Resume Writing

Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by Susan1, Apr 14, 2012.

  1. Susan1

    Susan1 Active Member

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    Hi to all my favorite know-it-alls (said with absolute LOVE):

    Can't find a good answer to this anywhere -

    My cousin has worked as a legal secretary for the same firm for over 30 years. She started as a co-op student, worked full time after she graduated, went back to part time when her son was born, has been working 30 hours/wk. for the past few years. Only one attorney is the same as the day she started. Many have come and gone and branched off to other firms, etc. I couldn't even tell you how many other secretaries have been through there - retiring, switching to other law firms, coming back, full time, part time, etc. And, guess what, the first partner retired, the other attorneys went elsewhere and she is out of a job for the first time in her life.

    What in the world is she supposed to do for a resume? Loyalty is one good thing, but with all the other legal secretaries out there getting better paying positions, or more interesting work, how can she explain that she stayed there all these years. And actually it is because she was afraid to go anywhere else because they might expect her to learn something more than what she was used to.

    She has to apply for jobs to get unemployment. So far she is just calling places asking if they have any openings. But she is going to have to send resumes now. That would be the shortest resume in history, unless she listed each name change (i.e) -
    Smith, Jones and Hill
    Smith, Hill, Baker and Johnson
    Hill, Baker, Johnson
    Baker, Johnson, Miller and Smith
    ha ha ha

    Any ideas?
     
  2. pixie cut

    pixie cut Well-Known Member

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    First of all, resumes don't just list the names of employers. They list the job duties performed. Surely, she can fill a page with details of what her job entailed.

    Contact a resume writing service. Monster.com has a variety of services. If that's too pricey, search around.

    Lastly, if she wants to work she better get her rear in gear and be open to change.
     
  3. PYHILL

    PYHILL New Member

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    I have been in human resources for almost 20 years. For someone like your cousin, I would only expect a one page resume - the length of time at her last job explains it all. Just like Pixie Cut said, the resume should focus on her skills and accomplishments - it should be no problem to fill a page.

    In regards to calling places and sending resumes - most companies will tell her to apply online and will through out any resumes received via mail. Due to employment laws, these resumes are considered unsolicited and unless an employer wanyd to document every unsolicited resume, they will throw out to ensure they are only tracking what they need to for applicants.

    I wish her luck!
     
  4. Susan1

    Susan1 Active Member

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    Well, not to speak ill of someone I have loved like a sister all my life, but all she has ever done is machine transcription using Word Perfect (and the good ol' IBM Selectric before that, of course!!!). She also orders office supplies. She has never used any other kind of software. Learning email was a giant step, and she can search for things on the internet. There have been other secretaries in the office who did the payroll and stuff. The one time they wanted her to learn Quicken to do the bills while one was going to be out for 2 weeks, she ended up in tears because they called her a dumb blonde!!!

    She's not dumb or lazy. I don't know what it is. She doesn't want to learn anything new or have a new work experiences. She was settled in for 32 years. They only ever moved to different office buildings twice in all that time. She liked this last attorney because he told her exactly what to do and she did it. And did it well, of course.

    Back in the days of typewriters (anybody here remember them?) she typed so fast during the dreaded typing tests, she would have to turn her paper over and start typing on the back. With no errors. She always got straight A's in school because she studied really hard. And she even told me back when we were in school that if she was asked to write a one page report, she would write a two page report and get an A for her extra effort.

    She really has no other skills or accomplishments or duties besides transcribing. Which is why she is dreading having to come up with a resume, huh! Uh, one page? More like one sentence!
     
  5. mikey

    mikey ...an acquired taste

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    It sounds like there isn't much she can do. Her lack of ambition has made her unemployable, since the field around her moved on without her.
     
  6. Prancer

    Prancer Jawwalking Staff Member

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    If she's been a legal secretary all this time, she should have some knowledge and skills of basic legal work. She should list the types of legal work she is familiar with--probate, real estate, employee benefits, etc.--and what she knows how to do in those areas. A good legal secretary can do a lot of basic legal work; those are valuable skills.

    I have another suggestion, but I'll PM that one to you :).
     
  7. Susan1

    Susan1 Active Member

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    Above is what I have told her, but for some reason, legal secretaries seem to do it differently. They call legal secretaries they used to work with in other firms and let them know if they or someone else is leaving or if they are looking to switch jobs themselves. I've never heard of so much job hopping as my cousin's legal secretary friends. Even my ex's daughter would work at one law firm for 6 months to a year and then apply for a job somewhere else. If she didn't like the new job, she'd just go somewhere else. (This was 10 years ago. I know that can't be the case now with so many people out of work. However, law firms do seem to only hire someone with legal secretarial experience, so I guess the only place they would get them is from another law firm, and that person leaving would have to be replaced, etc. etc.)

    I've never known of any law firms that offer benefits, or much in the way of vacation/sick, etc. It must have to do with the turnover. But then, this is Dayton, Ohio, not Chicago, LA or New York here.

    I know - she's up a creek!
     
  8. Prancer

    Prancer Jawwalking Staff Member

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    A lot of the smaller firms hire all staff as personal contractors, but the big firms offer benefits and vacation and all that. Your cousin, however, would not be qualified to work for one of them based on what you have said, because they require very high-level skills.
     
  9. pixie cut

    pixie cut Well-Known Member

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    That sounds sad but true. Like someone who refused to learn how to use a computer. Time has moved forward and the job market has evolved. Keep up or lose out.

    Still, she must have some skills, so it's imperative she contact a resume writing service. They'll pull it out of her.

    In the end, she may have to try and get work at transcription services. That's always a viable skill.
     
  10. ArtisticFan

    ArtisticFan Well-Known Member

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    I know that here in Georgia there are employment firms that specialize in legal secretaries, paralegals, and legal assistants. It might be worth looking into, as my friends who work in the field swear by this service.

    As for her resume, she might want to look at some of the other styles than chronological. Focusing on the skills that she does possess would take the attention away from a lack of variety. I've also seen some resumes of people who have worked in the same company for 20-30 years and they arrange it by position with the the most recent first.

    Legal Secretary
    Name of the Company and Dates
    Description of responsibilities.

    Receptionist
    Name of the Company and Dates
    Description of responsibilities.

    Intern
    Name of the Company and Dates
    Description of responsibilities.
     
  11. Japanfan

    Japanfan Well-Known Member

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    A fast typing speed and transcription abilities are valuable and transferable skill. She could apply to other law firms to do the same.

    Or, she could do transcription on her own - there is always a need for someone to transcribe.

    Once she gets working or gets a job, it might be a good idea to take a course to upgrade her skills and qualifications. That is if she wants - maybe all she wants to do is transcribe, and she can probably do that.
     
  12. Susan1

    Susan1 Active Member

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    Hi, yeah, her idea is to get another job at another law firm where she knows a secretary she used to work with. I like the idea of doing transcription from home though. They let her take her computer and transcription equipment when they closed the office. But I don't think that would pay enough.

    Someone else mentioned firms that place legal secretaries. We have the Dayton Bar Association that does that.

    My original question was how to write a resume when you only have one job for 32 years. I guess it was a stupid question because there is no answer when all you have done for 32 years is type legal documents. She never wanted to learn anything else (like become a paralegal or to do the firm's books). She just wants to work the hours she wants to work, get paid what she was getting paid, and then go home.

    She went to the joint vocational school back in high school for the legal secretary program and that was it. She got the job as a co-op student and has been there ever since. I'm sure she expected to work there till she died or was old enough to retire. What's the saying about being comfortable in your cage?

    And now they've got a son who is a freshman in college and they need the money to keep coming in. But she doesn't want to have to start over at a new job. And she definitely would not go back to school at this late date when all she wants to do is keep doing what she did for 32 years.

    This has turned into a soap opera/snark session (on my part). It's been fun discussing someone else's problem for awhile, where I don't have to be the "encouraging cousin". :)
     
  13. Matryeshka

    Matryeshka Well-Known Member

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    To me personally, there's a lot to recommend a person that's held down one job for 32 years. She's loyal. She's stable. She's a team player and takes direction well. She's a steady worker. She can roll with the punches. Law is not a sentimental business; to have survived that long in the same office, she's tougher than she gives herself credit for being. Even though she doesn't learn new technology well, I'll bet her adaptation skills are higher than she's been given credit for--you don't get through that many name changes/partner changes at a law firm without being able to compromise/get along/adapt.

    While some of it could be they're tailoring the ad for a specific person, I've seen plenty of "help wanted" ads for legal secretaries that require 10, 15, 20 years experience in a given field of law. They type of law practice should be noted. Especially if it was insurance or real estate, that experience could translate into a wide variety of job opportunities.
     
  14. pixie cut

    pixie cut Well-Known Member

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    I think you're projecting your opinion onto it a bit.

    I'll repeat, go to a decent resume writing service. Those services are familiar with all sorts of situations.

    Doing transcription work can be lucrative if she's good at it. Doctors are always paying people to type up their notes.

    Step 1. Apply for unemployment.
    Step 2. Get the resume done.
    Step 3. Call around to her fellow legal secretaries for job openings.
    Step 4. See if the unemployment office offers any counseling. Depending on the size of the community she lives in, that office might actually offer some decent support in terms of advice and placement.
    Step 5. Investigate transcription services.
     
  15. agalisgv

    agalisgv Well-Known Member

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    I think the problem is in the current labor market, things like being a steady worker is more of an expectation than a qualification. Many others are steady workers too, but they have far more skill sets to offer an employer beyond that. Being a steady worker may be ok for a college student doing an internship where not a lot of skill sets are presupposed, but for someone with 30+ years experience? The expectations are going to be higher.

    And that's generally why employers ask for someone with 10+ years of experience--they want someone with multiple skill sets rather than entry level qualifications. But it doesn't sound like this woman has that.

    It's harsh to say, but during the past recession, it was these kinds of workers who got cut first. They were competent, but that's it. In a regular economy, it was hard to find a reason to fire them because they had been at the company so long, but they weren't all that productive. The recession gave companies the excuse to cut these workers, and they have had a very hard time finding work in the present economy because they were basically punching in the card before and not much more. Employers aren't looking for that.

    Anyhow, I figure this is like anything else--if she really wants a job and needs the money, she'll do the work to get it. She knows she has limited skill sets, and she knows where to go to learn more to expand her qualifications. She'll either do that or not. Considering she has not pursued past work that would have paid more in order to stay comfortable, and considering she was only working part-time as it is, I don't know that her income is all that essential. Her son has left for school, so conceivably it would be an option for the son to take out loans rather than have his parents pay whatever. My guess would be she'll go through the motions of looking for another job, but if something doesn't land in her lap, she'll just retire early after her unemployment runs out (based on what's been described).
    Generally one has specialized training to do medical transcription.
     
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2012
  16. Anita18

    Anita18 Well-Known Member

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    Is her son's school generous with financial aid? When I was in college, I had a friend whose parents simply told her they weren't going to pay anymore. She went to the financial aid office and they adjusted her aid accordingly. It was no problem. But then I went to a private school with a fat endowment. :shuffle:

    Still, if the parents' job situation has changed, if you want help, you need to let the financial aid office know so they can help you out. Once you're there, they generally try to keep you until you graduate. Unless he's going to a for-profit school, in which case there are other issues at hand. ;)

    Loyalty definitely counts. At least it sticks out in a world where people often move on after a year. My bf has not held down a single position more than 1.5 years, and he's 30. The fact that I've stayed at my job for almost 6 years is downright shocking to some people. :lol:

    Being willing to stay at one company is good - it means they don't have to go through the trouble of hiring and training someone else as much.

    But beyond the loyalty, she obviously needs to be able to do the work. I have no idea what a legal secretary does, or how the field has changed nowadays, but if it HAS changed, it would behoove her to keep up.

    Or she could just tell her son he's going to have to work to pay his own way, if it comes down to that. :)
     
  17. Anita18

    Anita18 Well-Known Member

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    Unfortunately, this is true too. There's a balance of whether companies want to hire stable workers whom they only have to hire/train once, or whether they'd be better off hiring the more fleeting people who have much more skills so they don't have to bother teaching them everything from the ground up.

    But I agree - if she's desperate, she'll turn it around. If not, the son will just have to make his own way. Many others have done it before.

    My mom tried to go through some classes for medical transcription, but couldn't hack it because English is not her first language. She was trying to learn all the medical terms by translating them to Chinese and then trying to memorize the English spellings. :lol: My mom is a very smart woman and willing to learn new things, but even for English speakers, learning all those medical terms can be very difficult.
     
  18. Susan1

    Susan1 Active Member

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    Well, I'm pretty much taking the comments from the horse's mouth! She's always said that I should never have any trouble getting a job because I know all this different software and I've experienced different types of offices, when all she's done is transcribe legal documents all these years.

    Getting a new job and starting over are tough, most especially when you hit 50. Heck, I would have been at NCR for 20 years by now by choice if they wouldn't have had all the money troubles and layoffs. (Well, actually, I would not have moved to Atlanta last year when they abandoned Dayton. I know people who worked there when I started in 1992 who did move with them.) I would have gotten a fantastic severance package though. My cousin got NOTHING for her 32 years of service!
     
  19. Susan1

    Susan1 Active Member

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    Really. She found out she was losing her job (in two weeks!) right after they did all the financial aid paperwork for college. Then they had to go and do it all again with the adjusted income. I don't know if they had to do it again when the unemployment started. (Great timing, huh?)

    And, trying not to get too snarky here, but they are major helicopter parents and they are not going to make their only child take out loans or ever pay for anything. He's never even had a part time job. They ordered, paid for and picked up the corsage for every formal dance he went to. You get the picture.......... They go down there (Cincinnati) every other weekend to take him snacks and buy him clothes. (I know - almost 19 freaking years old and he's never picked out his own shirt and paid for it!) Her husband is the one who wants her to get a job so bad. (TMI!!!!! I'll shut up now.)
     
  20. agalisgv

    agalisgv Well-Known Member

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    Which sounds like she doesn't really feel the desire to have one, which I suspect will result in her not getting one.
     
  21. genevieve

    genevieve drinky typo pbp, closet hugger Staff Member

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    BAsed on what you say, it sounds unlikely that your cousin is interested in doing what is needed to get another job (and if her husband is the one who wants her to work, it may be her passive aggressive way to rebel against that...honestly, if they are paying everything for their son all the time, they probably could live quite comfortably - with some adjusting - without her working). BUT, if she's willing to make changes and become more employable, what about doing some temp work with law agencies? It would be a way of adding different employers to her resume (although she's have to be honest about the work being as a temp).

    I don't envy people who've been able to carve out a career they've enjoyed being kicked to the curb after decades. It sounds like the job she had was perfect for her and (I'm assuming) great for her employer, but they really did her a disservice by not requiring her to develop new skills along the way. Aside from not having the skills that would make her more marketable, I'm sure she feels like she shouldn't HAVE to have those skills, because...well, she just never needed to. It's a completely different world now. Add in her age (I'm guessing she's 50+) and the job market is even more challenging, unfortunately.

    ETA: agal got to the point while I was typing, blah blah blah... :lol:
     
  22. Japanfan

    Japanfan Well-Known Member

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    Several women in their 50s have told me that trying to get work in an office was a miserable experience, even though they had the skills and experience. They did not succeed in getting hired.
     
  23. Quintuple

    Quintuple papillon d'amour

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    I'm a bit of an ass when it comes to this, but if she's going to seek a job, she better change her attitude or at least fake that she's willing to learn. I've been in a "general office environment" for just over a year, and I'm on my third role. I'm one of the last ones who've touched just about everything in the overall department, so I always end up training the newbies. I can't say who's worse: the young ones who don't seem to care to learn a damn thing and can't take direction, or the ones who are so set in their ways that they're untrainable. I was about to claw my eyes out when a temp who was famed for her 30 years of data entry just stared at the screen when I asked her to open add a network account in Outlook, ... right there ... just click into Outlook ... have you ever used Outlook? ... have you ever used email? ... have you ever used a mouse?

    ... are you even breathing?

    On a more positive note, maybe she'll surprise herself and learn something new that will change her perspective on life, even if the situation forced her into it!
     
  24. Quintuple

    Quintuple papillon d'amour

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    Ooh, I know. Say to your cousin, "Just go to the library and get a resume book, and transcribe one of those! Just insert your name and actual experience ..."

    That'll motivate 'er!

    But yeah, although we're just hearing this word of mouth, it sounds like she's just whining and not actually willing to job search. There's always an excuse. And yes, she might just be paralyzed by the fear of change or thinking just how far behind she is compared to everyone else in the job market. But she's gotta play up those 30 years, list all the legal subjects she knows about.

    Also, has she done anything outside of work? Volunteer work? Any certificates?
     
  25. Anita18

    Anita18 Well-Known Member

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    Yeah, my friend's parents were definitely anti-helicopter parents, so she had to go to the financial aid office herself. She said it was quite easy - they pulled up her file and did everything right then. But again, it was a small private school with a fat endowment. If you don't have the money, they will simply give it to you.

    But yes, I am very familiar with the helicopter parent thing. My mom tells me about the ones she's related to or are friends with, because she's :huh: that she didn't treat us that way. We are apparently QUITE the minority in upper-middle-class Asian parent circles! :lol:

    To be fair, my parents paid for my entire college education and I took out a small loan, but at least I got part-time on-campus jobs while in school. :shuffle: And if one of my parents had lost their job, I'd be hauling ass to make sure they weren't going without for me to go to school.

    My dad was having a hard time getting hired when he was getting up there in age, and he's a software engineer. :yikes: Unfortunately, despite all his experience and knowledge, many companies would prefer the fresh-faced recent college grads who are willing to work 14-hr days. Dinner at home with family? What's that? :lol:
     
  26. Prancer

    Prancer Jawwalking Staff Member

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    It's not that they work longer, necessarily--it's that they work for less pay and are usually less drain on benefits.

    So sayeth the wife of a middle aged software engineer.
     
  27. numbers123

    numbers123 Well-Known Member

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    iME, Loyalty is often looked at as unable to make oneself marketable and flexible. Not saying that your field (which I gather is research?) doesn't respect loyalty or consider it an asset.

    with regards to young college age person willing to work 14 hour day in place of older worker not willing to do that, my experience is the opposite. Young people want to spend time doing other activities than work as they saw their parents working 14 hour days with a focus on their job not other things.

    Besides some of the things that other posters have stated: seemingly unwilling to learn new things etc., I suspect that in addition to being lost on how to write a resume, she has never had to learn interviewing skills or other things necessary when seeking a job.
     
  28. pixie cut

    pixie cut Well-Known Member

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    In my experience, the ones willing to work 14-hour days are workers over 40, not recent college graduates who must meet up with their friends.

    Susan 1, can I ask why you started this thread? You don't seem to think very highly of your cousin. Every positive, informative response you've received you have shot down with negative comments about her. Did the husband ask for your help in motivating her? Because you portray her as a lost cause.
     
  29. Anita18

    Anita18 Well-Known Member

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    The less pay thing definitely comes into play when you're older. When my mom was applying for entry-level jobs to pass the time in retirement, she no longer put her work experience in there, because she knew she'd be overqualified for everything. :lol:

    But I'm not sure if that's the case in this tech bubble in Silicon Valley. They are throwing a lot of money and incentives at young, hungry grads who can show they can do the work and not complain.

    It might work against me if I applied to grad/med school, but I think industry would look favorably on it, because my boss has claimed they don't want ambitious people, just people who can do the work. :lol:

    And he appreciates having someone around who can just do the work and not train a new tech in everything I know, every year.

    Could be the field/location. In the Bay Area where my bf is now, they will throw incentives and free food at you, so you'll stay after 10pm every night. You just do "other activities than work"....at work. :p His company has a beer keg in the communal fridge and a ping pong table and everyone plays Starcraft at 5pm. Catered lunch and dinner every day. There is literally no reason to leave, especially if your gf lives 300 miles away. :lol:

    I've also come across several type A personalities who figure, "I might as well work 100-hr weeks now since I'm young and I have no family, and save up the money and relax later."

    Again, could be the circles I'm in. But in my experience, people my age are more of a place to work more hours than people with kids, so that's what they do.
     
  30. Karina1974

    Karina1974 Well-Known Member

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    That made me think of a comment my dad made to me a while back. When he graduated from college in 1960, he had his A.S. in one hand and a job offer from G.E. in the other. He worked at the Knolls Atomic Power Lab in Niskayuna, NY for 45 years, retiring in 2005. He told me that, if he had had to go out and get a job post-retirement, he wouldn't have the slightest clue how to write a resume or do a job application, because he didn't have to do either one to get the job he ended up with.