Dear Sam: I graduated in 2007 with a B.A. in history at age 32. I was forced to take a low-paying job after my father passed away in order to care for my mother, who passed away in 2009. I lost my job a few months later, and I have been highly unsuccessful in finding a job since.
I have presented at history conferences and have received great reviews, because of my aptitude for writing history, but my résumé is another story. The only way I can describe it is a psychological block. I have read books and articles, yet my résumé is dreadful and lacks direction. I have spent months staring at the screen, and as I sit there, my frustration and blood pressure begin to rise.
I’m an intelligent person. However, writing a résumé presents the same frustrations as math. Help!
Dear Tamara: I’m sorry you feel this way. Unfortunately, feeling helpless is common for many job seekers. Let me shed some light on the direction to take with your résumé.
You open your résumé with a Qualifications Summary, which is a great start. However, it is underdeveloped. You present four brief bullet points simply noting your degree, eight years of customer-service experience, seven years of training experience and strong written and verbal-communication skills. While these are nice qualifications, none of them differentiates you from your competitors.
If you are seeking a position in the customer-service field, you need to build a summary that tells your audience why they should interview you. In this summary, focus on what makes you different. From a scan of your résumé, I can clearly see aspects of your background that separate you from the pack. Here are some ideas of what you could say:
• Provided dedicated administrative support to senior-level leaders, handling mission-critical initiatives including internal and external communications, vendor coordination and operational reporting.
• Proven track record of identifying and capitalizing on continuous improvement opportunities, streamlining processes through the development of new filing systems to organize records and ease retrieval.
• Demonstrated exceptional communication strengths, along with the ability to connect with diverse audiences while facilitating training to drive achievement of scorecard metrics.
Notice how, just by improving the language, your experience looks stronger.
I recommend a few improvements in the structure of your résumé as well. First, you have three strong career positions to present (1997-2005, 2006-2007 and 2007-2009), with more recent experience (2009 and 2009-present) that needs to be minimized on your résumé.
You include the months of employment, which prevents the ability to delete short-term jobs such as your freelance writing position in 2009 and your student assistant position (2005-2006). By omitting months of employment and only presenting years, you gain the ability to remove and reprioritize your roles.
Open your Professional Experience section with a brief byline that states, “Recent experience in customer service, client relations and business development as the owner and operator of a pet-care business.” Then, flow into your impressive administrative, program coordination and training roles.
The goal is to have the reader merely glance at your recent self-employment while spending more time focusing on what you did within your career roles. This reorganization and reprioritization of your experience will ensure that your most related and relevant responsibilities and accomplishments come to the forefront.
Speaking of responsibilities and accomplishments, do not merge the two in your Professional Experience section. Your résumé is a long list of bullet points. One bullet point presents a rather mundane job responsibility and the next presents a rather impressive achievement. When content is presented with bullet points, there is no prioritization and the reader will not know what to read first. Instead, use the paragraph and bullet point combination. Using this approach, create a short paragraph overview of each job with bullet points highlighting specific achievements, contributions or other notable highlights.
If you take more time to develop your résumé, reprioritize content, further develop your section summaries and develop a differentiating Qualifications Summary, I am certain you will have a great product that will market you effectively. I have presented an example that showcases the approaches I have suggested. Use this as a guide to help you prioritize your experience and showcase your contributions. I wish you the best of success.
Samantha Nolan is a certified professional résumé writer and owner of Ladybug Design, a full-service résumé-writing firm. Do you have a résumé or job-search question for Dear Sam? Reach Samantha at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more about Sam’s résumé-writing services, visit ladybug-design.com or call (614) 570-3442 or 1-888-9-LADYBUG (1-888-952-3928).