Sarah came to me as a senior in college, seeking to differentiate herself on paper and gain entry into the highly competitive fashion, apparel and merchandising industry. Despite Sarah’s significant retail experience, her résumé did nothing to set her apart from the hundreds of other soon-to-be graduates seeking the same competitive internships.
With Sarah’s ideal job as assistant buyer or merchandiser with a leading area retailer, my goal was set — to help Sarah see how qualified she was by developing a unique presentation on paper that would surely differentiate her.
During a discussion with Sarah, I pressed her on the challenges she had faced in each of her retail roles, asking her to expound on the ever-so-brief bullet points she had presented in her résumé. Being sure to focus on what she had done in the past that related to what she wanted to do in the future, I took three pages of notes to fuel the content of Sarah’s new résumé.
While Sarah was seeking entry into a fashion-forward field, I recognized that she needed a professional and somewhat conservative résumé in order to show her targeted audience she was a serious candidate. To do this, I created a clean, crisp and highly structured presentation of Sarah’s candidacy which, at face value, had some meat behind each of her roles.
Opening Sarah’s new résumé with a professional title of Assistant Buyer/Merchant Candidate, I immediately position her candidacy in the appropriate light. Moving then to include the tagline, “Upcoming graduate with retail experience with leading brands including … ,” and the presentation of the brand logos for which she had worked, Sarah’s new résumé has life, personality and pizzazz.
The Qualifications Summary that follows presents her merchandising, branding and visual-styling experience while working in retail settings, and again, leverages the power of the brands with which she had worked.
Sarah’s education comes next, an appropriate placement given she is a soon-to-be graduate with an undergraduate degree in fashion and retail studies.
Then, I present Sarah’s recently received merchandising internship, which she was about to begin. Despite not having started the internship, she wanted to include it on her résumé as she was about to apply for her dream job. Just the fact that she had been selected for the role was a big plus for her candidacy, so the role was explored in terms of what she would be tasked with while on the job.
Following this soon-to-be completed experience are Sarah’s retail positions with leading national chains including Justice, Nordstrom and Hollister. In each of these positions, I made it a point to not only explore what Sarah’s job was, but also how she had contributed value over and above expectations.
Presenting the value Sarah had provided was truly key in differentiating her from her competitors, many of whom would also have worked within a retail setting while completing their college degrees.
Soon after having her résumé completed, Sarah called me to ask if we could coach her in preparation for the interview for her dream job. Sarah did, indeed, get the interview, and she was eager to be as prepared as possible for sitting before a panel of interviewers at a national retailer.
After the interview- coaching process, Sarah called me to deliver the good news — she got the job. She also was kind enough to tell me that the managers she interviewed with told her she had the best résumé they have possibly ever seen. Once Sarah was in the position, I updated her résumé with her new merchandising internship, and she is happily engaged in that role as she nears graduation.
Sarah also wrote, “Samantha gave me my perfect résumé and referred me to an interviewing coach who landed me my dream career. Thank you, Ladybug Design, for everything!”
If there is a message to take away from Sarah’s experience, it is this: Don’t underestimate the value of the experience you have. Even if you are entry level, you still need to dig deeper to differentiate your candidacy, ensuring you position yourself ahead of the pack by showing hiring managers how you have delivered value in the past, albeit entry-level roles. Best of luck to you.
View Sarah’s before and after résumé on ladybug-design.com/blog.
Samantha Nolan is a certified professional résumé writer and owner of Ladybug Design, a full-service résumé-writing firm. Do you have a résumé or job-search question for Dear Sam? Reach Samantha at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more about Sam’s résumé-writing services, visit ladybug-design.com or call (614) 570-3442 or 1-888-9-LADYBUG (1-888-952-3928).