Crafting A New Identity: From Chemist/engineer To Stem Resume Writer

New Life Old Life

Let’s face it, writing about yourself is hard. You’re not sure how to portray yourself to strangers and it can feel really off-putting when you have to promote yourself to measure up to the expectations of others. Anyone who has ever applied for a job knows how challenging and stressful it can be to write the perfect resume and cover letter in order to stand out from the crowd. Personally, I really enjoy writing but six years ago, the thought of becoming a professional resume writer never crossed my mind.

How It All Began

To say that I fell into resume writing by accident is an understatement. My academic and early professional career followed a relatively linear trajectory. After graduating with my Bachelor of Science in chemistry, I went on to graduate school to earn my Master’s, where I was fortunate enough to be part of a unique program that partnered with several STEM companies who hired students as interns. I interned with a great company, who hired me following the completion of the internship. By that point, that was as far as I went in conducting a job search. It wasn’t until three years later when I took a major leap and moved abroad to the Netherlands to live and work, where I really learned how to get a job the hard way.

Some people told me I was brave, while others said I was naïve. I’d say there’s truth in both. Most people wouldn’t have left a great position to move to another country with no job lined up and a very basic understanding of the native language. Yet there was a part of me that was drawn to the possibilities of broadening my cultural horizons by working and traveling abroad.

As is true with most situations, things did not go exactly as planned. I received a major kick in the gut about three weeks after my arrival in the Netherlands while I was at the Dutch Immigration and Naturalization Service Center. On that day, I received the soul-crushing news that my work visa would not be secured because my Master’s degree was not earned from their list of what they considered to be the top 200 universities in the US. Naturally, I left the office feeling a mixture of anger, frustration, sadness, and helplessness, especially since there had been numerous back and forth conversations about the visa requirements, in which this valuable bit of information was unmentioned. I was told I had one year to secure sponsorship from an employer before I would be asked to leave the country.

Navigating The International Job Market

The following few months were some of the most stressful ones of my life. I spent most of my time searching and applying for jobs. While I was landing a decent number of interviews, the real challenge was convincing a prospective employer to sponsor me, over a native Dutch citizen, for a work visa. Some interviewers found my background story interesting while others were more skeptical, thinking that I’d stay long enough to be brought on board for a visa and then disappear.

On top of the stress involved in securing a visa, I was lonely, homesick, and socially isolated. With no job, travel was out of the question and the level of savings that I had with me was rapidly dwindling. Worst of all, I really saw just how tied up my identity was in what I did for a living, even in my early career. It was also the first time that I realized how bad it felt to say that I was ‘unemployed’ when people asked me what I did for a living. Fortunately, I had English as my first language and the majority of Dutch citizens speak English exceptionally well, which made getting around and asking for help much easier.

While I continued my search, I spent a lot of time thinking about what I could do to better market myself on paper, on LinkedIn, and in person. I took a more proactive approach in following up with recruiters and HR Managers from the different companies that I had interviewed with to get feedback on what I could have done better. I began to pay more attention to the different roles that I applied for and actually took the time to customize my resume for each individual role. Additionally, I started putting my thoughts down on paper as to how I could better use personal stories that stemmed from my experience, knowledge, and unique perspective to help a prospective employer solve their problems.

Eventually, my work paid off when I caught a break about two and a half months into my job search. I was hired as a product development engineer for a US company with a sister site in the Netherlands. While I really learned the hard way to get a job, I learned a lot about myself in the process. Working in a Dutch environment also taught me a lot about the different styles and approaches of working, some of which were vastly different from what I was used to in the US. As a bonus, I enhanced my Dutch language skills!

Even though I did not end up staying in the Netherlands as long as I had originally planned, this experience helped and inspired me to craft a new identity where I could leverage my chemistry and engineering background, and help people pursuing careers in STEM fields to illustrate their unique value through powerful and effective resumes, cover letters, LinkedIn profile, and other marketing documents.

Forging A New Path

Fast forward two and a half years later, I had relocated back to the US, but this time I was self-employed (by choice) after establishing my new business, Scientech Resumes, and much wiser from my experiences. Scientech Resumes had begun as a side project while I was still working as a full-time engineer in the Netherlands and ultimately grew out of a passion and desire to help people worldwide on a more personal level. Since then, Scientech Resumes has continued to grow and I have enjoyed multiple opportunities working with clients worldwide from all walks of life.

While everyone’s professional story is different, the feelings of uncertainty and anxiety that often come along with conducting a job search are the same. I have seen firsthand the truly remarkable results that a professional, well-written resume can make in the lives of my clients. Whether you are looking to advance in your career, find more meaningful work, or are re-entering the workforce after a hiatus, I educate and empower my clients with powerful branding tools and applicable knowledge, which, when applied, can shorten the job search by days, weeks, and months—and maximize the return on investment.

However, the best part is being able to transform and renew a client’s confidence in the job search process and hear the excitement in a client’s voice when they ask “when can I start using my new resume?”

Kate

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