For the past six years, Lauren Dahl was living what many aspiring entrepreneurs consider the dream — running a successful business while being able to stay at home with her four children in Portland, Oregon.
But Dahl, who launched Pattern Workshop, a series of online courses for digital sewing pattern and surface design, found the overlap between her business and home life incredibly stressful and she kept putting off needed updates to her online courses. As a licensed real estate agent, she also assisted first-time home buyers, and needed a break from mostly evening and weekend work.
“I wanted a reason to get into real clothes, sit in a conference room and talk to adults,” Dahl says.
So, last summer, Dahl polished up her resume and parlayed the content creation and social media marketing experience she had built through Pattern Workshop into a full-time job as a digital marketing manager for a private equity real estate investment firm.
Many business owners are facing uncertainty as the coronavirus upends our day-to-day lives. For those who are considering seeking out a more stable day job once the pandemic subsides, it will be critical to be able to promote the marketable skills developed while building and running their businesses.
“More often, people overlook valuable skills and experiences and leave them off their resume because they don’t think it counts,” says Julia Sanchez, a certified career coach based in Southern California who is also a crafter herself. “Put yourself in the position of the person reading your resume. What will they want to see?”
Starting with skills
When crafting a resume, Sanchez advises job seekers to identify the top three to five skills that they need to communicate in order to show that their experience is relevant to the type of job they’re applying for. Often, those skills will be included right in the job listing.
To identify your skills, think about what you do well, what you’re known for, and successful projects and tasks you’ve worked on, Sanchez says. You can even ask some people who know you well what your top skills are.
“Often people ignore their best talents because they take them for granted,” Sanchez says. “Someone who is extremely organized might not think of it as a skill to be applied.”
Tangible or so-called “hard” skills that are relevant to running a business include accounting, marketing, project management, web and graphic design, collaboration (with coworkers, clients, and other business owners), and management. Intangible or “soft” skills include things like creativity — which craft business owners have in spades! — innovation, problem solving and adaptability.
“Organization, accounting, and planning are desirable, transferable skills,” Sanchez says.
Be a STAR
Once you know what skills you want to communicate, think of examples of how you’ve used those skills, Sanchez says.
“You might say that you are organized, but it’s more effective to use examples and stories, such as saying that you arrange weekly meetings of your cycling group of 30 people, or that you coordinated a volunteer fundraising effort that included 100 people,” Sanchez says.
Each bullet point in your resume should start with an action phrase and include how you used the skill, and a result, in two sentences or less, Sanchez says. She recommends using something called the STAR format: situation, task, action, result. For example, instead of writing that you were “responsible for handling the accounts,” you could phrase it as, “Organized $50,000 annual accounts, developing a tracking system to streamline monthly reconciliation.”
Crafting a resume
There are a few different ways to arrange your resume, Sanchez says. You can organize it chronologically, with the most recent position first, and include more bullet points with the first position, starting with the most impressive or relevant skill.
“This format is effective if the job titles all make sense, are related to each other, and are relevant for the current use of the resume,” Sanchez says.
When you’re making a job change, or pulling together similar skills from different roles, a “functional resume” may be better, Sanchez says. A functional resume may briefly include a reverse-chronological list of positions but mainly focuses on skills. A heading can be used for each skill, with bullet points describing how the skill was applied.
Dahl began her own, chronological resume with a bulleted summary, noting that she was a “high-productivity, results-oriented marketing professional with a unique and wide-ranging set of experiences and skills,” a “quick learner with extensive experience using content management systems, Adobe InDesign, Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop,” an “SEO/SEM/social media marketing expert with a knack for communicating complex technical systems to a variety of audiences and stakeholders” and a “detail-oriented juggler of multiple projects who thrives in a fast-paced and deadline-driven environment.”
While Dahl did have education and experience that was relevant to the job she was applying for and the field it was in — a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in communications and advertising, a post-college career that included a string of ad agency jobs, and work in the real estate industry — she said her current position relies on many of the tasks she performed while running her craft business. For example, soon after she started, Dahl’s company asked her to find a firm to build its website. At the same time she solicited outside bids, Dahl created a proposal for taking on the project herself. She ended up designing the site, getting it up and running in two months, well under budget.
“I knew that I had the skills to do what they needed done,” Dahl says.
Though the coronavirus pandemic has seen Dahl back to working from home, she says the demarcation has eased the pressure, and even allowed her to make the much-needed updates to her craft business website that she had been putting off.
“It has made me a lot less stressed, and enjoy my weekend a lot more,” Dahl says. “I’m now actually working on Pattern Workshop updates because I don’t feel as drained after the kids go to bed and the housework is done. And oddly enough, because I don’t feel pressured to get it done, it comes a bit more naturally.”
Here is a list of skills that are relevant to being a craft business owner:
- Web and Graphic design
- Project management
- Decision making
- Public speaking
- Relationship management
- Customer Service
- Customer needs analysis
- Time management
- Critical thinking
- Conceptual thinking
- Analytical thinking
- Problem solving
- Attention to detail
Lisa is a freelance journalist in the New York Metro area who specializes in home design, real estate and healthcare. When she’s not writing, or knitting shawls and sweaters, Lisa runs Indie Untangled (www.indieuntangled.com), a marketplace and blog that promotes the work of yarn dyers, pattern designers and crafters of knitting-related accessories.