Behind the Rewrite: Building a Winning Resume

When resume writers asked Laura Warren for a copy of an existing resume, she told them she deleted it.


Professional resume writers don’t usually take it as a positive sign when they ask a new client for a copy of an existing resume and are told she just deleted it.

It might suggest the client is a little careless with what’s supposed to be a thumbnail history of his or her own life.

Or it might reflect a lot of determination to change course and not much patience with an existing resume’s inability to reflect reality more effectively than a W-2 form.

In the case of Laura Warren, it appears to have been the latter. This member of Ladders was unhappily pursuing mid- to senior-level executive positions in the cosmetics industry until a session with a career coach helped her realize that politics, public activism and the life of a professional lobbyist fit the reality of her life much better than a marketing gig at L’Oreal.

“The first time we talked on the phone she said she’d deleted [her resume],” said Becky Brown, the resume writer at Ladders who worked with Warren. “She had one, but it had all these jobs that basically said ‘office assistant’ or clerical work that didn’t really reflect the really impressive things she’s done.”

“I had to go on a fact-finding mission to get more information,” Brown said. “I needed more than just the names of the positions. I needed what she did for each company, what her accomplishments were.”

According to Brown, Warren had a hard time promoting her real strengths and accomplishments.

Being CEO of your own cosmetics company is pretty impressive, and that alone probably carried her through a lot of initial screenings.

Warren spent almost 20 years working in the Port of Los Angeles for various shipping companies, learning not only how to manage and document the logistics of international trade, but also how to negotiate with both management and labor, work with international companies, and what goes into the actual operation of a port.

“When I travel I look at ports and hammerhead cranes,” ” she said. “I time the number of moves they do an hour from the port to the ship [as they load or unload containers]. Sometimes you see 12; sometimes you see 40. I evaluate the ports and can see where they’re doing well and where they need to be shored up.”

She spent several years working at the Biltmore Galleries in Los Angeles, managing expensive artwork, working with an exclusive clientele and learning how both the art and entertainment businesses work.

During both those periods and during the time she was running her own company, she was active in organizations involved with both the Port and the Los Angeles business community. She sits on the board of governors of the Los Angeles Economic Development Corp., a community and business-development organization whose members include top executives from most of the big companies in Los Angeles. She’s also on the advisory board of the Community Redevelopment Agency/Los Angeles, again with top executives from many of the area’s largest businesses.

“With most resumes you focus on not just the companies people work for but what you did for them,” Brown said. “With Laura, it was the other stuff that mattered to presenting her effectively as a lobbyist, without any formal experience as a lobbyist.”

So, rather than a resume that starts with one paragraph on the job seeker’s goals and another on her skills and accomplishments at past jobs, Warren’sresumeshowcases her experience and contribution running her own company and at the CRA/LA and LAEDC and other organizations.

“In that way we can show her immediate value as a lobbyist, talking about her experience in those areas and her contacts there, even though they weren’t part of a formal job,” Brown said. “Her work with these organizations and the people she knows and what she accomplished are what she’s trying to leverage as experience as a lobbyist, so that’s the focus of the resume.”