During the day, there are constant interruptions — emails, phone calls, meetings, and requests.
Melissa Cooper is the executive vice president of the writer network of Talent Inc. A triple-certified résumé writer and dual-certified HR professional holding both the SPHR and PHR designations, Melissa has eight years of executive recruiting experience and over six years of professional résumé-writing experience. She holds a Master of Science in Human Resource Management from New York University and a Bachelor of Arts, Creative Writing from Brandeis University.
Melissa has dedicated her career to all facets of the job market and organizational effectiveness. She is a member of the Women Presidents’ Organization, a recipient of the 2014 Enterprising Women of the Year Award, and is passionate about mentoring other young female entrepreneurs to be successful. Melissa’s additional involvements include partnership in a boutique recruiting firm and nonprofit work in Southeast Asia.
Where did the idea for a professional résumé-writing service come from?
It came to me in 2008 while I was working as an agency recruiter at a firm near Boston. Nearly 100 résumés would cross my desk on a weekly basis. I noticed that only a small percentage of the people I vetted and passed on to my clients received interviews. It was because of their résumés. I started taking the extra time to customize résumés, making the candidates’ language pop, matching their key skills with what companies were targeting, etc.
Almost instantly, I saw an uptick in the frequency that my candidates received interviews. One day, someone asked, “Why don’t you offer this as a paid service?” I kind of looked at them a little bit sideways — always the signal of a potentially great business idea!
I co-founded my first résumé service and grew it into a company that produced more than 135,000 professional résumés. Our acquisition in July by Talent Inc. has really opened the door for us to reach even more job seekers and help them improve their career opportunities in an affordable, professional way.
Now as executive vice president of writer development for Talent Inc., I’m able to focus on our network of amazing writers who work one-on-one with our clients to deliver elite service.
What does your typical day look like, and how do you make it productive?
To an outsider looking in, my typical day probably looks like chaos: phone calls, writer meetings, strategy setting, partner collaboration, etc. And that’s usually within the first hour!
My key to making it all click is by just doing it. If you sit and ponder your next hour of work, you’re wasting time! Interruptions will happen, and you’ll be thrown off schedule. If you know this going into your day, you’ll be less discouraged and irked when it actually happens.
Oh, and coffee.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I bring ideas to life by involving others. As other “idea people” can relate to, sometimes it takes another ear to really flesh out a thought. And the listener doesn’t necessarily have to be a business acquaintance. Some of my most successful ideas have been bounced around first with friends and family, who can be the most honest resources we have.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
The importance of branding yourself has really taken the career services industry by storm. A résumé that’s disjointed from the look and feel of the cover letter will not do the trick anymore. Job seekers have to treat themselves like a product — one they’re trying to sell to potential employers.
Five or six years ago, this wasn’t the case. But after the economy crashed and the job market trudged along, people started realizing that they need to do a better job of positioning themselves against their competition. That’s where consistent personal branding across your résumé, cover letter, LinkedIn profile, and other social media outlets comes into play in a big way.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
My almost nocturnal nature. It seems taboo to say because “the early bird gets the worm” is the philosophy of so many productivity experts, but I work best at night.
There are no fires to put out at night. And even if there are, they’re more like brush fires. During the day, there are constant interruptions — emails, phone calls, meetings, and requests.
What was the worst job you ever had, and what did you learn from it?
I was temping for a top-10 university. My job was administrative, which naturally requires some micromanagement.
My supervisor used to reorder my binder tabs during meetings. By the time she was done re-doing my job, there was nothing left for me to work on. Later in my career when I became a people manager — and to this day — I let people do their jobs and step in when needed.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I would have jumped into the résumé business a lot sooner. People needed professional writing services before they realized it and before I did, too. Making the professionally written résumé the new standard is now our goal at Talent Inc.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I think wearing all the hats now and then (not all at the same time) is so important. I try to connect with each function in our business regularly because if I’m only focusing on one area, it creates tunnel vision. I like to see how everything works together.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Using lean principles to grow. I start small with new ideas. If they work and sell, then I put more resources into them.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
At 25, I thought it would be a good idea to start a company with someone I knew very well. The service wasn’t something that I was necessarily an expert in, but I thought I could make up for that by putting in more money than the subject-matter expert did.
Not surprisingly, I quickly found out that this approach should be left to the venture capitalists. As an entrepreneur, particularly a bootstrapper, you need to know everything about your service from top to bottom. I lost quite a bit of money for my age and had to work twice as hard to get back to where I was.
How did I overcome it? I just stayed in the game.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
RoboForm! My business partner got me hooked on it. I resisted it for the longest time because I was convinced I could store my passwords better than any software could, and I was afraid to let go of the control. As it turns out, it is some of the most productive software I’ve ever used. It syncs across all your devices and literally removes the need to remember passwords. They’re all stored, backed up, and accessible if you do need to see them.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
“Rework” by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. Just read it.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
Since our acquisition, Jeff has become an instant influence on my career. He is energetic and entrepreneurial — two characteristics I highly respect.
Todd has been my partner with RezBiz since the beginning, and we have become great business partners, as well as friends. Together, we are all focused on pushing Talent Inc. to new levels.