directly with Mary Elizabeth, click to schedule a complimentary 15-minute call.