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September 20, 2011 > Counseling Corner: Creating a Stronger Resume & Getting a Better Job (Part 2)

Counseling Corner: Creating a Stronger Resume & Getting a Better Job (Part 2)

By Anne Chan, PhD, MFT

Our story so far - we have been following the real-life progress of Jane, a long-time Tri-City resident who hopes to get a better, higher-paying job. Jane came to me for a resume-makeover with the goal of finding a job with better pay and a potential for career advancement. As an administrative assistant, she likes her job and the people she works with, but knows she will have to earn more to support the needs of her growing children. I've changed the details of Jane's identity to protect her privacy, but she has graciously agreed to share her story with Tri City Voice readers so that others can learn and from her journey.

Our first session consisted of pinpointing her interests, skills she likes to use, and companies she wants to work for. Jane was on fire after her first session. She had completed her "homework" assignment of identifying a few companies she wanted to work in and she even brought in two job ads. We brainstormed more companies for her to look into. Since she is a single mother of three, commuting is simply not an option. So we looked at local Tri City companies that are hiring, such as Washington Hospital and Tesla.

With one of her job ads in hand, we started tackling her resume. First, we read through the job ad line-by-line and started underlining all the parts that applied to her job history. I told Jane that these were qualifications that this employer especially wanted and that we had to be sure to mention them in her resume. Once again, I want to emphasize the importance of targeting your resume for each job you are applying to. People often believe that having one generic resume is sufficient and that they can send the same resume to all the jobs they are applying for. I do not share this belief - instead, I always recommend that you tailor your resume to each and every employer you want to work for.

My belief is that it is important to showcase your relevance to each employer you are interested in. Your job at the application stage is to show how YOU are the perfect person for the employer. It isn't the employer's job to deduce this from your resume. I always say to my clients, "Make it easy for the employer to make the decision to bring you in for an interview."

Our next task was to add more detail to Jane's resume that would highlight how she is the perfect fit for this particular employer. When she first came to me, Jane brought in her resume which looked like this:

XYZ Company 1998 - 2000
Customer Service Associate
* Customer Service
* Met sales goals
* Management
* Stocked product and cleaning the store

I was struck by how brief her resume was and asked her why she had chosen this format. She said that she'd attended a resume workshop and the presenter had advised them to be brief and to the point. I can understand why this presenter might advocate a clean-looking resume, but I felt that Jane's resume was a bit too stark and pedestrian. If I were a potential employer, I would say she sounded like an "okay" prospect, but not an outstanding one. I wanted to take Jane's resume to the level where her resume would grab the attention of her prospective employer and leave a positive impression (even before she stepped into the interview room).

What I did with Jane to propel her resume to the next level was to ask her lots of questions about what she did on the job. Next, I captured these details in her resume. Here's the new and improved version of her resume paragraph from above:

XYZ Company, Sales Associate, 1998 - 2000

* Provided excellent customer service to an average of 20 customers daily; some customers would specially request that I work with them
* Consistently met sales goals and even exceeded sales goals most of the time by upselling
* Received 3 promotions during my time there in recognition of my efficiency, punctuality, and hard work
* Supervised four employees when other managers were unavailable or on vacation

The addition of concrete details to Jane's accomplishments brought her resume to life and made her achievements stand out. Note that these were details that Jane had achieved on the job - none of them were exaggerated or made up. The details show she had been a superb worker - yet, she had not included them in her first resume.

So the lesson for today is: Details, details, details. Add details to your resume to enhance your skills and bring them to life. You only have one chance to make an impression with a prospective employer. Utilize this one opportunity fully and make sure you gain the employer's attention with your skills and experience!

Anne Chan is a career counselor and licensed psychotherapist in Union City. She specializes in helping people find happiness in their careers, lives, and relationships. She can be reached at 510-744-1781. Her website is

(c) Anne Chan, 2011

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