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IP Résumés That Rock

Picture, if you will, the typical wage slave: the poor sap's encased in a freshly dry-cleaned suit and too-wide tie, one hand squeezing the handle of a new briefcase, the other meekly proffering a résumé typed out on tasteful Crown Linen 100% cotton paper.

A résumé, you think. How quaint! I'm sure glad that's not me anymore…

Well, get ready for a blast from the past. Like cold sores and Richard Simmons, résumés never really go away -- they just go underground for awhile. And now, with the advent of the Internet, they're storming back into your professional life.

And even if thinking about résumés gives you bad flashbacks of the nine-to-five grind, you should have a Web and email résumé ready for action. After all, when a potential client asks for your résumé, "You can bet that the client is shopping for the right freelancer, and chances are good that you won't be the only one [in the running]," says Susan Britton Whitcomb, author of Résumé Magic and co-founder of CareerFolios.com, a site that lets professionals create and update Web résumés. "The faster you can deliver a clean, targeted résumé, the better your chances are of landing the contract." And what's faster than email and the Web? Yo mama, perhaps, but nothing else.

Not only that, but an online résumé works for you while you sleep. Consider the example of freelance Web designer Kim Brown. She posted a résumé on the Web for a class in HTML, and that résumé snagged her so much work, she was able to go IP. "I've had many phone calls and emails from companies who start the conversation by saying, 'I found your résumé on your Web site,'" she says.

The $65,542 Question

So now that I have you salivating over the idea of writing a résumé, step back and ask yourself whether résumés are par for your industry. "In the beginning I did a mass mailing [of résumés] to my target market," says voice-over artist Laura West. "I was highly disappointed by the lack of response. The voice business is a real word-of-mouth one. I've had more success from sending out demo tapes."

Okay, now that all the voice-over artists have left, we can continue.

First Things Second

If you've worked for The Man, you probably know all about chronological résumés and experience-based résumés. But for an IP, neither of these formats works perfectly. Sure, the skills and education sections are fine, but no client wants to read about every IP assignment you've ever landed.

"A freelance résumé can be more casual," says Anne Maxfield, president of Project Solvers, a freelance talent agency for the fashion industry. Write up a few of the better clients and projects, she suggests, and add "Full client list available" at the end of that section.

Also, even though you have 256 quadrillion megs at your disposal, avoid the urge to list your vital stats, hobbies, or favorite authors. "I don't care if you like dogs and children and singing in the rain," says Maxfield, who obviously despises all things good and sweet. All your prospect cares about is whether you can make his or her life easier.

Don't forget to use active verbs, sell yourself, blah, blah, blah. For all the (yawn) standard advice on how to cook up a résumé, check out The Résumé Shop.

Bells or Whistles -- but not Both

For paper résumés, simple is better: one font for the headers and another for the body; job titles or former clients in italics; bullets possibly in a different color from the rest of the text. In other words, nothing too outrageous.

Web résumés, on the other hand, give you the opportunity to do more: "Flesh out content, include a career philosophy statement, add your university's logo next to your degree, insert a photo of your latest project, link to a Web page where you've been quoted, provide hyperlinks to references," says Whitcomb.

Just take it easy with the audio files, video clips, and animated graphics. "I was at someone's Web résumé site a few days ago and it literally took more than five minutes for the whole thing to load, complete with accompaniment of the Beatles' 'Let It Be,'" author Whitcomb recalls. Not everyone will be so patient.

Supporting Characters

Suppose a prospect can't spare 30 seconds to check out your online résumé and asks you to send it by email. You highlight your résumé, paste it into the body of an email, and send it off. The prospective client opens your email and sees this:

Jane Smiths r&abcd;sum&abcd

? Freelance soda jerkÇRanked !1 for soda%jerking prowess five years straight.

Jeez -- scrawl it on a napkin with crayon, why don't you? To avoid looking like you typed your résumé out with your nose, save it as ASCII text (otherwise known as "text" or "text only"), which eliminates special typefaces and characters. You're now stuck with a résumé that has but one font, one color, one typeface, and one text size. Don't worry -- you can make the most of your vanilla résumé with these tips from Whitcomb:

  • Present the most impressive or relevant information near the top (before the reader has to scroll down).

  • Add extra white space between category headings, paragraphs, or bulleted statements to add to legibility.

  • Set off category headings with a few keyboard characters, such as:

    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


    = = = QUALIFICATIONS = = =

  • Open the résumé in a text editor, such as Windows Notepad or the Mac's BBEdit Lite, so that you can stomp out any unsupported ASCII characters.

  • Email the résumé to yourself and to a friend who has a different email system than you. This will give you a sneak peek at how the document might look on the recipient's end.

  • Read more on email résumés in the article Career-Savvy Résumés.

Get Attached

Your prospect may instead ask you to send your résumé as a separate file attached to your email message. Don't be PC-prejudiced -- your prospect may be a Mac-head like me. Ask what format he prefers to receive attachments in, or send it as text only.

Another tip: don't give your attachment a lame name like resume.doc. "Chances are a few hundred other people have named their file the same thing," says Whitcomb. Get specific with a name like smithres.doc. And give your email message (which serves as the résumé's "cover letter") a snappy subject line, like "IP Soda Jerk with 60 Years Experience."

Don't Bogart That Résumé

Once you've got a killer résumé, don't be afraid to use it. Send it to introduce yourself to new prospects, include it in your direct mailings, give it to anyone with opposable thumbs. "I send it, with writing samples, to my contact, who is usually the decision maker -- and those contacts are made, of course, through networking, blackmailing, cajoling, heavy lifting -- whatever it takes," says Kathie Stamps, a writer and voice-over artist who didn't get the hint in the first section of this column.

So now that you know the basics of a killer résumé, get out there and knock 'em dead (and while you're at it, get Richard Simmons, too, will you?).

We'd love to hear your feedback about this column, or put you in touch with Linda Formichelli if you like. You may also like to see her biography.

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