Resume Writing Solutions for Your Challenging Career History
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you have a completely unblemished work history? Was writing
your resume a breeze because you are perfectly qualified
with a model career and educational background?
Or, do you find yourself struggling to prepare your resume...struggling
because of some glitch or problem in your background that
you don't know quite how to overcome in your resume?
* Maybe you are too old...or too young...
* Maybe you have an obvious gap in your work history...
* Maybe you have changed employers too many times...
* Maybe you are a new graduate with little-to-no relevant
* Maybe you are an executive who needs to explain what appears
to be a demotion...
* Maybe you are returning to the workforce after taking
some time off...
* Maybe you are trying to change careers and your past experience
Don't feel alone! It is the extraordinarily rare job searcher
who doesn't struggle with how to deal with some problem
on their resume.
As a professional resume writer I have worked with thousands
and thousands of clients, and while every single one of
those clients is unique, they all have one thing in common:
they have a problem that they need me to solve for them.
How do I do it? The truth is that the solution is often
as unique as the individual client. But, to develop those
solutions, there are six steps that I carefully think through
prior to tackling any new project for a client. As you work
on developing or refining your own resume -- as you try
to come up with ways to transform YOUR troubled work history
into a job-winning resume -- it may be helpful for you to
work through the same six steps.
Step #1 - Know your goal
What is your current career goal? What profession? What
industry? What professional level? Knowing your objective
and your goals for a job search is the foundation of not
just your resume, but of your entire job search. Unless
you know where you are going, you will have no idea what
the focus of your resume must be and you won't even have
a clue how to begin writing it. Don't expect a busy employer
to figure it out for you. Your resume must have a precise
focus and it must convey that focus in five seconds or less.
If it doesn't, it will be discarded. It is that simple.
Step #2 - Know your audience
Now that you know your goal, you are in a position to begin
thinking about the recipients of your resume. What are the
expectations and requirements of a candidate for the job
you are targeting? What are the problems that a person in
your ideal position is likely to be faced with? Remember
(speaking of problems) that the person doing the hiring
has problems that they are hoping their new-hire will solve.
What are those problems? Do they need to increase sales?
Reduce costs? Increase productivity? Improve efficiency?
If you clearly identify the problems of your target audience,
you can construct an entire resume focused on how you are
the ideal candidate to solve them. Do that effectively and
whatever issue you are dealing with in your troubled work
history will suddenly become a non-issue.
An employee is an investment, and if you can create a resume
that proves you will produce a better RETURN on that investment
than the next guy (even the one with the squeaky clean work
history), doors will swing open to you.
Step #3 - Know your competition
Who is your competition in the job market? What qualifications
might they have that you don't have? What qualifications
might you have that they don't have? For most situations,
I'm not referring to specific individuals. Obviously you
wouldn't want to violate the privacy of any specific person
competing for the same type of job. But, there is definite
value in trying to define your competition in generalities.
What types of qualifications does the typical candidate
have for the job you are targeting?
Knowing your competition is a key part of Step #4...
Step #4 - Clearly identify the problem(s)
Okay. Now that you know where you are going, know what your
audience is seeking, and know what your competition brings
to the table, you are ready to fully define the problem
or problems that your resume must overcome.
Some of those problems might be obvious. Work-history gaps,
concerns about age discrimination, and multiple job changes
are among the most common. But, having worked your way through
the prior three steps, you may have identified others. Are
there key qualifications you are lacking? Educational requirements
that you don't quite meet? Ways that your experience doesn't
quite stand up to your competition? Whatever those problems
might be, make sure you define them. In the next step, we
will begin to solve them.
Step #5 - Be willing to throw the rules out the
window and think outside the box
Now, take everything you have ever read or learned about
resume writing and forget it. Well, maybe not everything,
but at this point you definitely do need to begin thinking
creatively and strategically.
Remember that a resume is essentially an advertisement -
a marketing piece - a personal sales pitch. Resumes are
NOT autobiographies! They are personal marketing documents
meant to sell you as the ideal candidate for a particular
position. Everything about the content, the structure, and
the design of your resume should be strategically and selectively
included, excluded, highlighted, or de-emphasized.
Always be absolutely and meticulously honest, but be willing
to think outside the box and present your background in
a format and structure that will be most flattering to you
in relation to the career goal you are targeting.
Do you want to be one of a kind? Or do you want to be one
of many? Your resume is meant to make you stand out and
shine. You will NOT achieve this by following some rigid
template and structure that doesn't have the flexibility
to showcase your unique qualifications.
Step #6 - Reframe, reposition, reformat, and redesign
It is really all about how you frame and position your experience,
your achievements, your educational background, and any
other qualifications. Once you get to this step, you are
ready to put pen to paper (or fingers to the keyboard) and
begin writing your resume. Take what you know about the
expectations and the desires of your target audience, combine
this with your understanding of the competition and the
problems you defined in Step #4, and start writing your
Perhaps you are making a career change into a completely
new profession. Much of your past experience is transferable,
but this might not be immediately obvious to the resume
recipient. How can you "reframe" your past experience to
selectively emphasize the transferable skills and de-emphasize
those that will no longer be relevant?
Is there a qualification you are lacking for the position
you are targeting? Perhaps some other experience you have
had has helped you to develop this qualification in a non-traditional
way. How can you "reposition" that experience to illustrate
the qualification in question?
Maybe you are returning to a career path that you veered
away from ten years ago. Your recent experience is not as
relevant as your past experience. What opportunities do
you have to "reformat" your resume to bring the older skills
to the forefront?
Or maybe you have a couple of big gaps in your work history.
Can you think of a way to "redesign" your resume to take
the visual emphasis off of the chronology/dates of your
experience and place it instead on your achievements and
So, what problems does your resume need to solve? What issues
must you face to transform your troubled work history into
a job-winning resume? As you get started, remember, it is
words on a piece of paper. It is easy to edit and move things
around. Don't be afraid to experiment (just do it BEFORE
you use it in the job market!).
If you aren't sure what the best solution is, create several
versions and ask your friends and family for feedback before
choosing the one you use in your search. And, if you get
stuck, that is what professional resume writers are here
for! We can often provide solutions that you would never
have thought of on your own.
Do you want to use this article in your ezine, website,
or other publication? You are welcome to as long as you
use the following text with it:
Nationally certified resume
writer and career
marketing expert, Michelle Dumas
is the director of Distinctive Career Services LLC. Through
Distinctive Documents http://www.distinctiveweb.com and her
Executive VIP Services http://www.100kcareermarketing.com
Michelle has empowered thousands of professionals all across
the U.S. and worldwide. Michelle is also the author of 101
Before-and-After Resume Examples http://www.before-and-after-resumes.com
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