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The Art Of The Resume, With Steph Cartwright

Struggling with your job search? Land that dream role with expert advice! This episode cracks the code on resumes, LinkedIn profiles, and the modern job hunt with Steph Cartwright, the mastermind behind Off the Clock Resumes. Learn how Steph helps Millennials and seasoned professionals alike navigate the ever-changing landscape of finding a job. We also get into resume writing tips, LinkedIn optimization tricks, and strategic networking strategies to get you noticed by the right employers. So, dust off your resume and get ready to take notes – this episode equips you with the tools and knowledge to land that perfect position!

Check out the full series of “Career Sessions, Career Lessons” podcasts here or visit A full written transcript of this episode is also available at

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The Art Of The Resume, With Steph Cartwright

Founder Of Off The Clock Resumes

My guest is Steph Cartwright. Steph is the Founder of Off the Clock Resumes, which she founded in 2014. In this capacity, she’s helped hundreds of job seekers get unstuck and get a foot in the door at the companies they’d love to work for. She works with them on their resumes, LinkedIn profiles, and job search plans.

She positions them to craft a clear message that helps employers connect the dots that they are the best fit for the job that they want. Steph is a certified professional resume writer, a LinkedIn professional specialist, and a job search strategist. She’s an active member of the National Resume Writers Association. She’s been featured and quoted in more than fifteen publications. She graduated from Western Governors University with a Bachelor’s degree in Human Resource Management. Steph, welcome, and thank you for joining me.

Thanks for having me.

I gave a brief overview in the introduction, but tell us about Off the Clock Resumes.

Off The Clock Resumes

Off the Clock Resumes has been an evolving online business of mine for almost ten years now. I am primarily a service provider and over the years have grown to now have several digital courses, templates, and other resources. The company itself has changed quite a bit, but the main consistent factor has been me. I’m the solopreneur behind it. The only change I’ve made is I have a virtual assistant to help with some marketing, but I do everything from starting with a client through to revisions a year later or three years later.

There’s a simplicity that comes with running a business and managing it by yourself. You don’t have to deal with how you keep other people busy if you have them as employees managing payroll and thinking about benefits. Everybody picks their spot in terms of how much complexity they want to introduce to their business. Why Off the Clock? Where did that name come from?

Before I started the business, I had already been experimenting with freelance writing in a bunch of different areas. I fell into resume writing completely by accident. The more I learned how those larger companies that I freelance operate, I started having this vision of an online community. You would look at it as a paid membership type of platform where specifically Millennials because that’s my age group could get the assistance they need for career development and career materials. They’re going to be doing this when they’re off the clock. Whether there’s live Q&A or assistance, it would all be driven toward office hours. That was where the name came from. When I settled on developing my own resume-writing company, it ended up being Off the Clock Resumes.

I was curious what the genesis of it was. You worked with Millennials as you mentioned a minute ago. Do you work with people from a bunch of different industries or is there any other specialization other than the age demographic?

I wouldn’t even say I have much of an age demographic that I limit myself to. My vision was to assist Millennials primarily. I work with a wide range of clients. Many of which end up being on the older side. Often, they’re looking to lend their last job or they’re coming back out of retirement. Ultimately, I tend to work with mid to late-career professionals in a wide range of industries. I specialize in those in tech or IT.

I also do US government resumes. That’s a very niche type of resume writing as well, and then all the way up to executive-level clients. Everyone has their own unique needs but we’ve seen over the years with changing hiring trends and technologies that the same issues are prevalent across all these different fields and industries in trying to land a job. That’s initially what I specialize in. It is not so much a person or a demographic, but let’s get through applicant tracking systems, which I know we’re going to talk about here in a little bit and land more interviews.

Did you pick up business through your website or word of mouth? Where do they tend to come in from?

With my writing background, I hammered writing blog posts and building my blog. I would say that most of my clients, most of my traffic in general comes from SEO, blogging, and people searching for the solution that I provide. It’s funny because that wasn’t my intention going into it. I was trying to fill the days until I got clients. It’s a long game, writing articles and building up a following that way. It’s a long game but it was so worth my time doing that.

Job Search Strategy

It does take a while. You learn to focus on search engine optimization on your authority score, on where you show up in search results, and all those things that probably most first-time people into the online business world don’t have any appreciation for the complexity of. Let’s start by talking about job search strategy. What are the most important things that you should do when you’re looking for a job?

As strange as it sounds, I’m not even going to talk about resumes or LinkedIn for now. The first and most important thing is to have some clarity. You can’t go into a job search without knowing what you want to do next. Even if that’s having some flexible clarity, having a good enough idea of the type of roles you want to be in, the type of projects you want to work on, or what you want your day-to-day to look like. You need to have some clarity even if it is flexible and it changes throughout your job search. That’s important to start with.

Also, getting organized is extremely important. Most of the job seekers that reach out to me don’t have a plan. I don’t even want to say strategy, but they don’t have their stuff together. They don’t know what they should be doing. They’re scrolling aimlessly through job postings hoping they’re going to find a great job, click apply, and get an interview the next day. It doesn’t happen that way.

All of us go through job searches multiple times in our careers. If you’re working with people who are mid to late career, this isn’t their first dance. What’s interesting is how many people do come into the job search process with a pretty limited knowledge. Therefore, they need the help.

I would even go so far as to say technology has changed so much in the last four years. There’s not a lot of great information out there to help educate job seekers. I don’t even think most job seekers know to try to educate themselves before they dive headfirst in because they end up wasting so much time not understanding these trends and technologies. It’s not their job to know, but it certainly helps speed up the process.

Job searches can be a full-time job. Even if you’re relatively knowledgeable about it, just the outreach, the incessant outreach, the networking, and the informational interviews that you do takes time. When someone reaches out to you and asks for help, are they typically at the beginning of their job search? Have they already spent time searching and at a point of frustration? What tends to be the most common situation for you?

I’d say it’s evenly split down the middle. Many of my clients are extremely frustrated. They’ve been actively searching for months. Sometimes even years. They’re frustrated. They don’t know what to do. They don’t know what they’re doing wrong. They reach out to me at that point but I also have a very large percentage of my clients that reach out to me saying, “I’m open for a new opportunity. I want to get my stuff ready to go in case a job position presents for me. I’m not in any rush. I’m not looking to leave my current employer.” I have had an equal mix of both, especially in the last few years.

Your point earlier about clarity, does that naturally in your view translate into, “You should take a little bit of time to reflect like if you’re in between jobs?” For people who may be fully clear, they could in theory jump right back into the job search and look right away. I’m curious how you counsel your clients in terms of how much time to allow for that clarity-building piece of the equation.

By the time they reach out to me, they’re thinking, “I need a resume. I need a LinkedIn profile.” They often don’t have any idea whether they need coaching. Do they need to do some reflection? They’re looking to me to update and refresh, whatever that looks like. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work today especially if they’re applying for jobs online.

What I tend to say is at the very least, reflect on your last role. What did you love? What did you not love?” Tailor that whole assessment into, what I need to look for differently in the next role so that I’m more satisfied, fulfilled, and less likely to look for a new job. It depends on whether they’ve been laid off and need something quickly or they have the time to say, “I’m not happy where I’m at right now.” What does that fulfillment and satisfaction look like down the road?

Career Sessions, Career Lessons | Steph Cartwright | Resume

Resume: Tailor that whole assessment into, what do I need to look for differently in the next role so that I’m more satisfied, fulfilled, and less likely to look for a new job?


Sometimes that does mean some actual one-on-one coaching. There are some amazing career exploration and transition coaches out there. I am not one of them, but I work with some fantastic ones. It can be beneficial. They dive deep into some things. I know one career coach. She likes to dive deep into even your childhood and figure out what you loved back then and how that can translate to your career now. It’s quite an interesting process that they work through with their clients.

If you don’t have a sense of things, you have to take a real step back. If you’re like, “I love doing what I was doing. I want to do it for some other company. I can’t do it for the one I was working for.” It’s probably a bit simpler. The job search process can be pretty deflating. I’m sure there’s a component of propping people up. How do you help your clients stay positive and confident in themselves as they’re working their way through this process?

I try to remind them that they’re not alone. Often, they get in this mindset that my background is so unique or my career goals are so unique or the challenges that I’m trying to navigate are so unique. Unfortunately, they’re not that unique. I don’t mean that to sound negative, but it’s more empowering to be, “This is something someone can help me with or this is something that isn’t as much of a roadblock as I think it is.” That in itself can be encouraging.

Often, what my work tends to do and this is any career coach is take a different perspective on your background and show you things that you have overlooked. Oftentimes, that in itself is so confidence-boosting. I can’t tell you how many resume clients I’ve had say, “I can’t believe how good you made me look.” No, that is how good you are. You need to own that and show it if you want to separate yourself from other applicants.

Do you work on personal brand aspects of that or more generally?

Absolutely. What I say is I help you build a personal brand and value positioning strategy, which sounds like Huey, big boards, and everything. It’s so important that your personality and the value that you offer work together or else, you’re going to look like a chatGPT resume. It’s important to have those personalized elements in there.


You mentioned resumes a minute ago. Let’s talk about resumes. What makes a good resume?

A good resume is tailored to a specific opportunity or a specific role because it showcases not just what you can do, but what you can do for that employer. I take a very goal-oriented and outcome-oriented approach to every section of a resume. What that does is it helps you stand out in all the right ways. It’s not a flashy resume design that makes you stand out. It’s what you say about yourself and how you say it so that you’re showing the scope of your work. You’re showing some context behind your work and the outcomes that a new employer can expect from you.

Do you have a prescribed format that you like to use or does it vary depending on the person’s situation?

It varies. For example, I work with a lot of US government job seekers. That’s a completely different format. It’s a 4 to 5-page, very dense resume. I enjoy writing those, which sounds funny because that’s extremely long and sometimes tedious for someone, but I enjoy them. A college graduate is going to have a completely different way of presenting background information than an executive or a late-career professional with fifteen years of strong measurable achievements. I take a very personalized approach with every job seeker I work with.

The point you made about government resumes being longer, academic CVs are typically longer. I was looking at resumes for a role that we’re trying to fill and one of them was five pages long. I’m like, “No. It means this person can’t summarize.”

You can send that resume to an HR specialist at the government agency and they’ll be like, “Great. I have enough information to check all the boxes for these requirements and these eligibility things.” You have someone that sends in a two-page resume and they’re like, “I don’t have enough information to make a good choice.” It depends on the industry. I recommend a personalized approach.

When you’re writing a resume, how much are you writing it for a person and how much are you writing it for the applicant tracking system or some other form of IT system?

I take a very balanced approach. I look at it as your resume tends to have generally three different resume readers before you land a job. You’ve got the applicant tracking system and the resume screening software. That’s going to be looking for something specific. You’ve got the recruiter or the HR coordinator. Whoever that first human reader is, they’ve got a checklist that they’re looking for to very quickly schedule interviews.

You have that direct supervisor or hiring manager. Whoever the hiring decision maker is. At this point, as your resume moves through the process and they get to this person, it’s already figured out that you’re qualified. What they’re trying to figure out is what separates you from the other qualified applicants. It’s important to take a balanced approach.

Do you recommend using the objective statement at the top of a resume or listing key skills and bullets?

I am so opposed to an objective statement. I’ve seen a wide range of introductions to resumes from the typical objective statement to a resume summary or a profile. What I have found that is frustrating is those often summarize your background in history like your resume is supposed to do. It doesn’t add anything to the resume itself. It’s regurgitating what’s already there.

What I have found way more effective is creating what I call a branding statement. That is an introduction that focuses more on the goals of the role, that you understand, you can meet and exceed those goals based on past performance. You are introducing yourself as, “This is what you can expect from me and my resume is going to support that.” That seems to be a far better use of that top space on your resume.

When you think about your work experience, how far back do you typically recommend that people go?

It depends on the client. I would say I never go back more than fifteen years if I can help it, but I’m starting to encourage most of my clients, regardless of career level. Focus on and embrace your last ten years. The last ten years are going to hold so much more weight. The reason I’m shifting from 15 years to 10 years is This. Think of how much technology has changed in the last five years. Technology influences methodologies, best practices, and ways of approaching business outside of technology. All of that experience that you’ve had early on is becoming less relevant. It’s not going to show an employer that you’re forward-thinking and you’re goal-oriented if you’re so attached to that older experience.

Suffice it to say I have been in the workforce for more than fifteen years but I started my career in the military. In my case, maybe there’s an exception when you are an ex-military member because it helps in terms of whether people are committed to hiring veterans or to the extent that they value that military experience. I’ll list that I was in the Air Force. I don’t put any of the specifics of what I did back then. It doesn’t matter anymore. Are there other kinds of exceptions? Will you tell people to go back further?

I would say, in detail, the last ten years. I have taken a couple of different approaches with the end of an experience section where I’ll either do a short career note saying like you did, earlier experience in the military or early experience as X, Y, and Z. I’ve also created a section similar to a bulleted list like you would see under a job block itself in a resume.

It’s early experience highlights and maybe I’ll take four bullets from 15 or 20-plus years ago that are relevant for this role and I’ll showcase those, but I’m not adding the dates. I’m not drawing attention to how old that experience is. I’m saying it’s an earlier experience. There are definitely different approaches you can take. I work with several career transition clients who maybe their most relevant experience was from 15 or 20 years ago and they changed careers or even took a career break. You have to get strategic when you have certain roadblocks like that in how you’re going to present your information to an employer.

When do you recommend that people stop listing when they graduate from school?

There have been a couple of different scenarios where, in general, I would say in the last five years list your graduation date. I have had some clients whose graduation date or educational experience fills a gap on their resume in the last ten years. Sometimes if it makes sense for that client to fill that gap, then adding those dates makes sense for them. You have a lot of flexibility with a resume. It’s a marketing tool. You are marketing yourself in the way that is going to be most effective for your career goals and not draw a bunch of red flags. You have that flexibility.

The point you’re making ultimately is it is a marketing tool. There isn’t one prescribed way. People will tell you, “There’s only one way to write a resume or there’s only one format you should use.” You can’t say it depends on everything but certainly, as we’ve talked about, you’ve got to adapt it to the type of employer that you’re looking to get work with. Government is going to be different from non-government and ultimately, you have to showcase your best self. Hobbies and interests, are you for them, against them, or it depends?

I’ve always been against them. Give employers what they want, what they specifically want to see, and trim the rest. I did have a conversation with a career coach who is also in recruiting. She recruits specific college graduates and interns. She said, “I like, especially from those college graduates and early career professionals, seeing some hobbies or interests because it gives me something else to talk to them about in their interview when they don’t have much to give me.” She said it is a talking point, especially if it’s not going to hurt them in any way as far as inappropriateness or showing any affiliation with something that’s going to be more controversial. It’s nice to have a talking point. I’m changing my perspective on that a little bit.

When I was hiring a lot of new grads when I was working in the consulting industry, we hired a ton of people at entry level. I looked at a lot of those other things that they would put in there, but particularly, it’s not because it gave you something to talk about. Also because you were looking for other evidence of leadership.

Somebody who’s 21 or 22 graduating from school or maybe even 18 or 19 coming out of high school. What else do they do? We were typically looking for people who were smart but also demonstrated some initiative and some leadership. You wanted to find somebody who didn’t just go to class and that’s it. In that context, it probably does help. I always feel like sometimes, when somebody puts something different on there, it gives you an icebreaker. That’s nice to do too. I do feel like sometimes they can work against you. If you’ve got too much listed on there, it makes people wonder whether work is your hobby and hobbies are your work.

I’ve also worked with quite a few executive-level clients who are board members and volunteers for various organizations. Some of those organizations are driven more toward their non-business interests and their hobbies. That shows leadership in a way that is not necessarily 100% about the job but it’s still relevant. I do like incorporating those elements in as well, but I don’t look at that as an interest or hobby section. I look at that as community leadership or community involvement versus trying to make it all about, “These are my interests.”

LinkedIn Profile

Let’s talk LinkedIn profiles. How should they be similar to and different from your resume?

LinkedIn is a fantastic platform for elaborating on things whereas a resume should be more of a snapshot. I have helped my clients create consistency across both without them completely duplicating each other and then utilizing those additional sections to expand on things. I work with a lot of product managers and project managers.

LinkedIn is a fantastic platform for elaborating on things where a resume should be more of a snapshot. Share on X

Utilizing that project section to dive deeper into some of their responsibilities in those areas, instead of having a bullet on your resume. You can have a whole block and it’s not going to necessarily be this lengthy and dense part of your profile or resume that’s going to be skipped over. It’s got a place and a function, which is fantastic for people who might have more information than they can utilize on their resume.

The other thing is it’s a bit more of a living thing, your likes, shares, and posts. There is no equivalent of that on a resume. You could copy your resume bullet for bullet if you wanted to, but there’s also all that other stuff that a potential employer can see that can help accentuate your case. Particularly if you want to show leadership in a particular domain.

I’m trying to encourage job seekers to be more strategic with how they spend their time on LinkedIn, even if they’re not looking for a job. That activity is public. The last 90 days of activity can be public. Showing others who are finding your profile, what you’re willing to interact with, and what you’re willing to share your own insights on. That can help you in ways that, down the road, you didn’t even realize who was watching, who was considering, and who might reach out to you down the road.

I’ll see things longer than 90 days old that will sometimes pop up that somebody will notice on LinkedIn and you’re like, “That’s a blast from the past.” You’ve gotten even made that post. It’s interesting how sometimes those longer-term things pop back in. What are the most important aspects of a LinkedIn profile to get right?

First, the headline. I am still seeing bland and non-effective headlines, meaning they’re a position title or they’re seeking new opportunities or they are sometimes just a long list of keywords. No one wants to click on the long list of keywords. It’s important to have a clickable element to your headline. Give them something to want to learn more about you, whether it’s an outcome they can expect or a career highlight. That’s extremely important to get right.

I also think utilizing that About section is extremely important. At the time of this recording, it’s 2,600 characters you can work with. Utilize them. It can be more than just copying and pasting a summary from your resume. Talk about your career journey, your goals, and the highlights that you’re proud of that maybe don’t come through very quickly on a resume. I always tell my clients to make sure they have a call to action in the About section. Tell the reader what you want them to do. Connect with you, message you, or refer you. There are so many different ways you can give guidance to someone reading your profile and see more results than a stagnant profile.

If you use that About section to tell your story, it’s free form. You can make it whatever you want. You see all sorts of different things in people’s About sections. Not everybody is going to click into your About section, but if they do, it’s a great opportunity for you to showcase what’s unique about you and what you’ve done over the years.

There are going to be users who skip the About section and do a quick scroll through your profile. There are users who will only read your About section and then decide if they are going to connect with you or if you’re going to matter to them for whatever reason why they’re using LinkedIn at that time. It’s important to utilize all of the spaces on your LinkedIn profile because you don’t know what the profile viewer is going to be most interested in.

You have to hit the different pieces, recognizing that people are going to look for different things. How do you feel about the green open-to-work rapper in your image? One of my former work colleagues called it the Scarlet Letter of the 21st Century. She was having a dark moment in the job search process. She needed to have a cathartic moment. She got a lot of responses on LinkedIn to that post. It was funny.

I bet she did. I have mixed feelings about it. I think that if you are being strategic with your LinkedIn usage and hosting and interacting with your community, it’s not necessary. It can be helpful. The underlying technology behind it is more important, where you can still notify recruiters that you are open to work without adding that banner by checking a different box.

That in itself is huge for so many reasons. One is that it pings those recruiters but then also, anyone building a job that you are going to be a match for based on LinkedIn’s new algorithms and their AI features, it can recommend you before you even know about it. That’s one of the spotlights or insights that they can see on their end that help narrow down potential candidates to the best matches. It’s important to think about the back end of what these tools can do. Not so much the front end, whereas that banner can either be a turnoff or it can help you. It’s more effective to reach out to your community and say, “I’m looking for new work,” versus, “Here’s my new profile photo.”

Career Sessions, Career Lessons | Steph Cartwright | Resume

Resume: It’s important to think about the back end of what these tools can do. Not so much the front end.


Most jobs everybody says come through networking and back to a point you made earlier in the conversation, scrolling hundreds or thousands of job postings, hitting apply, and crossing your fingers is a serious long shot. There’s a better way. How much do you get involved in working with your clients on that process of target company identification and outreach and those kinds of things?

I provide a lot of resources to help encourage my clients to take more of the employer-targeting approach instead of the job-targeting approach. I always say do your research. There are so many different elements of a company beyond just values and culture but their size is going to impact their values and culture, whether or not they’re open to remote work or in a particular industry, conservative or more forward thinking.

There are so many elements to consider. Breaking down what environment are you going to thrive in then figuring out what companies align with that ideal employer, and then utilizing tools like LinkedIn. LinkedIn makes it so easy to start networking with people who work at those companies. It’s so easy to find them. It’s so easy to narrow down even the employees who work in the department you’d like to work for. It’s a matter of knowing how these tools work, figuring out how to integrate them into your job search plan, then doing it and holding yourself accountable for it.

I’ve been around for a while. When I was looking for jobs even in college, I had to go to the library and find lists of companies and addresses and do all of my research there. It’s so much more work and more difficult to find. Now, it’s practically spoon-fed to you. You don’t have an excuse.

Job seekers tend to get overwhelmed with the amount of tools, technology, insights, tips, tricks, and hacks. There’s so much information sharing that can be overwhelming and that can make them stagnant in their job search because it’s all available in the palm of your hand if you have a smartphone but where do you start? What do you do next? You get distracted by the next shiny thing. That’s a real challenge for job seekers now.


We’re on the other end of the spectrum in a way because now you’ve got so much information available to you. It’s easy for companies to post their jobs. They’re not putting want ads in the newspaper anymore. They’re posting it on their own websites and all the online job boards. It’s an overload on both sides. In terms of the number of things that you could potentially see as an opportunity, as well as for the recruiters. They’re getting bombarded typically with people reaching out to them with resumes. Informational interviews, what’s your take on that process in terms of how much time to focus on them and how to make sure you get a good bang for your buck with them?

I have been giving this one a lot of thought because of my own interaction with people on LinkedIn reaching out to me, asking to connect on the phone or for a quick Zoom call. Time is money and precious, especially with so much work being remote. I feel like I’m on my phone most of the day and I’m working. I’m not even enjoying my time. I tell people no more often than I do that my time is so valuable.

In the past, I would say hit them up for these informational interviews. I’m starting to think we need to take a different approach. I’m starting to think we need to do a lot more research and make sure we’re presenting a strong case for why is it beneficial for that person to take 15 or 20 minutes out of their day for you or maybe change the format. Maybe we do voice messages back and forth in the LinkedIn message instead of trying to schedule a time when we can both connect. I know as a working-from-home mom with a toddler, phone calls are difficult.

They can be. I certainly have made ample use of them in my own job searches over the years. I’ve always felt somewhat of a sense to pay it back when people reach out but you can’t respond to everybody. You can’t give everybody time. There aren’t that many hours in the day, even if you aren’t a stay-at-home working mom with a toddler at home. Apart from informational interviews, what other types of networking activities do you recommend that job seekers focus on?

What I find effective more so than the other is recruiter outreach. It is a form of networking when done correctly, building relationships versus saying, “I’m looking for a job. Can you help me?” When you do your part to figure out, “What is this person’s skin in the game? They’re looking to fill these types of rules as quickly as possible. I’ve done my research. I match with that industry. I’m going to reach out and let them know this is my background. I know you’re looking to fill roles like this. What would be the next step?”

That is going to be a far more effective way to start a conversation than, “Would you review my resume?” I’ve also noticed that many of my clients say, “I don’t hear back from recruiters.” They’re bombarded right now. Recruiter outreach is not a new strategy but it’s not always done well. If you can say something that catches their attention, they’re more likely to respond instead of ignore it or just delete it and move on.

Career Sessions, Career Lessons | Steph Cartwright | Resume

Resume: Recruiter outreach is not a new strategy but it’s not always done well. If you can say something that catches their attention, they’re more likely to respond instead of ignoring or just delete and move on.


The other one that is so effective. I am a huge advocate for joining and getting involved in professional and trade associations. I joined my first in 2018 and I went to my first industry conference. The connections that I made are still friends. We’re competitors, but we’re also colleagues and referral partners. It’s a different way to look at what you do. They’ll be competitors for other jobs, but they’re going to have leads that are a better fit for you just like you might find leads that are a better fit for them. I can’t speak highly enough about professional organizations that go out of their way to create training opportunities, certifications, mentorship opportunities, and general networking opportunities. It’s an underutilized networking opportunity out there that I highly recommend people look into.

Some of those industry groups are good. Their hearts are 100% in the right place. They do amazing things for their members. They create a community that allows you to do things together. I am a big fan of those too. Maybe not the conferences so much. Sometimes the conferences are a little bit of a show but the people at the conference. What about recruiters, the search firms? How do you counsel your clients to tap into those?

It depends on the industry and the field. I’m a huge proponent of staffing agencies for our recruitment firms for IT and many of the professional fields because they have many fingers and arms in organizations that are constantly hiring for those. They’re typically larger organizations. If that aligns with your ideal employer, that’s a great way to get your foot in the door with some of those organizations. You have to remember, they’re working for the company. They’re getting paid by the company after that hire and you have to keep that in perspective when negotiating salary and all that. You don’t have as much control over the process, but I still think they can be extremely effective depending on the field or industry.

I always felt like it’s good to know who recruits in your industry. It’s good to be in their databases. It’s good to have at least somebody there who knows who you are. They’re not going to help you when you reach out to them in the middle of a job search. The odds of you needing a job and them having a job that’s a good fit for you are pretty low. If you play the long game, then you build that relationship and they keep tabs on you. It is playing a long game.

It’s also thinking about their network. They have a much wider network, even of recruiters that are not in their field. Maybe there’s going to be a recruiter who knows another recruiter who’s going to be filling roles that are a better fit for you. It’s a matter of respecting their time saying, “I know you don’t fill the types of roles I’m looking for, or maybe you no longer have any openings for the roles I’m looking for. Can you recommend I get in touch with someone else in your network?” That is also a great way to network beyond that one-on-one recruiter outreach. Utilizing their network is going to be a mutually beneficial way to start a conversation versus just saying, “If you can’t find me a job, I’ll look somewhere else.”


One question on a completely different topic that I wanted to ask you if you’re comfortable with. On your website, you indicated that you started with a two-year degree program because you had no idea what you wanted to do professionally. I think about this four-year degree programs are getting so expensive and the economics factor in for almost anyone. It sounds like you feel that getting your two-year degree and focusing on it, and then going back and getting your four-year degree was the right approach for you. I was curious to hear what you had to say looking back on it.

I was in a position where I could have done the community college running start when I was still in high school. I chose not to do it because I didn’t want to miss out on the last couple of years of high school and a lot of the events that took place. I was very against community college from the start. I wanted to get out of my hometown and I thought going to a state school or private school was the way to go.

It was not going to be in the cards for me. For me to be able to start my education, I did end up going the two-year degree route. I had in my mind one career goal that completely shifted and it shifted 3 or 4 more times. I knew going to a four-year degree school and program and graduating in something that might change the next year, I needed life experience to tell me what I wanted to do and what skills I wanted to have in my back pocket.

For me, it was a good choice. I worked my way through my community college degree. After I got married, I was able to get one last grant and I finished my four-year degree through WGU online. It was something I was genuinely interested in. Though I don’t use it now necessarily, it’s a great degree to have in my back pocket if I do decide to stop running my business and go back into Corporate America.

I have seen, especially with my tech clients, those tech degrees become obsolete so fast. It’s almost better to focus more on certification programs because they are going to be more up-to-date, usable, and refreshed. The top cutting-edge technologies and best practices taught. I see the value in a four-year degree but it’s not for everyone. It’s not for every career. It’s something to deeply think about for yourself.

How do you think recruiters are viewing two-year versus four-year programs?

I’m seeing so many job postings not looking for an education requirement. It’s empowering for a lot of job seekers. I see a ton of job seekers whose degrees are completely different than their career goals now. They got their degree twenty-plus years ago and it’s in accounting. Now they’re focusing on tech. It’s so crazy to me how I want to say eight years ago, the education factor was still so important. I’m seeing now it’s becoming less. They’re looking for certifications. They’re looking for, can you prove your skills in X, Y, and Z? It doesn’t have to be related to a degree program.

There’s an aspect. There’s a program in London focused on social mobility. It made me realize that putting a degree requirement on a job posting for somebody who’s 10 or 15 years out of school is irrelevant. We’ve taken education requirements off most of our job postings but it’s something that’s still changing.

I was even talking to my husband not too long ago. I got my degree in HR because I wanted to learn the other side of recruiting and staffing. I also fell in love with training and development. I was able to utilize that in my own business, building courses and educational resources. Down the road, I may decide to go into a learning and development-type field because I am excited about it. I do enjoy it. I want to learn more about it. That’s something I found not through the degree program but through my work outside of it. That’s something to remember. Your LinkedIn profile is a living representation but your career is also a living and evolving representation of your interests as well.

Your LinkedIn profile is a living representation, but your career is also a living and evolving representation of your interests as well. Share on X

On the certification programs, they’re not all created equal. Some of them are worth a lot and some of them probably aren’t worth the time that you put into them. How do you steer your clients on that one?

I look at it as even if it’s not a certification program but it’s an online course that gives you some competency in areas that are needed for your career goals, that’s a great way to add those keywords to your resume without lying or without investing a ton of money in a certification program that maybe isn’t as relevant as those keywords and skillsets that you learned. If you’re making a decision between joining a certification program specifically to boost your resume or for your own knowledge and abilities. It depends on your intention behind it because what you take away from it is often going to be more important than the title itself.

You’ve been running your business for ten years. What do you want out of the next few years?

I want to continue making products that help my clients get more interviews and get their foot in the door. I don’t know what that looks like. I’ve been on the coast while I’ve been working from home with the toddlers. I’m trying not to overwhelm myself, but I want to continue working with job seekers. I want to continue creating tools that make their job search easier to organize and execute. Other than that, I can’t speak for it. I’m happy with what I’ve built, where I’m at, and where it’s going. I’m not looking to grow at this point.

Fair enough. We all have those points where we hit the gas pedal or we pull off the gas pedal a little bit. Sometimes, we have to hit the brakes. Any final words of wisdom?

I want to encourage the job seekers out there or even those who are not actively searching yet but they’re considering making a change to get organized and get educated. Start following people on LinkedIn, specifically those in hiring. They don’t necessarily have to be career coaches or resume writers because sometimes they’re not the most informed. Make sure you’re following people who are in hiring and are sharing insights about their journey in hiring for the roles that they’re looking to fill. It’s going to be so much more insightful. It’s going to be more encouraging hearing from them what they’re seeing and what you can do better.

Well said. Thanks for doing this. I’m glad we were able to connect.

Thanks for having me.

Lots of good advice in there about resumes, job searches, and LinkedIn profiles. Thank you.

You’re welcome.

I want to thank Steph for joining me to cover all things related to job searches, resumes, LinkedIn profiles, and more. If you’re in the job market or more generally ready to take control of your career, visit You can become a PathWise member. Basic membership is free. You can also sign up on the website for the PathWise Newsletter and follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok.


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About Steph Cartwright

Career Sessions, Career Lessons | Steph Cartwright | ResumeSteph Cartwright is the founder of Off the Clock Resumes, which she founded in 2014. In this capacity, she’s helped hundreds of job seekers get unstuck and get a foot in the door at the companies they’d love to work for with their resumes, LinkedIn profiles, and job search plans. She positions them to craft a clear message that helps employers connect the dots that THEY are the best fit for the job that they want.

Steph is a Certified Professional Resume Writer, LinkedIn Profile Specialist, and Job Search Strategist, and she’s an active member of the National Resume Writers’ Association. She’s been featured and quoted in more than 15 publications. She graduated from Western Governors University with a bachelor’s degree in Human Resource Management.


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