Milton Kiang

Milton Kiang, B.A., LLB. is a Sr. Resume Writer with Channel Resume. Milton helps clients win job interviews by writing professional, impeccable resumes that capture an applicant’s biggest “selling points” to an employer. He has written previously for the Vancouver Sun, the Vancouver Courier and the Georgia Straight, and was a contributor to the Career & Business section of The Lawyers Weekly newspaper. Milton’s writing has also appeared in online job sites such as FreshGigs.ca and BCJobs.ca

Milton KiangCould you go into some detail about your career path until now?

When I graduated from UBC in 1989, I entered the Japan Exchange Teaching (JET) Program, which then, was in its second year of running in Canada. I learned about JET through my Asian Studies professor, Dr. Leon Zolbrod. After serving one year in the JET Program, I returned to Canada to study law at the University of Calgary. I articled and practiced with a downtown Vancouver law firm for two years, and then traveled to work in Hong Kong.

I sat my Hong Kong solicitor’s exams, and became qualified as a Hong Kong lawyer. I worked in the legal department at Intel Asia and at Hutchison Whampoa Ltd. (Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka Shing’s flag ship company). After 10 years of practice, I wanted to do something different, so I became a legal recruiter (i.e. head hunter) where I recruited lawyers for in-house, and law firm associate and partner positions. After spending close to 13 years in Hong Kong, I finally decided to return to Vancouver. That was in 2008, and I have been here ever since.

When I returned to Vancouver, I started a resume writing business called Channel Resume. I learned about resume writing when I worked as a recruiter. As a recruiter, I would review and screen hundreds of resumes on behalf of employers. I would often find resumes that were poorly written or did not properly emphasize the job applicants’ biggest selling points. Most of the time, applicants didn’t seem to understand what employers really wanted. With the applicants’ permission, I would make “tweaks” to their resumes, underscoring the value they could bring to an employer. After sending out the resumes with my modifications, the candidates would get immediate calls for interviews. It was at that point that I discovered I had a knack for writing strong resumes.

How did you get your first job after graduating?

As I mentioned above, I learned about my first job through my Asian Studies professor, Dr. Zolbrod, a distinguished scholar of Japanese history and literature who passed away in 1991. I applied to work as an Assistant Language Teacher with the JET Program, but didn’t think I would get accepted. (My father had told me that the Program would probably only hire Caucasian applicants, so I shouldn’t waste my time applying; I’m glad I ignored his advice!) I owe my first job to Professor Zolbrod since he not only told me about the JET Program, he wrote my recommendation letter. I believe his reference letter, plus his encouragement for me to apply, helped me land my first real job after university.

How has Asian Studies helped you in your endeavours?

I believe the courses that I took in Asian Studies helped me understand the region a lot better. I was particularly interested in East Asia (China, Japan and Korea), and it was this interest that drew me to work in Hong Kong back in 1995. The courses I took helped me understand the history, the politics, and the economy of the region. Even today, whenever I open up a newspaper, the stories that I always turn to first are the ones about East Asia.

China, of course, is all over the news today. The courses I took on China gave me an early grounding on the country’s political history and government, and helped spark a life-long interest in learning more about the country.

Like most studies in humanities, Asian Studies help you become a critical thinker, a better writer and researcher.  I don’t think a degree in Asian Studies means that graduates automatically get to work in that field, although that would be nice. Instead, you learn things that prepare you for the future work force – you find out how to collaborate on group projects; how to conduct research for a paper; how to think independently – these are skills that will be of use to you over the course of your career.

What can students and/or recent graduates do to get a foot in your industry? What does a typical entry-level position entail?

Resume writing schools and resume writing associations offer courses on how to become a resume writer. There are also books available at the library that teach you how to write resumes. This is an occupation that you learn by simply doing; the more resumes you write, the better you get. I have also studied copywriting, which helps when it comes to describing an applicant’s best “selling features”. I strive to use language that’s descriptive and positive, creating an immediate impact on the employer.

Students can get practical experience by volunteering at a community centre or a student counselling centre, where free resume writing services are offered. When you approach the community or student centre hiring manager, bring along a few samples of resumes that you’ve written for friends and classmates, to demonstrate your resume writing abilities.

What are the pros and cons of working in it?

Resume writing isn’t a regulated occupation, so the “barrier to entry” is low. Anyone can claim to be a resume writer. On Craigslist, I see ads that offer to write resumes for as low as fifty dollars. However, the clients I tend to target are executives or midlevel managers who are willing to pay the money to get a professionally-written, impeccable resume that will get them a job interview for a higher paying position.

What can students do, while still in university, to set them apart? Where can they go to network?

First of all, my advice is take courses that interest you. Try to enjoy the university experience, which means joining student clubs and associations, participating in student government, playing intramural sports, whatever strikes your fancy. When you get involved in activities that you enjoy, you get drawn to the people who are involved in similar pursuits. Those people become your “network” during your life as a student and beyond. Your network is important because it’s where you develop lifelong friendships; it’s where you learn about internship positions and job openings; it’s even where you might meet your future spouse! Your university years are as much about academic learning as they are about social learning – whether it’s learning how to work effectively in teams, or how to develop leadership skills, or how to influence and persuade others.

Do you have any other advice that you would like to impart to students and/or recent graduates?

If you’re a UBC arts undergrad, the arts faculty has a wonderful mentoring program called the Arts Tri-Mentoring Program. The program matches you up with a UBC alumni member with the same major as you. So if you’re an Asian Studies major, they will match you with a UBC alumni member who was an Asian Studies major. In the program, you will meet with your mentor a minimum of four times during the school year, during which period, you can ask your mentor career-related questions such as how to prepare for the job market, what undergrad courses they recommend, grad school options, how to improve your resume, etc. If you click with your mentor, they become part of your lifelong network, and hopefully, a lasting friend.