The NRWA Watercooler - The monthly newsletter for the National Resume Writers Association - Quenching your thirst for information and connection

September 2021

by Amanda Brandon – NRWA Newsletter Editor

Welcome to September. It’s time for some of my favorite things—sweater weather, apples, and our annual conference. If you haven’t purchased your admission to our virtual conference, do that today! You won’t regret your investment in yourself and your craft.

This issue is a preview of what our fantastic conference committee put together! We have a returning keynote speaker—Dawn Graham. (She previously spoke on the 2019 NRWA Conference-at-Sea). Dawn will be discussing how we can help our clients navigate the current and future career-search landscape with “10 Trends Impacting Job Seekers in the Future of Work."

I hope you find value in this month’s newsletter! It’s a pleasure to work with such a talented crew of contributors and to share how our organization can help you better your business.

Here’s a quick snapshot of what you can find in this issue:

  • Feature Article - Three Views on Achieving the NCRW: Caitlin Gonzalez takes a deep dive into her personal experience in achieving the NCRW. She also interviews Ashley Watkins (another NCRW) and Kim Isaacs (an NCRW grader) on the ins and outs of how to achieve the industry’s best certification. 
  • What’s Saving My Life This Month? Conference Edition: I interviewed our WriteSea, our Cyberspace sponsor, on the exciting order management system they offer resume writers. If you’re looking for a solution that helps you save up to 40 minutes per order, be sure to read this.
  • What Happened on Social Media for NRWA Pros: I’m running a special conference spotlight instead of the usual discussion recap this month. We have a fun way for you to connect with your virtual colleagues. Check it out. 
  • NCRW Corner - Targeted Resumes for the Win: Check out why it’s so important to send in a targeted resume for your clients and for the NCRW sample. 
  • Our Regular Columns – Pet of the Month and What’s Saving My Life? I need submissions for both of these columns. I’d love to feature your furry friend or lifesaving tip next month. You can email those to me at Perspective will return in October with a new columnist! She got married during our September newsletter production, so I gave her the month off. Stay tuned!

Thanks for reading!

Amanda Brandon

Pet Colleague
of the Month: Stacy

a black and white cat looking at herself in a mirror

Thanks to Alexia Bailey Scott for sharing her confident comrade, Stacy.

She is well-known for self-reflection and greeting in-person clients. Good receptionists are hard to find!

If you’d like to see your furry, slimy, or scaly friend featured, check for my Facebook post on the first Friday of the month or email with a photo, caption, pet’s name, and your name.

Conference Spotlight: Social Media Comes Alive with Open Office Hours at the NRWA Conference
by Nancy Grant, NCOPE – NRWA Conference Chair

How often do you see or post within the Facebook or LinkedIn NRWA groups and wish you could just “discuss amongst yourselves?” Well, this is the time to do just that.

New this year to our virtual conference experience, we are introducing “Open Office Hours,” an opportunity to join a peer-to-peer discussion. 

Taken directly from the most common threads discussed on social media, we will have four different rooms focused on LinkedIn, pricing issues, overcoming business obstacles, and of course, our favorite, dealing with demanding clients. 

Nancy Grant

Nancy Grant

The NRWA 2021 Annual Conference - Resilient & Thriving

No preregistration is necessary, but room sizes will be limited so that discussions will be productive and beneficial.

Be on the lookout for this exciting new addition to our conference program to show us who is behind the keyboard and be ready with your questions and expertise! See you there!


Nancy Grant, MS, NCOPE has been a member of the NRWA since 2015 and has served as the Chair of the Conference Planning Committee since 2019. She has been writing resumes, providing career coaching, strategizing job searches, and working with students transitioning to higher education for over 20 years. She owns and operates Regional Career & Employment Service ( in the Finger Lakes of New York. Find her online at

    Conference Spotlight: Keynote Speaker - Dawn Graham 
    by Virginia Franco, NCRW, NCOPE - Conference Committee Member

    We couldn’t be more excited to welcome Dr. Dawn Graham as this year’s conference keynote speaker to discuss “10 Trends Impacting Job Seekers in the Future of Work.” 

    Virginia Franco

    Virginia Franco

    “The world keeps turning at warp speed for everyone – including our job-seeking clients,” says Graham. “As resume writers and career coaches, we must be up to speed on how we can support them in their career goals on the resume and beyond."

    Key takeaways for attendees include:

    • Data-backed information on what to watch in the market so that resume writers and coaches can best inform and support their job search clients.
      Dawn Graham Video Screenshot

      Click on the above image to open the
      Conference Keynote preview video in YouTube!

      • Predictions, implications, and challenges impacting the market, job seekers, and hiring—and their effect on resumes/applications/qualifications.
      • Actions for remaining vigilant regarding rapid changes to the work environment, with steps to help clients untangle critical resources and provide learning for future job search and career success.

      Dawn will introduce attendees to two new models—New Career Cycle and Three Drivers of Success as part of this interactive presentation.

      About our Keynote Speaker

      Graham is a career switch coach, TEDx Speaker, LinkedIn Learning instructor, and host of the popular call-in show “Dr. Dawn on Careers” on SiriusXM Radio (channel 132).

      She is also the Talent Director for KPMG’s U.S. Advisory practice. As the author of Switchers: How Smart Professionals Change Careers and Seize Success, Dawn combines her experience as a career coach, licensed psychologist, and former corporate recruiter to give career switchers strategies to break through obstacles and land the job they want.

      Click here to read the full article.

        What’s Saving My Life This Month? Special Conference Edition
        by Amanda Brandon – NRWA Newsletter Editor

        Write Sea - Smart Writers Start Here

        WriteSea—the Order Management System Just for Resume Writers

        As part of our 2021 NRWA Conference focus, in this issue we wanted to tell you about a tool that is changing resume writer operations management for the better—WriteSea. WriteSea is our CyberSpace sponsor for the upcoming conference.

        I've been a WriteSea customer for about six months, and I'm so excited to tell you about the Order Management System (OMS) that's designed just for writers.

        What is WriteSea?

        WriteSea is a SaaS technology that concentrates on short-term writing projects that involve customer feedback. You can expect a simple solution that will increase your efficiency and offer unparalleled transparency to your clients.

        The software gives you a system for managing ALL of your client communications, documents, and orders from one dashboard. That's one of the main reasons I bought this tool. It helps me see everything in one place.

        Watch their explainer video here.

        Who is Behind WriteSea?

        I've worked in the startup technology world since 2009, and I believe it's important to know WHO is bringing new solutions to market. Brandon Mitchell, founder and CEO of WriteSea, started his career as a resume writer and has worked with thousands of job seekers from all walks of life and industries. When I learned this, I was intrigued. I think user experience is essential in software design, and who better to build a solution than a resume writer.

        Another person I want to mention is Adrianne Burnikel, sales executive and customer success manager for WriteSea. She loves educating customers on how to use WriteSea and helps you every step of the way. She has lots of ideas for making this product work for YOUR business. Plus, her checklists are perfect.

        What Does WriteSea Cost?

        I think it's essential to address this topic. WriteSea is not an off-the-shelf project management tool. It's a tool that's customized to your business. It does cost more than most order management systems, but it replaces many other systems. The company charges "by the seat" for this service. I personally pay for the entry-level pricing ($199/month), which gives me access to the entire feature set and allows me to add one writer to my team. (I plan to add a freelancer in the next couple of months, so this is a scalable solution for me.)

        I suggest you speak with Mitchel Roe, WriteSea's product owner and customer success associate, on how this OMS makes your life easier and how it can save you money. He and I did a deep dive into all my "systems," and WriteSea replaced four tools, which equaled about half of my WriteSea subscription fee. Also, the time savings is significant.

        WriteSea estimates that their platform saves you 40 minutes per client.

        Click here to read the full article.

          Feature Article: Three Views on Achieving the NCRW 
          by Caitlin Gonzalez, NCRW & NRWA Newsletter Staff Writer

          Are you thinking about becoming the next Nationally Certified Resume Writer (NCRW)? Unsure of where to begin? Having gone through the process myself, I understand that it can be somewhat nerve-wracking. You want to put your best foot forward, but how? That’s why I wrote this article – to empower and motivate you on your journey towards certification. In this article, I’ll break down the process step by step and share advice from both a successful NCRW, Ashley Watkins, and a NCRW exam grader, Kim Isaacs.

          About the NCRW

          The NCRW is the National Resume Writers’ Association’s credential signifying the highest level of resume excellence. Those who obtain this distinction produce “quality-oriented and visually appealing” career documents that market job seekers in a “sales-focused, succinct” format.

          To begin the certification process, you need to be a current member of the NRWA.

          Caitlin Gonzalez

          Caitlin Gonzalez

          NCRW - Nationally Certified Resume Writer

          Steps to Certification

          Let’s roll up our sleeves and get started! Here is what you need to know to begin your journey towards certification:

          1. Obtain a minimum of 10 Continuing Education Units (CEUs). You can earn CEUs each time you participate in a training program or webinar that is hosted by the NRWA and focuses on a writing topic. The beauty of it is that the more you continuously educate yourself, the higher your quality of writing will be in alignment with NCRW standards.

          Pro Tip: By attending the upcoming 2021 annual conference, you will receive 10 CEUs (and lots of exam-boosting knowledge). To learn more about CEUs, click here.

          2. Study, study, study! Your exam will be graded based on the standards detailed within the NCRW Study Guide and The Gregg Reference Manual. These are your lifelines for writing a resume that will knock the socks off your exam grader. If you are an NRWA member, you can download the study guide here.

          Additionally, here is a list of books that are highly recommended. I happened to pick up Modernize Your Resume: Get Noticed…Get Hired earlier in my resume writing career, and I still use it as a reference today.

          3. Register to begin the first part of the certification process. You will be asked to complete an open-book Study Guide quiz and submit a sample resume and cover letter.

          For your sample, remember that the exam graders are looking for writers with a strong command of English, the ability to strategically execute document formats with consistent value, and the skill to “sell” job seekers with relevant, front-loaded accomplishments.

          The purpose of the sample is to assess your current writing level – either you will get a green light to move on to the exam or a yellow light asking you to pause and continue upskilling. You will also need to receive a 100% on the Study Guide quiz. Don’t worry – you can always retake the quiz and resubmit a sample if you are told you may not be “ready.” You’ve got this! To learn more about the quiz and how to prepare the sample, click here.

          4. Register for the exam. You’ve earned the 10 CEUs, studied, aced the quiz, and got a stamp of approval on the sample submission. It’s “Go” time!

          After you schedule your exam, you’ll receive a fictional client profile. The test is to create a resume and cover letter using only the information provided. You have five days to complete the project. I recommend carving out ample time to focus. For example, I scheduled my exam so that my five-day period would include two weekend days. You’ll be grateful for the extra head space. Two graders will review your exam and provide results within four weeks. To learn more about exam registration, click here.

          Click here to read the full article.

          The NCRW Corner: Targeted Resumes for the Win 
          by NCRW Certification Commission Grader

          Writing a targeted resume is about capturing our client’s value proposition as it relates to the job they’re interested in. The hiring manager should immediately see our client as a perfect fit for the job in multiple areas—from skills and experience to an alignment with the employer’s core values, mission, and goals. Ultimately, a targeted resume speaks directly to an employer’s needs and increases the client’s chance of securing an interview.

          So why are generic, “one-size-fits-all” resumes still being produced?

          While valid justifications do exist, inexperienced or busy writers may not be putting in the time to dissect the client’s brand and figure out what would excite employers the most.

          Tailoring the resume to the career goal is important because it’s the first topic covered in the NCRW Study Guide (SG). Here are the fundamental tenets outlined in the SG:

          • Prepare a well-rounded picture of the candidate. The resume and cover letter must demonstrate that the client’s experience, education, and accomplishments meet or exceed position requirements.
          • Focus first on the audience instead of the client’s experience. Begin by understanding the target audience (the industry, company, and hiring manager) and the job/occupation requirements.
          • Look for reoccurring themes throughout the client’s career. What types of problems do they solve? What value is brought to each position? What was accomplished? What was the result?
          • Prepare documents that match the client’s themes, skills, and accomplishments related to the job. Your documents should show how the client’s skills and experiences meet the industry, company, and position needs.

          New & Renewing Members 

          Welcome to our new and renewing members for the month of August 2021! Click here to view the full list.

          By the numbers for the month of August:

          • 16 new members.
          • 33 renewing members
          • 3 renewing members from Virginia.
          • 2 new members who joined by registering for the Summer NCOPE course
          • 1 renewing member who is the instructor of the Fall NCOPE course.

          Feel free to introduce (or reintroduce) yourself via our members-only networking forums:

          You can find colleagues in your area by searching here
          Not yet a member of the NRWA? Click here to join!

          Sponsored by:


          The NRWA offers live and on-demand webinars, a self-paced Resume Writing 101 course, teleseminars, and more opportunities for learning throughout the year.

          LEARN MORE

          Certification Programs 

          NCRW - Nationally Certified Resume Writer
          LEARN MORE
          NCOPE - Nationally Certified Online Profile Expert
          LEARN MORE

          Resume Experts

          Visit our public-facing companion site to access our directory of resume experts, learn more about how we help job seekers, and read our Ask the Experts blog.


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