On Oct. 7, I had the chance to talk with Kim Ribich, a Crested Butte resident who has owned her own consulting firm, Kim Ribich Consulting LLC, since 2013. That business originally focused on nonprofit consulting and conference planning, but more recently has pivoted to emphasize career and life coaching.
Ribich is a certified résumé and online profile expert, and assists clients with career transitions, résumé building, and job searching.
She served as the director of career success for Western’s Business program in the spring of 2021, and will now be assisting Western students with all their career and job-related needs on an appointment basis while the school seeks out a new director of career services.
Ribich works out of The Trailhead in the University Center on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
You can reach Ribich at firstname.lastname@example.org, and schedule an hour-long appointment with her on Western’s Handshake, or via her online calendar link. “Oftentimes [students and I] will meet two or three times if we’re working on something substantive,” she adds.
Our conversation, edited for clarity and length, is presented below:
Brian Wagenaar: How did you get into the field of career advising? What’s your “why”?
Kim Ribich: I think my why is simply because I’m passionate about helping others connect with their “why”. I have always informally done career coaching throughout my career, as I’ve continued to pivot and reinvent myself as I learned more about what my strengths were and where my passions lied.
For a lot of us, that process of development can take a while. Not all of us are born knowing exactly what we want to do when we grow up. My philosophy with everything is that no experience is every truly wasted, and I encourage students and clients to have a spirit of exploration and gather information.
There’s likely a theme running between all those [different experiences], and sometimes it just takes someone else who is a neutral party to call that out for people. I just love that “ahah” that happens when it finally clicks for people, that never gets old to me.
BW: When should students go to you for help? What questions can you help them answer?
KR: I love to meet with students early on, but I know its tough for first-year students because there is just a lot being thrown at them. At that point, [freshman students] can come to me and talk about interests and passions, as well as things they did in high school, to just start to get a sense of what they would like to do next, and how different majors can influence careers.
Then the last thing is helping them get plugged in on campus and in the community, even just volunteering on-campus or with a local nonprofit. Those experiences can be résumé builders right from the start.
The second year is really committing to a direction and getting a sense for where that may take them. We have a number of resources on campus for students to do that — Handshake is a big one — where students can connect with opportunities at events and career fairs.
Junior year is where we really start to get serious, shaping up that résumé and putting those experiences together into what I call a “career marketing campaign.” We also get them familiar with LinkedIn, because that truly is their transition from their college community to their professional community.
The fourth year is about activating all these various pieces and polishing their messaging and how they present themselves [to employers]. Also, it’s just reevaluating: Is this still the direction I want to go in?
I do see this process as an evolution throughout the career, and sometimes even after too.
BW: What advice would you have for those who may be feeling a little lost in this process? Maybe they’re a non-traditional college student, someone making a career switch, or just someone with a lot of divergent interests. How can they deal with the anxiety accompanying that uncertainty?
KR: This is a group that I’m the most passionate about. I started out with a psychology degree, and I knew that I didn’t want to be a therapist or go to graduate school.
First, I would say that experience is such a great teacher, because a lot of times we simply don’t have enough information and we start to feel stuck. Do what piques your interest and lights you up. Go in that direction and do something, even if its just a volunteer gig or a short project.
Things will end up unfolding with time, as long as you keep doing the best that you can and learn from your experiences.
BW: Turning to résumés, what can students do to stand out in a positive way from other applicants?
KR: One of the biggest things I see is that résumés are not targeted to a specific role, industry, and employer. The general, one-size-fits-all résumé is not going to cut it anymore, because the job market is really competitive.
You have to give employers exactly the bait they’re looking for and nothing else. A lot of times what we do in one-on-one sessions is just whittle down the amount of information on the résumé and get it super concise and targeted.
At the end of the day, it needs to answer three main questions that every hiring manager has: Who are you as a professional? What problems do you solve, and what skills and strengths do you bring to the table? And finally, how would you help the employer achieve their goals?
You have to essentially write the résumé from their perspective.
BW: For students creating their first résumé, or looking to build out their high school or early college résumé, what advice would you give on how to flesh out their experiences and fill the page?
KR: We can talk about a wide range of things, and we take students through those three questions employers ask, sometimes in the context of high school athletics: What do you do as an athlete? What’s your specialty? And what does your team rely on you to do?
We formulate those answers as accomplishment statements in a résumé, and an athletic career can be its own heading for a section, and we talk about the dedication it takes, as well as the work ethic, multitasking, and organization skills.
Volunteer experience, no matter how short or long, is also valid as professional experience. Often in a case where we just have a couple of seasonal jobs, we will position volunteer roles or leadership roles or study abroad experiences above the seasonal jobs. I ask tons of questions to help figure out where students really stand out.
It could be coursework, for example. You don’t just have to list your major and your GPA, although those things are relevant. You can list out relevant coursework — classes that you’ve done the best in, that interest you, and that also pertain to the role you’re applying for.
The sky is really the limit, there’s no standard formula for writing a résumé. We customize every single résumé to each person and what they’re trying to do next.
BW: Are you a proponent of undergraduates keeping their résumés to one page?
KR: There really is no hard and fast rule about keeping them to one page. That decision is determined by the amount of relevant content and what the employer requires. I do have a couple of undergrad students who have done a number of relevant coding projects, and software engineering projects, that ended up taking up a page and a half. In that case, we went with a two-page résumé.
BW: Are you a fan of having bios at the top of résumés?
KR: In modern résumé writing, below the letterhead with the name and contact information will typically be a headline that talks about a person’s career target and goals. It could be “entry level marketing and sales,” or “software engineering internship,” but we call it out right at the top for visual validation to the hiring manager.
Below that is a quick summary statement that answers those three questions hiring managers ask in no more than three to four sentences, and that should be followed by a list of key skills and strengths, which are determined by the job description and what employers are searching for.
In all honesty, your résumé has about six to ten seconds before the manager decides if you’re in the “no” pile or the “let’s talk more” pile.
BW: Turning to LinkedIn, how can students best make use of that tool for networking and job exploration?
KR: I usually don’t start students with a LinkedIn profile until they have a really solid résumé, only because the profile is so much easier to write once you have a targeted résumé.
There are two big pieces to LinkedIn. First, we complete the person’s profile as much as it possibly can be. If a profile is complete, the person is 40 percent more likely to get the callout and get the invitation for a conversation.
The second piece is engagement. That engagement can be through the number of connections that students develop on the platform. The tool I love the most on LinkedIn is the alumni tool. If you type in Western and pull up the school’s page, they will find nearly 15,000 alumni on LinkedIn.
Then they can search through that list by where those people are located and what jobs they are in, and then they can start whittling that list down by what they’re looking for, and really start making those connections.
When you reach out to a fellow alum and say “hey we both went to Western and we’re both doing [insert thing], nine times out of ten they’re going to connect with you and that’s really valuable, because ultimately people hire people. Networking is something that will never go out of style.
BW: What tips do you have for handling interviews and interview anxiety? How can students best prepare themselves?
KR: I have that anxiety as well, and for me the most effective is just to practice and get as comfortable as possible with various scenarios. Especially for online interviews, practicing in front of the camera is incredibly helpful. LinkedIn has an interview practice tool, where you can record videos of yourself, play them back, and get feedback.
Big Interview is another resource we have for students, and that’s an awesome tool for interview practice, and also for salary negotiation and résumé building.
Practicing with a reliable source that you trust is also critical, whether that is someone in Career Services, a faculty member, or a professional within your industry.
If you can just nail those first three lines after “tell me about yourself” that is so important. After you get that first answer out of the way, the rest of the interview becomes so much easier. Additionally, having a great résumé is like having a cheat sheet for interviews that you can pull answers from.
One benefit of doing Zoom interview is that you can have Post-it notes around your monitor to cue you for certain answers.
BW: Are there particular platforms you recommend for job searchers?
KR: The biggest one, and the one that I think is the most tolerable, is actually Google. LinkedIn is a database of people, but Google is really a database of information.
I’m not sure that people know they can use Google this way, but simply writing out a Google search starting with ‘Jobs,” and filling in different titles and locations will pull up a full jobs section, where you can start setting job alerts for particular companies. And these postings are really current.
I also use the tool for students when they’re trying to figure out what they want to do. We type in a search and we go through job postings and check off things that excite the student about the posting.
BW: Is there anything we missed here today that you would like to talk about?
KR: Honestly, it comes back to making the most of each experience. Say you are a freshman and you’re working as a server. Think about what you’re actually doing as a server. It’s customer service, it’s operational efficiency and all these things.
Use every opportunity and really think about “how can I make the most of this?”