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What are YOU saying about you?

We are not garbage. (And no, that's not my house. *smile*)

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.

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Dawn Bugni, Queen Schmooze. Queen Schmooze said: RT @DawnBugni: #Jobseekers: What are you saying about you? (Bloggin' it on Saturday morning. I'm wild & crazy like that.) […]

  2. Dawn, Fantastic post! I’ve run into this same attitude,

    “During the entire conversation, this young woman kept using the words, “just”, “only”, “not worth it”, “no big deal.””

    many times over the last decade, and I, like you, feel I must take the time to try to get the person to see their value…to see value in their experience no matter how minimal or how beaten down they are in their current job (or lack thereof).

    It is amazing to me, however, that she has spent so much money investing in herself and didn’t see her resume, her representation of her job value to a prospective employer, as an worthwhile and important investment. Invest $200-$600+ in a quality resume and the process and it could 1) land you a great job and 2) get you the salary you need/want! Isn’t that worth it?

    Just a thought, maybe her mother was the one making the financial investment and just couldn’t afford to invest any more money…was tapped out but also couldn’t see the value in the resume writing process and end result: confidence, key points to bring up at an interview showcasing her expertise and accomplishments and VALUE, and ultimately getting a well-paying job in the field or company she desires.

    • Dawn says:

      Lisa –

      Good point regarding mom feeling tapped out and not seeing the value; and then influencing the daughter. There are always extenuating circumstances surrounding investment decisions.

      Although, I’m going to hang my toes over the edge of controversial here and say “can’t afford” is frequently related to choices more than monetary reality. True. There are individuals that truly cannot afford even the barest essentials. What I am about to say in no way diminishes their plight or cast aspersions on them. The individuals I’m thinking of are the ones who say I can’t afford ______ (fill in the blank) in one breath and in the next tell a story of dropping 50 bucks in a bar last night. They share the story while sipping an $8 mocha grande, half-caf, half-fat latte, puffing on a cigarette, checking email on their brand new iPhone, listening to their 64GB iPod and surfing the web on their iPad. OK. I got a little carried away with that example, but you catch my drift. There is ABSOLUTELY nothing wrong with those choices. The individuals see the value of those things and choose to put their money into them. Which is perfectly fine. Although “I can’t afford” in reality frequently translates into “I choose not spend my money on that.”

      Naomi Dunford over on says it much better than me. “6 Things They Mean When They Say They Have No Money”

      Bottom line, value is in the eye of the beholder. I can only hope that beholder starts seeing her value.

      I always enjoy your input. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Cris Janzen says:

    Powerful post and comments, Dawn and Lisa! I feel for the gal that didn’t value herself, and applaud you for trying to help her.

    I will also open the gate of controversy, and like Dawn first acknowledge that there are many people in real, dire need of help.

    I am not talking about them at this time, but of my experience with those who have made spending “choices.” Five come to mind: A. client saying she can’t afford to invest in a great resume, so can I just give her some tips for free, who just spent three weeks in Italy, B. same from client bragging about her new $900 coach handbag C. one who asked me to half my (already low) fee because he’d “already had to sell his airplane, boat and all but 2 of his harleys…” D. client who wanted me to help him for free because “he’d already paid all his money (about $2,500!) to another career services firm and they had not helped him get a job.” E. client who wanted free help “because he’s saving to go visit Vietnam for a month.”

    One smart client said, “I spent $30K on my education and it didn’t include how to get anyone to notice it. $300 for a great resume that sells that education is a BARGAIN!”

    • Dawn says:

      Cris –

      Unbelievable. I’m so happy you stopped by with those great examples! I don’t judge people’s choices — none of my business — until they start “reaching in my pocket” expecting me to fund them.

      Perfect. THANKS for visiting.

  4. Hi Dawn!

    I love the way you reached out to this career seeker and generously donated your knowledge and support to help her move forward. I’m sure regular readers of your blog know this already, but this act of being helpful is just one of the many ways and times you’ve helped job seekers and your fellow career professionals.

    If I may, I’d like to add one thing to the information you shared with this job seeker (you know this already, so this is mostly for your readers). Your fee for providing an exceptional career service for her isn’t just based on how and how much you’ll work with her–and on her behalf–it’s also a reflection of all the time and investment you’ve devoted to developing your skills and expertise, and the ongoing professional development that you eagerly embrace. She (or other clients) are receiving the benefit of that, not just the number of hours you spend on their marketing document. It’s not something job seekers would think about (and we sometimes forget it, too :-).

    Thank you for sharing this great post with us. It makes me sad to think of the woman who is downplaying her accomplishments and qualities, and proud to hear how your words might help her reframe those thoughts and begin to see her value (not to mention the value of someone like you who believes in her career dreams and sees both her potential and the skills and qualifications she’s already gained).

    *And my thanks to Julie Walraven for sharing your post online and making me aware of it.

  5. Dawn says:

    Shahzrad –

    You know how some clients/prospects “get” to you. This one stole my heart. The whole, “I’m not worthy” thing bothered me enough to awaken at 5:45 a.m today and write about it.

    I’m soooo glad you made the point about how career professionals (really any one committed to their profession, in any industry) invests in themselves with ongoing development and learning. As a matter of fact, I shared my favorite value versus price story with this young woman.

    Here goes:
    A French woman, upon seeing Picasso in a Parisian restaurant, approached the great master and insisted that he put down his coffee and make a quick sketch of her. Graciously, Picasso obliged. When he was done, she took the drawing, put it in her handbag, and then pulled out her billfold.

    “How much do I owe you?” she asked.

    “$5,000,” was Picasso’s reply.

    “$5,000? But it took you only three minutes!” she exclaimed.

    “No,” Picasso answered. “It took me all my life.”

    Thanks for stopping by and adding to the conversation. And for giving me a chance to share that Picasso story too!

  6. Kimba Green says:

    Every time I read your posts I learn something invaluable!

    You have been there for me so many times yet I am not your client. You have shared your lifetime of experience with me to help me move forward. So I am not surprised that you reached out and offered 30 minutes of your advice to try to help her.

    Your thoughts on job seekers saying they ‘can’t afford’ hit home for me because it is about value of oneself. I have been struggling with that since my contract was not renewed Sept 2009. I don’t feel I can invest in myself because I am not contributing to the household yet if my husband wants something or he wants to go out to dinner we do. What am I doing? Has my view of myself gone down that drain that fast? The answer is yes.

    Right now I am seeing both sides. I value what you bring to the table but do I value myself enough to pay you your true value?

    • Dawn says:

      Kimba –

      “What am I doing? Has my view of myself gone down that drain that fast? The answer is yes.”

      Don’t make me get in my car, drive to MD and shake you. :)I see what you do for the #HireFriday community every week on Twitter. I’ve spoken with you and felt your energy, conviction and dedication to your profession and the joie de vivre you bring to your life. Go look in the mirror right now and tell that person looking back, YOU ROCK!!

      As I get older I find what I think about myself is infinitely more important that what others think. And truth be told, I, like everyone else, fight those negative internal sentences too. I told a friend recently, “If I talked to you, like I talk to me, you’d probably slap me. And you’re not the type that would slap anything, ever.”

      Thanks for sharing a job seeker’s perspective and adding VALUE to the conversations. Here’s to both of us embracing our wonderfulness, instead of focusing on all that other garbage. (And truly, it is garbage.)


  7. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Kimba Green and Kimba Green, Susan A Stephens. Susan A Stephens said: RT @KimbaGreen: What are YOU saying about you? via @DawnBugni The Write Solution: #hirefriday #jobseekers […]

  8. Karla Porter says:

    Dawn – I doubt anyone who knows a hair’s width about you would doubt your genuine wish to see this woman succeed, including at a little bit of your own cost. Self-esteem is at an all time low for upcoming grads and job seekers. When people are weak and on the fence about something, often they go for confirmation from someone they feel will confirm their feelings so they have justification and “proof” they should or shouldn’t act. There is little to be done in these situations short of brainwashed cult member intervention strategy. You’re a doll =) ~Karla

    • Dawn says:

      Karla –

      You’re a doll too — not only on a normal basis, 🙂 but also for adding such great insight to this topic. You’re so right. It’s easier to sit around lamenting how awful it is than actually grab a sword and jump in the battle. I tell clients turn off your TV. Stop buying into the negativity. There may be 9 million people out of work, but you’ve only got find a job for one of them — you. A big part of the search is keeping a positive attitude and forward momentum. It’s awful to get turned down time and time and time again. I get that. I’ve been there. But life is about choices … choose to sit down or choose to keep fighting. The outcome really is in our hands. Accepting that is the difficult part.

      Thanks for stopping by!!!

  9. Dawn,

    You hit the nail on the head. Great post.

    We all get resistance at one point or another and honestly, I don’t push. It is something they need to work out and you are right… the majority of it is self talk. They talk themselves out of it/don’t know if it is worth it. Then they continue to use the crappy resume for 3 more months, with no luck, and come back.

    I hope your client comes back. Sounds like she REALLY needs it.


    • Dawn says:

      Erin –

      Thanks! The processes surrounding creating a resume and launching a search are things that can’t be forced. As much as we’d like, we can’t push someone into seeing their value or understanding they really are worth it. I have had clients like you described … try it on their own for six months (not even three) and then come back. By that time their frustration level is at an all time high and their self-worth at an all time low.

      What we do to ourselves (me included!!) never ceases to amaze me. Great insights.

  10. I already know what a kind person you are, but this just emphasizes it again. The fact that you took so much time to help this person is really a testament to you and your fabulosity 🙂 (I know that’s not a word, but it should be).

  11. Dawn says:

    Louise –

    Thanks. As far as I’m concerned, any writer that makes it to “O” magazine (YEA YOU!!) can create words at will. I’m calling Webster’s now. Thank YOU and your fabulosity!! 😮

  12. Coach T says:

    We were taught as children to not brag. We learn as adults that we need to toot our own horn.

    Like the story of the three bears, I hope your client finds the amount that is just right.

  13. Alexia says:

    Dawn–what a great “intervention;” I hope she took it to heart! Thanks for sharing that story.


  14. Donna Svei says:

    Hi Dawn,

    What a heart wrenching story.

    Nathaniel Branden’s The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem is a terrific resource, that can be found for free at many libraries, for people who want to value themselves more. His exercises are easy to use and quite effective.

    Thanking Twitter and an unremembered, but much appreciated, @DawnBugni re-Tweeter for introducing me to you!

    Happy Thursday,


    • Dawn says:

      Donna –

      Welcome! And thanks for the book recommendation. I’ll add it to my repertoire when I have clients with that need again (and really, they don’t even have to be clients.)

      I’m glad we found our way to each other via Twitter too. I’ve enjoyed your reading your blog posts and your tweets. I’ve learned from them and try to “utilize” 🙂 that information whenever I can. (Inside joke — go to Donna’s blog & dig. You’ll be privy to the meaning too.) I LOVE this profession. We all help lift each other.

      Thanks for adding such value to this post and to the industry!!

  15. […] just read @dawnbugni‘s post on “What are YOU saying about you?” and it hit home. My confidence has […]

  16. Thank you, Dawn, for reminding us that there are deeper reasons why clients sometimes don’t buy from us. The same thing happened to me last weekend via email. My client just wrote to me and stated she decided not to move forward with her job search. Of course, I was disappointed, but could read between the lines to determine something else was going on. I had done some coaching with her before, so I knew she had the tendency to play self-defeating tapes in her head. I haven’t responded yet, simply because I’ve been wanting to say, “Come on! You CAN do it!” and, as coaches, we all know THEY have to come to that realization. Now that I’ve had a bit of time to get past my initial reaction, and I’ve read your article, I feel like I can respond with more compassion. I’ll be able to ask her a little more delicately what inspired her change of heart and reassure her that I’ll be here if she changes her mind.

    • Dawn says:

      Kristin –

      I’m so glad that story help you. I find when I get past the me-focused, “What did I do wrong?” perspective, I usually find it wasn’t me at all. It was something major throwing up a roadblock in the clients life. Sometimes recognizing the blockage is enough to move past it. Sometimes, as you said, it takes time for THEM to come to the realization and recognize what needs to be done. We are soooooooo much more than “just writers” — coaches, cheerleaders, educators, “therapists”, hand-holders, moms (dads), cattle prods 🙂 — the many hats of a resume writer.

      I hope things turn out well with your client. Thanks for taking a moment to share.

  17. […] else on the planet. Be encouraging in what you say to yourself. (For more on this topic: “What are YOU saying about you?“and “…And then shut […]

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