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Buff up that resume till it shines

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Then we listed skills Michele had acquired in past jobs to see if any of her existing functional skills matched her career objective. When we came across acquired skills that fit her objective, we kept 'em. If they didn't fit, we tossed 'em.

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For example, Michele had counseled kids at camp and led workshops on issues like values and substance abuse. That fit her career objective, so we kept it. She'd also rung up about a thousand six-packs of crunchy tacos. Didn't fit; tossed it. She'd worked with and served all types of clientele at Taco Bell -- kept it. Performed reprographic services in the psychology department -- tossed.  Got the idea?

Would you hire you?
Remember, your resume is a marketing document -- not a confessional. With integrity as your watchword, advertise whatever skills help your case, and toss the rest.

After panning for gold among Michele's past work experiences, we grouped the keepers into the three major categories, then titled the categories Program Coordination & Administration; Counseling; and Customer Service. Hence, the experience portion of her resume was divided into three neat, easy-to-read sections that were directly related to her career objective.

We then listed her chronological work history at the bottom of the resume in a series of one-liners that included the employer's name, position held, city/state and dates of employment.

Michelle wasn't just an ex-secretary-taco-jockey-camp-counselor who desired to serve the homeless and happened to have a degree in psychology. After separating her skills from the jobs she held, instead, she became an applicant with experience in Program Coordination & Administration; Counseling; and Customer Service who desired to serve the homeless -- and, to top it off, she had a degree in psychology.

It's academic
Now at this point, you may be asking, "What if I don't have any skills from past jobs that fit my objective?"

For many recent grads, this is definitely the case. The good news is that experience you list on your resume doesn't have to be work you got paid for. It's perfectly acceptable to describe practicum experience, lab work, research projects and volunteer work. In fact, you should list non-paid experience even if you do have the paid kind.

If your experience is predominantly non-paid, title that section of your resume "Relevant Experience" instead of "Work History." And be sure to indicate -- subtly, but clearly -- that non-paid work was just that. For example, an education major might write, "As a student teacher, assisted students in developing an award-winning health fair project."

As you can see, it's all in how you present yourself. So before you put your resume into active service, check it for a pulse. Does it read like a career obituary? Or does it shout out to prospective employers how much you really have to offer?

To get the complete low-down on preparing a functional resume, pick up Yana Parker's perennial bestseller The Damn Good Resume Guide. Or check out Yana's Web site at's corrections policy-- Updated: April 29, 2005
More stories by Lynn Vincent
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