This week I lost a client. It happens. That’s not the reason for this post. You know I’ll eventually get to the point, but first some background. The client was someone who had some “not that big a deal jobs” in her career (her words, not mine). She decided to reinvent herself, went back to school and recently earned a two-year nursing degree. She had her license (meaning she’d sat for and passed the boards) and was ready to launch her new career.
When we first spoke, she was tentative about working with a pro to create her resume. The more we talked about the process and the leg-up she’d have in the job market, the more excited she became. She quickly saw the resume creation process was not about hiring someone to type and that a resume wasn’t flopping job descriptions down on a sheet of paper and hoping someone would call. She saw value in the process. She realized she needed help transitioning the skills gained from her “no big deal jobs.” She started to see she HAD gained skills from those “no big deal” jobs. She booked.
I called at the appointed time. She started the conversation with “we need to talk.” I don’t care the circumstance; those are not words anyone wants to hear. She nervously started the conversation with something like, “I’ve decided the fee we discussed WASN’T WORTH IT because I don’t have that much experience. I’m JUST a recent graduate with ONLY clinical nursing experience. My mom and I talked about it and agreed, my other jobs WEREN’T THAT IMPORTANT so it really shouldn’t take you that much time to put something together for me.” I politely asked what price point she and her mom thought was fair for her specific circumstance. (All caps mine, not hers)
(Note: I was mirroring her verbiage. I avoid using words like cost or price when discussing investing in a career. Price is what you pay for milk. Investing is what you do when you’re looking for long-term benefits. Investing in professional guidance and support while shaping your career, and in essence your life, is an investment that delivers almost a 100% ROI in a very brief time … but I digress.)
Anyway, she and mom decided her resume was worth only half of what I originally quoted. I politely explained the process I’d take her through once again and the additional handouts I provided as part of the resume package. I went so far as to share how many hours are spent working on this type of project, breaking down the price to an hourly rate. After the calculation, I asked her if she asked if she was willing to work at that hourly rate. Funny. She wasn’t. But she also wasn’t willing to move forward with the project, reiterating she’d done so little in her career she didn’t see how it could possibly take long to share it.
Seeing a deeper problem here I backed off. She wasn’t balking at the investment level for a resume. She was balking at taking a chance on investing in herself. She didn’t see her own value. I can’t fight that. Here is someone who already invested several thousand dollars on her education, spent hundreds of dollars on books, worked hours and hours gaining clinical experience and studying for state boards, gave up two years’ income to earn her degree and sacrificed family time and social gatherings for those two years to study. My fee for resumes pales in comparison to what she’d already invested.
What happened between the time we booked and the time we were ready to get started? Negative internal sentences. And, yes, I’ll say it out loud, a mom willing to support that negativity, in essence encouraging her daughter to devalue herself. I know this wasn’t the intent, but it sure was the outcome. During the entire conversation, this young woman kept using the words, “just”, “only”, “not worth it”, “no big deal.” Knowing this battle was lost, I shifted into helping mode. (I know. You’re screaming WHY????, but I had to do something to circumvent the “I’m not worthy” thinking … if I could.)
I spent about a half-hour sharing a few sites that would help her get the correct focus for a search and help her craft her own career sales and marketing documents. (I know. I’m devaluing my own value by giving my knowledge away, but someone had to be a positive force in this young woman’s life. I decided I was willing to donate 30 minutes to that cause.) I suggested a different perspective on her work history. She thanked me and said, “I’ll give it a try. If I get frustrated, can I change my mind and come back and have you do it for me?” I assured her, if she needed help I was there.
I then told her, “I don’t care if you find another writer. I don’t care if you do it yourself. I don’t care if I never hear from you again. I don’t care if you call next week and we get started then. The thing I do care about is how you’re talking about and to yourself. No matter which way you choose to go with this, you have got to dump “the just, only, not worth it, no big deal” messages from your life. If your perception of yourself is so negative; if you place such minimal worth on your life’s experiences to date, how will you ever convey your value to a potential employer? If you tell someone you’re no big deal, then can you blame them if they start believing it too? In this job market, people that believe they’re no big deal take a lot longer to land jobs than those who go into the interview, and though life, confident in their skills and the value they bring. There is no such thing as “just” when it comes to talking about yourself.”
I don’t know that I’ll ever hear from her again. I can only hope at least part of what I said stuck. If nothing else, I hope her story helps someone else see their value. We’re not garbage. Most of us are viable, contributing members to society. Believing it is the difficult part.