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The Watercooler
Articles from the NRWA Newsletter

  • November 04, 2022 10:40 AM | Administrative Manager (Administrator)

    Welcome to our new and renewing members for the month of October 2022!

    Feel free to introduce (or reintroduce) yourself via our members-only networking forums: the Member Forum on our website, Facebook group, and LinkedIn group.

    You can find colleagues in your area by searching here.

    New Members

    • Kelly Butler - Start Date Career Services in Beverly Hills, California.
    • Kimberly Caisse in Westminster, Massachusetts.
    • Kenneth Lang - My Networking Central in Wayne, New Jersey.
    • Susan McClanahan in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
    • Jeannette McClellan in Norfolk, Virginia.
    • Zachariah Olsen - CodeWorks, LLC in Boise, Idaho.
    • Melissa Orpen-Tuz - Vivid Career Services in Cranston, Rhode Island.
    • Aleksandra Paszkiewicz - Gated Talent in Edinburgh, Other.
    • Joseph Perez - Seattle Resume (Writing Wolf) in Seattle, Washington.
    • Sandra Riddles - CareerSource Broward in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
    • Lindsay Runion - Ion Career Consulting in Silver Spring, Maryland.
    • Benjamin Southwell in Singapore.
    • Jennifer Walker in Pottstown, Pennsylvania.

    Renewing Members

    • Lori Barnes - Applied Technology Group, Inc. in Bakersfield, California.
    • Bridget Batson - Houston Outplacement in Houston, Texas.
    • Jeremy Bernstein - West to East Consulting in Lithia, Florida.
    • Pat Criscito - ProType/ProWrite, Ltd. in Hurdle Mills, North Carolina.
    • Leonida Andrea Fernandez in Arnold, Maryland.
    • Laura Fontenot - Masterwork Resumes in Frisco, Texas.
    • Marlena Gibson - Independent Rehabilitation Services, Inc. in Youngsville, North Carolina.
    • Nelly Grinfeld - Top of the Stack Resume in Mason, Ohio.
    • Beate Hait - Resumes Plus in Holliston, Massachusetts.
    • Erin Kennedy - Professional Resume Services, Inc. in Lapeer, Michigan.
    • Edward Lawrence - Getstarted LLC in Natick, Massachusetts.
    • Madelyn Mackie - Activate Your Career Dreams in Oakland.
    • Dawn Rasmussen- Pathfinder Writing and Career Services LLC in The Dalles, Oregon.
    • Kim Ribich - Kim Ribich Consulting in Crested Butte, Colorado.
    • Celine Robichaud - Randstad RiseSmart in Moncton, New Brunswick.
    • Lisa Tascione in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania.
  • November 04, 2022 9:39 AM | Administrative Manager (Administrator)

    The third quarter of 2022 brought new educational opportunities to the NRWA. The board voted to offer Resume Writing 101 course as a member benefit to elevate membership value and the quality of work provided by resume writers. RW 101 is a self-paced learning program that delivers practical, ready-to-use resume writing tips to improve your skills, whether you’re a seasoned professional or just starting out in the field. NRWA members can access the course after January 1, 2023. 

    And then there’s a new class. Kathy Keshemberg, Certification Chair introduced Writing Excellence Foundations, six hours of instructor-led training that begins with how to execute the discovery process and plan the document strategy and culminates with best practices for developing and formatting modern resumes and cover letters. Find out more about this class at 

    The NRWA is excited to announce a partnership with Elizabethtown College which is now setting up a landing page with NRWA information. The NRWA will provide all Elizabethtown students with discounted (membership) pricing for its’ online webinars. (Amount TBD.) Elizabethtown College will provide a 10% tuition discount off the per-credit rate for all School of Graduate and Professional Studies undergraduate and graduate degree program offerings. Courses at the discounted rate are offered through the accelerated adult degree program and do not apply to programs outside of the SGPS. Classes are offered 100% online as well as blended course options at Elizabethtown College. 

    This fall, Immediate Past President Kathi Fuller and Past President Lorraine Beaman set up a partnership with Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals, offering virtual review resumes through December. Many RWA members volunteered for these reviews.

    Strategic planning for the next 3 years has also been a matter of focus for the board in the third quarter. Rob Rosales, President-Elect has been spearheading this initiative and when asked about the future, he sees distinct pillars of focus:

    1st Pillar (focus area): Membership – We are a member-driven organization, our members are the foundation. We must address the needs of our diverse membership.

    2nd Pillar: Identity – As the industry continues to evolve, so must the NRWA. To keep pace with the ever-changing needs of our members and their clients, we must consider the best option to position the organization within the greater career community. We must strategically meet the needs of our diverse membership so they can meet the needs of their equally diverse clients.

    3rd Pillar: Infrastructure – To continue to stay relevant, we must reinvest in infrastructure. In doing so, we will strengthen our ability to deliver value and a quality experience to our membership.

    Rob went on to say that since we have 3 member segments that have unique needs: entry-level members, experienced members, and older members who are winding down in their careers / businesses, we have to understand and meet their unique needs. We need more help to do it. As an example, Jean Austin, Education Chair, has revamped the educational programming for 2023 designed specifically to meet the needs of all our constituencies. 

    The board also welcomed Tanya King Floyd to fill the open position of Partnership Chair. The Partnership Chair promotes strong relationships with existing affiliate members and sponsors to ensure that each receives the benefits and value of their support of the NRWA. The role also identifies and solicits new affiliate members and sponsors and advocates for affiliate members and sponsors to resolve issues and enhance value, in collaboration with other board members and the administrative team.

  • November 04, 2022 9:35 AM | Administrative Manager (Administrator)

    By Amanda Brandon, NCOPE, NRWA Newsletter Editor

    Editor’s Note: I met Kelli Thomason through a networking conversation on the NRWA Facebook group. She asked about a career coaching certification, and I chimed in with the one I’m working on. We connected via phone, and I got a chance to mentor an HR industry veteran on breaking back into resume writing.

    Kelli currently works as the senior director of operations for HireBetter. As the right hand to the CEO, she is in charge of five functional areas of the executive search services provider. She says, “My main objectives are to create order from chaos, keep the train running on time, and put ducks in a row.”

    Prior to her recent promotion to senior director, Kelli led recruiting operations for HireBetter. In this role, she championed many technical, professional development, and operational improvements related to sourcing candidates for her company. Before this, she directed her organization's recruitment team and the ATS.

    Kelli has run a side gig resume and LinkedIn writing business since 2004, when she left recruiting for the Federal Reserve Bank. At Kelli Thomason Consulting, she elevates career marketing documents to help candidates attract more social views and interviews. She says this element of her career “fills my cup to overflowing.”

    At HireBetter, Kelli has made personal branding part of the company culture. “I felt like my organization was not capitalizing on the opportunity to use our team as the face of our brand,” she says. “So, I explored how I could educate myself and my team about personal branding.”

    After vetting a couple of competing certification programs and interviewing others about their experiences, Kelli earned her Nationally Recognized Online Profile Expert (NCOPE) certification course this past July.

    “My first thoughts were to focus my energies on strictly helping our folks optimize their LinkedIn profiles,” she says. “As I got more into it, I realized how closely connected the resume and online profile are. I decided at this point to jump back into resume writing and joined the NRWA to brush up my skills.”

    Kelli has found an “abundance mentality” inside the NRWA as a whole. She finds the webinars, communications, and conversations valuable to her growing practice.

    “I was pleasantly surprised to see that the members are very giving in sharing information,” she says. “They are willing to share, and when it’s not something they want to share, they have no problem saying, ‘That’s my secret sauce.’”

    Kelli wants her clients to know that the resume and LinkedIn profile are just “tiny pieces” of the career search puzzle. She advises them to make sure they are findable and approachable on LinkedIn.

    “People are going to Google your name when they meet you,” she says. “And wouldn’t you want to have your best foot forward with a nicely written, comprehensive narrative that you are driving?” 

    Kelli is an avid volunteer with work as a Precinct Delegate and Secretary in West Union, SC, and many years as a Band Booster. She has also worked with Onward to Opportunity (O2O) as a Panel Member to field questions for military spouses and service members transitioning to civilian careers.

    Kelli graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and Human Resources from Jacksonville University in Jacksonville, FL. Find her online at

  • November 04, 2022 9:33 AM | Administrative Manager (Administrator)

    The NCRW Corner: Why Strategy Matters in Resume Writing

    Tips from the NCRW Certification Commission

    Editor’s Note: Our Certification Commission team is transitioning this column to a “tips” column. We will feature a preview of essential sections from the NCRW Study Guide for the next several months. Members can access this guide for free at this link.

    If you have a question that you want answered by the graders, please email


    A Solid Strategy Makes the Resume!

    The foundation of a good resume is a solid strategy, which is why it is the topic of the first chapter of the NCRW Study Guide.

    In Section I, we learn the key elements that are important when developing a strategy for presenting your client, including positioning them for their target job, the relevant information to include (or exclude), and keywords.

    We want the tone/writing to be appropriate for the client’s communication style, and the design should reflect the industry, occupation, and client.

    Finally, think of the resume structure as an “inverted pyramid” – the most compelling qualifications, based on the match between their background and experience and the target position, should be on the top. 

    We encourage you to open the Study Guide and review Section I – it’s just three pages long but will be a good reminder of why strategy is so important. 

    And, speaking of foundations, the first module of the new Writing Excellence: Foundations class is all about strategy – learn why this step is vital, the critical information you need, and, most importantly, how to get that from your clients. Included with class instruction are valuable resources/handouts to aid you in info gathering. Click here for details and registration link.

  • November 03, 2022 2:30 PM | Administrative Manager (Administrator)

    Editor’s Note: Due to some unforeseen health circumstances, Eustacia could not complete her Perspective column this month. She’s on the mend, and we’re thankful she’ll return to us next month with a fresh column on how to bring diversity, equity, and inclusion into our career services practices. 

    Since Eustacia has been a loyal writer for The Watercooler for over a year, I thought it would be fun to showcase a passion project of her 5-year-old protégé – Kennedi! Eustacia and Kennedi are working on their second children’s book!

    Kennedi already published Kennedi Meets the Vice President (a kids’ book about Career Day at school) in 2021. Her newest book, Kennedy Goes to Kindergarten, helps boost self-confidence in children experiencing school for the first time. The launch date is December 1, 2022.

    Learn more about the dynamic duo’s publishing project at their Amazon Author Page.

  • October 07, 2022 6:00 AM | Administrative Manager (Administrator)

    Welcome to our new and renewing members for the month of August 2022!

    Feel free to introduce (or reintroduce) yourself via our members-only networking forums: the Member Forum on our website, Facebook group, and LinkedIn group.

    You can find colleagues in your area by searching here.

    New Members

    • Andrew Arkley - PurpleCV in Kingston, United Kingdom
    • Huu Arnold in Houston, Texas
    • Joan Blumenthal in Chicago, Illinois
    • Dohnia Dorman in Brandon, Florida
    • Rason Grant in Waukegan, Illinois
    • Valerie Green in Apex, North Carolina
    • Nancy Griesemer - College Explorations LLC in Oakton, Virginia
    • Linda Gurley - McHenry County College in Crystal Lake, Illinois
    • Kyla Hensley in Temple, Texas
    • Karen Jackson in Cypress, Texas
    • Rachel Reeves - Resumes by Rae Queens Village, New York
    • Doreen Rodo in Sarasota, Florida
    • Maria Santiago - M. Santiago Group in Indianapolis, Indiana
    • Debbie Slaughter in Fort Lee, Virginia
    • La'Ashley Tinsley - RésumAides in Savannah, Georgia
    • Robin Tucker - Wilson Consulting, LLC in Memphis, Tennessee

    Renewing Members

    • Andrea Adamski - Write for You Resumes in Lee's Summit, Missouri
    • Amber Barney - Lumen Agents, LLC in East Patchogue, New York
    • Elaine Basham - The Resume Group in Kansas City, Missouri
    • Eugena Bellamy-Green in Livermore, Colorado
    • Rebecca Bosl in Sagamore Hills, Ohio
    • Carol Camerino - Job Seekers - Looking For The On Ramp in Chester, New Jersey
    • Christine Chelstrom - MN Job Partners in Minneapolis, Minnesota
    • Emily Christakis in Long Island City, New York
    • Paula Christensen - Strategic Career Coaches in Green Bay, Wisconsin
    • Matilda Cole - CareerBIO, LLC in Littleton, Colorado
    • Michele Coneys in Whitehouse Station, New Jersey
    • Fred Coon - Stewart, Cooper & Coon, Inc. in Phoenix, Arizona
    • Kristen Coria - Resume Innovators in Branford, Connecticut
    • Kelly Donovan - Kelly Donovan & Associates in Lake Isabella, California
    • Tara Goodfellow - Athena Consultants in Matthews, North Carolina
    • Frank Grossman - Resumes that Shine in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
    • Jennifer Grunwald - University of Connecticut in Hartford, Connecticut
    • Tiffany Hardy in Prescott, Arizona
    • Jeremy Johnson - Opened Door Career Services LLC in Charlotte, North Carolina
    • Michele (McCann) Kelley - CareerPro, Inc. in Newark, Delaware
    • Kam Khare - CStarter LLC in Charlottesville, Virginia
    • Cindy King - King Wordsmith in Berlin, Massachusetts
    • Peter Lavelle - Rez Builder in Hugo, Minnesota
    • Darleen McAllan in Arundel, Queensland, Australia
    • Monica O'Neill - Best Image Career Services, LLC in Algonquin, Illinois
    • Andres Ricardo in Miami Lakes, Florida
    • Robert Rosales - EZ Resume Services in Kingsburg, California
    • Rachel Sirca - Fleet Resumes in Marysville, Ohio
    • Alison Smith - Radical Resumes, LLC in Birmingham, Alabama
    • Mindy Thomas - Thomas Career Consulting in Media, Pennsylvania
    • Paloma Valverde - Paloma Valverde Consulting LLC in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts
    • Chelsea Wiltse - Seasoned and Growing LLC in Charlotte, Michigan
    • Christine Wunderlin - Wunderlin Consulting in Las Vegas, Nevada
    • Lucie Yeomans - Your Career Ally in Scottsdale, Arizona

  • October 07, 2022 5:00 AM | Administrative Manager (Administrator)

    By NRWA Certification Commission Member

    There clearly are some differing opinions among resume writers as to the “correct” way to include mention of a college degree on a resume or cover letter. On the one hand, what is the “correct” way to write the type of degree on a resume under the heading “Education”? On the other hand, what is the “correct” way to include mention of the degree in a sentence?

    When do we include periods, capitalize the degree, insert a comma, or include the word “in?” Finding consistency in the answers to these questions is a challenge!

    Education section on a resume:

    After scouring the dictionary, Gregg Reference Manual, AP Style Guide, NCRW Study Guide, and various resume-writing books, we are forced to admit that we don’t know if there is a “correct” answer.

    If we adhere to the teaching that the degree is a title bestowed upon the recipient, when one graduates from a four-year college, he/she is now a Bachelor¾“of arts” or “of sciences.” If one completes two more years, he/she is a Master. Go a little further and one is a Doctor or Ph.D. So, if following this teaching, when writing the degree on a resume under the Education section, one would write: Bachelor of Arts, Sociology (check how it is written on your college diploma.)

    We have seen other variations in format, including inserting the word “in”: Bachelor of Science in Biology; Master of Arts in Psychology. Then, there are those who insist that the word “Degree” should be included: Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology.

    In her book Resume Magic, Susan Britton Whitcomb includes the following example: “B.S.; Meaning: Bachelor of Science (or bachelor’s degree); Common Mistakes: Bachelor in Science or Bachelor’s of Science.”

    And what about those pesky periods? Is it correct to write BA, BS, MBA or B.A., B.S. or M.B.A.?

    Without a definitive answer on what is correct or what is not, we yield to the following recommendation:

    Whatever you choose to do, be consistent.

    But, when should one capitalize the degree in a sentence? When examining the correct way to handle this in job search correspondence, the answer is definitive and is explained in the Gregg Reference Manual, Section 353:

    Do not capitalize degrees used as general terms of classification: a bachelor of arts degree/received his bachelor’s. A master of science degree/working towards a master’s.” However, this same section goes on to say “…do capitalize a degree used after a person’s name: Claire Hurwitz, Doctor of Philosophy.”

    Section 644 provides an additional example: “Fred is getting a master’s in international economics.”

    Continuing our focus on education, let’s examine how to write honors on a resume.

    summa cum laude is “with highest honor.”
    magna cum laude is “with great honor.”
    cum laude is “with honor.”

    Each of these are phrases, not proper nouns. Whether writing the phrase in Latin or English, the same rule applies – write all the words in lowercase. Not sure this is correct? Check a dictionary.

    We have often seen them italicized on a resume, in fact, some university style guides suggest italics, but we can’t see any reason for this. Section 287 of the Gregg Reference Manual (GRM) notes the following:

    “Once a foreign expression has become established as part of the English language, italics or underlining, is no longer necessary.” The GRM goes on to list 72 common phrases that adhere to this practice.

    If you are concerned that the word “cum” shows up on a resume or in job search correspondence, you have two options:

    1)     Get your mind out of the gutter and present the information correctly;
    2)     Stick with the English phrase and write “B.S., Geology with highest honor.”

    The reality is that many people don’t know the difference between summa cum laude, magna cum laude, and cum laude anyway.
  • October 07, 2022 4:00 AM | Administrative Manager (Administrator)

    Announcing the 2022 Recognizing Outstanding Achievement in Resumes (ROAR) Winners: Anne Barnwell, Cathy Lanzalaco, and Marie Plett

    The winners of the 8th annual Recognizing Outstanding Achievement in Resumes (ROAR) competition were recently announced at the National Résumé Writers’ Association (NRWA) conference, Unveiling Strategies for Success, September 18–20, 2022.

    The NRWA holds this competition annually to recognize top-tier resume-writing talent in the career services industry. Winners of the ROAR competition join an elite circle of resume writers who have been recognized for their technical writing and presentation skills. One winner is selected in each of several categories by a judging panel, consisting of the following NRWA members this year: Kathi Fuller, Lorraine Beaman, Bob Janitz, Arno Markus, and Dr. Cheryl Minnick.

    The 2022 ROAR Award winners are:

    • Anne Barnwell, winner in the Military to Civilian Transition Category.
    • Cathy Lanzalaco, winner in the Professional Category.
    • Marie Plett, winner in the Mid-Level Manager, Executive, and Fictional Client categories.

    Anne Barnwell, of Keller, TX, got her start in the resume-writing business 30 years ago as a student at Cornell University, where she worked in the career development office. For many years, she honed those skills by helping friends and family members. In 2018, Anne launched The Write Resumes and has earned credentials as a Nationally Certified Resume Writer (NCRW), Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Certified Master Resume Writer (CMRW). She writes resumes for clients spanning college students to C-suite executives across various industries. Anne specializes in working with transitioning service members and helping people return to the workforce after a long career break.

    Cathy Lanzalaco of Buffalo, NY, owns Inspire Careers, specializing in helping executives and career-minded professionals build careers and land jobs they love in less time than going it alone. She is the creator of the Inspire Careers Student Professional Launch Program™, the only new college graduate success program in the country. With 15+ years of human resources experience, Cathy gives her clients the perspective “from the other side of the desk,” helping them create career marketing materials and stories that align with what recruiters and hiring managers are looking for in a job candidate. In addition to this award, Kathy won a 2018 ROAR award and has been a proud member of the NRWA since 2017.

    Marie Plett of Toledo, OH, is an 11-time ROAR Award winner whose passion for resume writing goes back to her childhood. As a 12-year-old, she would often help her recruiter parents by reviewing resumes. She started her business, Aspirations Career Services, Inc., in 2004. A Certified Executive Resume Master, Marie has won more than 30 industry awards for producing best-in-class resumes featuring high-impact content and visually stunning formats. She is widely known throughout the career services industry for her award-winning resumes and generosity in sharing her knowledge as a trainer and mentor of some of the best resume writers in the business. This includes this year’s NRWA conference, where she led an intensive “boot camp” to help fellow resume writers develop the graphic design skills that serve as a foundation for the visually stunning resumes she creates for her own clients.

    About The ROAR Competition

    Recognizing Outstanding Achievement in Resumes or the “ROAR” competition was first launched in 2015. Contestants submit resumes they have written (and fictionalized to protect job-seeker identity) to be judged by a panel of industry experts, most of whom hold the Nationally Certified Resume Writer (NCRW) credential. Submissions are evaluated based on several criteria, including strategy, style, creativity, positioning, layout, readability, ATS compatibility, branding, keyword optimization, grammar, technical writing skill, and compliance with the NCRW Study Guide and The Gregg Reference Manual. Winners, who are typically announced at the NRWA’s annual conference, receive multiple forms of recognition and a free one-year membership in the association. To learn more about this year’s competition, visit the NRWA website at:

    Cathy Lanzalaco hold samples of her award winning resume at the 2022 NRWA Annual Conference

    Cathy Lanzalaco, of Buffalo, NY, was selected as a winner in the Professional Category of the Recognizing Outstanding Achievement in Résumés (ROAR) competition. She is shown holding a poster of her winning resume submission at the National Résumé Writers’ Association annual conference on Tuesday, September 20, 2022.

    Marie PLett surrounded by samples of her award winning resumes

    Marie Plett, of Toledo, Ohio, was selected as a winner in the Mid-Level Manager, Executive, and Fictional Client categories of the Recognizing Outstanding Achievement in Resumes (ROAR) competition. She is shown with posters of her winning resume submissions at the National Résumé Writers’ Association annual conference on Tuesday, September 20, 2022.

    Anne Barnwell headshot

     Anne Barnwell, of Keller, Texas, was selected as a winner in the Military to Civilian Transition Category of the Recognizing Outstanding Achievement in Resumes (ROAR) competition, awarded during the National Résumé Writers’ Association annual conference, September 18-20, 2022.

  • October 07, 2022 3:00 AM | Administrative Manager (Administrator)

    By Amanda Brandon, NRWA Newsletter Editor

    I met with Ellen Sokolowski in August via Zoom to discuss her role in helping people with disabilities gain access to resume writing help, interview coaching, and job search strategies. We had a lovely conversation, and I learned that I want to be more like Ellen when I grow up. Her mission is evident, and her passion for people is unmistakable.

    Ellen is a counselor with the Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services and serves a wide range of mostly rural individuals who need a boost in their job search. She equips them with job search support, including resume writing, LinkedIn profiles, and interview coaching.

    One of the impressive parts of Ellen’s work is that she works with people who have a range of disabilities – learning, physical, behavioral, and neurodiversity. She and her colleagues help individuals with disabilities obtain and retain employment. They also connect job seekers with companies and agencies that provide paid and unpaid training opportunities.

    “It’s gratifying that I work with people who may be at the lowest point of their lives, and I get to see growth and development to the point where they are working and being productive,” Ellen says.

    Ellen’s clients run the gamut from high school students to older candidates who need assistance gaining accommodations to either seek employment or maintain a current role. She and her colleagues can assist persons with disabilities in becoming comfortable in explaining their accommodations to an employer; educating employers on reasonable accommodations that may be available and accessibility in the workplace.

    Another area of focus for Ellen is working with disabled students transitioning from high school into the professional world.

    “We work with many high schools to help students develop their pre-employment transition skills,” Ellen says. “This includes work-based learning, work readiness, career evaluation, and assisting in the college entry process (applications, major selection, and disability accommodations).”

    Ellen and her colleagues equip students with a plan for employment that outlines how they will get from high school to their next professional goal, whether it’s a two-year degree, a four-year degree, professional training, or an apprenticeship.

    “We can assist with things like tuition, tool and equipment costs, and traditional career services (resumes, interview preparation, etc.),” Ellen says. “A recent addition is helping candidates prepare for video interviews and video resumes.”

    In a major effort, Iowa Rehabilitation Services is working with companies to establish apprenticeships for clients, extending beyond the traditional trades such as plumbing and electrical. “We’re seeing apprenticeships in dental hygiene, medical assistance, hospitality, and more,” Ellen says.

    I asked Ellen if there was a need to identify disabilities on a resume in case the applicant needed accommodations. She says it’s not best practice to identify a disability on a resume, but more important to showcase quantifiable skills and value to an employer.

    “We would not put any reference or recommend that a reference to a disability appear on the resume. “Ellen says. “The best practice would be to assist the person with a disability to address this in an interview setting.”

    Covering gaps in a resume is another way Ellen and her colleagues equip candidates. She says that a skills-based resume is often the best remedy for this. “We can show that the candidate acquired them versus sharing a chronological work history,” she says.

    For interview preparation, Ellen suggests that candidates keep accommodations part of the conversation. She says they work with candidates to identify if they can do the essential functions in the job description. If they need an accommodation, she recommends they discuss how the employer can help them meet that need.

    “It may be beneficial for the candidate to educate the prospective employer about the need through conversation,” she says. “They may find a different way of performing a task that works for them, but the task is still completed.

    “For example, if a candidate is in a meeting that requires notetaking, they can use a device like the Echo Smartpen to record the notes and get a transcript instead of laboring to get the notes on paper.”

    Ellen and her team can equip employers to handle these accommodations through the onboarding and orientation process so that it becomes part of the role.

    I learned that many common standards in the workplace often started as disability accommodations. For instance, ergonomic office chairs can be considered an assist for someone with a back injury. A standing desk can help with multiple struggles, such as attention and physical impairments.

    “Small changes to the office environment can make a person productive and feel included and supported,” Ellen says. “Inclusivity is something that individuals with disabilities can identify with; I think employers want to make their workplaces more inclusive. This is one way for them to do it.”

    Educating employers on individual differences has been a success factor for Ellen and her colleagues. For instance, one counselor established a relationship with Winnebago, and now they place neurodiverse candidates in their production roles. The counselor identified that many of her clients have excellent attention to detail when reading blueprints and constructing complex equipment. This skill set is an advantage to a camper manufacturer.

    “I think it’s a matter of finding strengths in a neurodiverse population,” Ellen says. “And changing the interview process – a traditional interview process may not benefit that [neurodiverse] individual. Give them a problem to solve, and you’ll see how well they solve problems and how creative they are.”

    Ellen says that’s a piece of her role – to educate employers on how they can change a few things to build a diverse and inclusive hiring process.

    Ellen joined the NRWA because she attended one of our webinars. She said she loved the educational side of our mission and wants to continue growing in resume writing skills.

    Ellen Sokolowski, MS, CRC, is an advocate for the disabled and neurodiverse, which shows in her dedication to forwarding this cause. She has served as the president and in several other board positions with The National Rehabilitation Association. She’s also received three awards for her dedication to service: the Yvonne Johnson Leadership Award (National Rehabilitation Association), Max T. Prince Meritorious Service Award (National Rehabilitation Association), and the Gerry Byers Memorial Award (Iowa Rehabilitation Association). Ellen holds a Master’s degree in Counseling and Personnel Service from Drake University and is a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor. Learn more about Ellen’s work at IVRS.Iowa.Gov and find her online at

  • October 07, 2022 2:00 AM | Administrative Manager (Administrator)

    By Eustacia A. English, NRWA DEI Columnist

    This year, the theme for National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) is Disability: Part of the Equity Equation. This topic brings me joy on a personal and professional level. In September, I started a new role as the Senior Director, Global Recruiting & DEI for an organization whose mission is to ensure accessibility to technology for people who are disabled. As I started the mandatory company training, I thought it would be significant to share my findings and thoughts with the NRWA community. 

    A disability does not necessarily mean a personal health condition but rather a mismatch between a person’s abilities and their environment. I was eager to learn about different types of disabilities and how we, as an organization, can accommodate or interact with our colleagues with disabilities. 

    Visual disabilities: I never considered that there are different types of visual disabilities, such as long-sightedness, blindness, color blindness, and low vision. A study published by the Journal of Usability Studies found that only 28% of blind users could successfully complete an online job application due to the processes designed without accessibility in mind. When coded correctly, screen readers announce content to users with vision disabilities. 

    Motor/mobility disabilities: These types of disabilities go beyond the use of hands and arms to other muscular or skeletal conditions. If users cannot use a mouse, they need technology such as speech-to-text software, mouth sticks, eye trackers, and voice recognition software. 

    Hearing impairments/deafness: If our hearing-impaired colleagues don’t have a way to interact with audio files, they will miss out on a lot of content.

    Cognitive & learning disabilities: Not all disabilities are physical. Learning and cognitive disabilities can have unique challenges in the workplace. Some standard accessibility adjustments to accommodate this group include allowing extra time to review content, presenting content in multiple formats, and enabling speech-to-text input.

    Invisible disabilities: There are invisible disabilities such as reading, auditory processing, visual-spatial processing, processing speed, memory, attention, and executive functioning.

    Temporary/sporadic disabilities: People can experience temporary situations that affect their mobility and work. I am an example of this when I suffer from sciatic nerve pain in my lower back and physically cannot move for a period of time.

    Now, let’s discuss some tips that everyone can do to make the workplace inclusive for people with disabilities.

    1.      Language: How we talk about people with disabilities is subjective. It’s recommended to start with “person-first language” and say a “person with a disability” instead of “disabled person.”

    2.      Readability: Write in plain language with visual cues to ensure everyone can understand the message.

    3.      Wheelchair Users: Don’t lean or reach over someone who uses a wheelchair, and don’t touch a person’s wheelchair without asking first. 

    4.      Vision Disabilities: Introduce yourself as you initially approach a blind person. When in a food line, don’t make it awkward. Ask them if you can help with their plate. However, if they say no, be okay with that. Not everyone is going to accept your help. At events, have digital copies of presentations available. And during presentations or meetings, describe the things you’re talking about on the slides. 

    5.      Inclusive Outings: When planning functions with colleagues, ensure they’re inclusive of everyone. It’s important not to put any people in a position to feel excluded. 

    Please note, this is a short list of many recommendations. Some of these things I was aware of but some I was not. I encourage you to do additional research to learn more about what you can do to assist your colleagues with disabilities.

    My biggest takeaway is to simply be polite and ask questions instead of making assumptions. Going forward, I will do my best to use the best practices I learned to support colleagues. As always, I wish you all continued peace, love, happiness, and blessings.

    Eustacia English writes the Perspective column, which examines Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in resume writing and career strategy. She is a 20-year HR and talent acquisition veteran and started Resumes on Demand last year. She also writes on DEI for The Black in HR e-zine. She lives with her husband and two children in Cherry Hill, NJ. Find her online at

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