Buff up that resume till it shines
walked into my career services office to get help looking for a job, she had three
things going for her: a brand new college degree, a sparkling GPA and a great
attitude. Unfortunately, she also had something else: a resume that, well -- stunk.
With no real-world
work experience in her field of choice, Michele had made a standard new-grad error:
writing a resume that listed unrelated nickel-and-dime past jobs, and her newly
minted B.S. in psychology tacked at the end like a forgotten stepchild.
fledgling college alumni, this career-marketing trap is common. Fortunately, there's
an easy fix that will work for almost anyone.
Resume guru Yana Parker, author of The
Damn Good Resume, wrote, "A resume is not a career obituary." In other
words, the function of the document isn't just to brief prospective employers
on your former jobs. Instead, it's a marketing document whose purpose is to present
the best you.
If you're a recent college
grad, chances are your actual work experience is largely unrelated to your post-college
career aspirations. If that's true, a job-by-job chronological presentation is
not a good choice for your resume, since it won't really illustrate to employers
why they should hire you. Instead, try using a functional format to sell your
The difference between a chronological
resume and a functional resume is this:
chronological resume lists work experience in reverse order, beginning with the
most recent job and describing each position held. A functional resume categorizes
and describes an applicant's skills, then follows with a brief, bullet-style work
history at the end. Let's test Michelle's resume.
Michele's chronological resume (the
one that stunk) described in detail her responsibilities in three past jobs: Administrative
Aide, Psychology Department; Counter Person, Taco Bell; and Youth Worker, First
Now, Michele's career objective
was to land a job serving San Diego's homeless population, and her psychology
degree was a real plus. But her work experience -- as a secretary, fast-food jockey,
and kids' counselor -- didn't seem to qualify her to assist the city's destitute
in returning to productive living.
we reformatted her resume to describe her skills in functional groups -- Program
Coordination & Administration; Counseling; and Customer Service -- a more
encouraging picture emerged.
To achieve this resume
transformation, we examined Michele's target career to determine what broad types
of skills might be called for. We came up with counseling, communication, program
coordination, knowledge of helping resources, activity planning, substance abuse
management and customer service to name a few.