Katherine Metres Akbar’s interview on The Arnette Report (video)

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The Arnette Report:
So tell us a little bit about why people are calling you the resume queen.

Katherine Metres-Akbar:
Sure. Well, I certainly didn't set out to become the resume queen, but that's what people in this market are really interested in, right in the middle of the smartest group of people that the country could possibly attract. People come here from all over because they're ambitious, they're highly educated, and so people are having the funds to invest in their career and really motivated to get to the next level. So most of the folks who come to us for resumes are not unemployed. I first imagined when I entered this business that they would be unemployed people. But that's not the case at all. Most of our clients are very successful. They're mid to senior level executives and now they want to get to the next point.

The Arnette Report:
So what are some of the common mistakes that they make?

Katherine Metres-Akbar:
Well, I would say a lot of people are very anxious about their job searches. And so the biggest thing is to talk to all your friends and associates and everybody's got their opinion and then you're looking at your resume with six different opinions, just your head exploding and not knowing what to do. Or you're at home and you're applying to all the job boards and you're not getting any responses and you're like, "I've applied to 20 jobs in the past week. How come nobody's calling me?" So both of these are manifestations of anxiety that are unhelpful and really it's better to take a step back and say what is it that you really want? What kind of job is going to have you bounding out of bed in the morning and saying, "Yeah, I got this job that I love and this is where I wanted to be. And I got myself here."

Katherine Metres-Akbar:
So step one is find out what you really want to do. And then step two is go for it with a single minded focus. And that means not only submitting your resume to jobs that are open on the job board, but making a list of the organizations that you would love to work for and then figuring out how you can work your way in in each one of those.

The Arnette Report:
So you must have some success stories. Share a couple with me.

Katherine Metres-Akbar:
Sure. I have many and one of my favorites is from a nurse anesthetist named Heather who said that when she went to her interview, the guy said to her, "You know, you look so good on paper. This interview is really just a formality."

The Arnette Report:
Wow.

Katherine Metres-Akbar:
And how great is that, because so many people hate to interview.

The Arnette Report:
Yeah. It's like you got the job. Now let's talk.

Katherine Metres-Akbar:
I can't promise that result for everybody. But that was her case. And then we also had a client that I'll call Tamara and Tamara came to us saying, "I want to get a job in security for the federal government." And I said, okay. Took a look at her resume and she had some jobs in the federal government where she was doing contract review. She was an attorney. And she also had done a human rights internship. And I said to her, "Okay, I see you're telling me you want to do security and I'm seeing human rights, but these are kind of opposites. Usually the folks who are interested in human rights are kind of on the left. People who prioritize security are usually more on the right. Who are you?" And she said, "Well, you know, I just want to make a contribution to my country since 9/11." And I said, "Okay, great, but there's more than one way to do that, so which way fits you?"

Katherine Metres-Akbar:
And she said, "Well the other thing is kind of Condoleezza Rice is from my neighborhood. And I always viewed her as the epitome of success as a black woman." And I said, "Well, she's successful, yes, but are you Condoleezza Rice? Because I'm not Condoleezza Rice. Even if I were a black woman, I wouldn't be Condoleeza Rice because I'm much more liberal than that." So she said, "Well, I don't know. I don't know." And then the Freddie Gray incident happened in Baltimore and she went and volunteered as a lawyer working with the demonstrators and she came back knowing that Tamara was not Condoleezza Rice and she ended up quitting the federal job that she hated and she got a job working with the D.C. Human Rights Commission that she absolutely loves.

The Arnette Report:
Wow. Now give us a tip. Just give us a hint of something of what can you do to perk up a resume so that somebody will pick up the phone and call you.

Katherine Metres-Akbar:
Sure. Well for the resume, the most important thing is quantified accomplishments. So most people put on the resume what they did, just the what, but the what is not very inspiring. It's the why that's inspiring. So if you can put, I did this and then the impact, the output to the employer, the benefit to the employer, that's what's going to get the employer's attention. And then the other thing to remember is that half of the employers are really interested in the resume, but the other half of employers are more interested in the cover letter. So you also have to have a great cover letter and most people put a lot of attention on their resume. They work at it and work at it and they submit a horrible cover letter. So that also is important for a lot of folks.

The Arnette Report:
Yeah, that kind of tees up the resume, doesn't it?

Katherine Metres-Akbar:
Yeah, and actually your resume is going to be for the most part, the same for every employer. Although I would recommend making some tweaks, especially to the first part. But the cover letter definitely has to be tailored. If you send the same cover letter to every employer, it's obvious to the employer and it's a turn off because they feel like they're not that interested in the job or they didn't read it. And I am an employer, which helps me with advising my clients on how to appeal to employers because I know my reaction when I get a dear hiring manager cover letter that's clearly not about the kind of work I have to offer. It does turn me off.

The Arnette Report:
All right. So let's say you got some help and we have somebody like yourself and tweak your resume and that's ready to go. Tell us about the Guerilla Job Hunter. That does intrigue me. Tell us a little bit about that.

Katherine Metres-Akbar:
Thank you. Well, so a guerilla warfare is kind of irregular warfare. And of course this is a nonviolent thing, applying for a job. But we like the spicy language. So what we mean by Guerilla Job Hunter is you're not going to just follow the rules. You're not going to always go straight through HR. You're going to try to find some different ways of going about getting what you want. So for example, I mentioned earlier, making that list of organizations that you'd love to work for. Well, how can you make contacts at those organizations? Maybe you can reach out to your friends, instead of sending your friends your resume and saying, "I'm looking for a job. Let me know if you know of any openings.", which when I get one of those emails, I feel kind of like, "I don't know of any openings." I feel like I wish I could help but better to say, "Do you have any contacts at any of these organizations that you could introduce me to?"

The Arnette Report:
Specifically that one, yeah, the one you want to go.

Katherine Metres-Akbar:
Exactly. So then I could say, "Sure, I know so-and-so." And then you invite that person for lunch or coffee for example, and you ask really smart questions. The smart questions are going to make you look like the kind of person who has the energy and insight to be an asset to that organization. And so you're not going to ask that person to help you get a job, but that person is going to think of you if there is an opening that's appropriate and you can also ask that person for advice. Who else should I be speaking to? What other organizations might be looking for somebody like me?

The Arnette Report:
Something else that I came across with you that really intrigued me is Interview Aikido.

Katherine Metres-Akbar:
Yes.

The Arnette Report:
What in the world is that all about?

Katherine Metres-Akbar:
Okay. Well, the idea here is that in Aikido, you use the energy of your opponent coming toward you to shift and take control of the situation, right? So of course again, the employer is not your enemy. We want to make it win-win. But just using the idea of you don't have to be sitting there getting grilled, you don't have to be disempowered because the employer has power. Instead with Interview Aikido, you pull your level up so that you guys are on equal power level and you don't sit there and let yourself be grilled but you have a round conversation where the employer asks you a question, you answer that question and then you jump another question onto it in a way that will be appropriate because we teach you how to ask for permission to make sure that that's cool. And that way, you guys are having a flowing conversation about the kind of work that interests you both. And by asking those smart questions about what the employer is looking for, you're also going to be in a much better position to sell yourself. Because now instead of stabbing in the dark, hoping you say that what they want to hear, you're actually aiming at a target that you can clearly see.

The Arnette Report:
Well that makes sense. So let's suppose you got your resume and your cover letter together and you're ready to go. What advice would you give someone who's in that position looking?

Katherine Metres-Akbar:
Well, I would say, "Do go ahead and apply for the jobs on the job boards. Make sure that every cover letter is tailored though." Don't bother with this 20 jobs a week. If you only have time to apply for two jobs a week and do a good job at it, then that's fine. And don't neglect the networking. Definitely reach out to folks that you may already know in your field, like former bosses are a great one to contact because if you did a good job for them, they're going to want to help you and they're going to know your strengths. So do the networking and do targeted applications. And then if they feel like they would like to get that extra edge to get a new job faster and at 15% to 20% higher pay, we're also very happy to help.

The Arnette Report:
How do you go about finding clients or how do they find you?

Katherine Metres-Akbar:
Yeah, well we don't have to find clients. They are coming to us, especially since the election, there's been a significant increase in interest, but we are the top rated company in the area for both writing services and career counseling on Yelp and so we get a ton of inquiries through Yelp. Sometimes people go straight to Yelp and sometimes they find us through Google, which takes them to Yelp. We're also on Angie's List and the Better Business Bureau and of course we get referrals from clients and clients who come back to us.

The Arnette Report:
All right. I got to ask you for one or two more tips for people that are in this situation, what advice would you share with them that's really important?

Katherine Metres-Akbar:
Well, I think like I mentioned before about the anxiety, the first thing is to take a deep breath and to visualize success. You have to trust the universe that the perfect job is out there for you. If you don't believe that the perfect job is out there for you, you'll be right.

The Arnette Report:
You won't find it.

Katherine Metres-Akbar:
You'll be right. But I truly believe, and this is how I found my husband after years of struggling to find the right partner, you have to believe that the perfect situation is there for you and that you can have it. And that all you have to do is make yourself spiritually available to connect to it. So there is that bigger element of the mindset that you're in. And then the technique falls into that. But I do sometimes see folks who are pursuing the right techniques, they're trying to get their resume done and everything, but there's so much static from their anxiety that they're getting in their own way. So it's very important that you trust the universe, that you trust your partner, if you choose a good resume writing company, for example, and that you know that somebody is out there probably right now, just praying, "Dear God, please send me the right person for this position." You can be the answer for that person's problems as well as their being the answer to what you want.

The Arnette Report:
All right. So if you're out there and you're looking for a job, get help, and it's just great, thank you so much for stopping by.

Katherine Metres-Akbar:
Thank you so much.

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