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Best Resume advice: Call me

The good news: You found a job you're interested in! The bad news: You have to update your resume. This is something that some consider worse than having a root canal. Words River clients have offered some reasons for this: "Writing is hard." "I'm uncomfortable selling myself." "Structures and styles are confusing."

Yes, resume writing can be difficult. It isn't something you do very often (hopefully), and it calls for skills that may not be in your wheelhouse.

So where is the first place you go for help? Of course, the Internet offers a profusion of advice. A search “out there” reveals glitzy resume templates to download and fill in. Blog listicles and YouTube videos offer “10 Great Tips for Great Resumes” or “The Best Resume that Works for Anyone!”

"Anyone" they say? Not quite.

Building a resume isn’t like repairing a garbage disposal or baking a potato (Step 1, 2, 3…). People and the jobs they seek are each unique; they deserve better than a pre-packaged product off the Net.

Lately I've seen an increase in the number of resume clients at Words River. They all understand the value of a customized resume, even though they come from a variety of backgrounds — college seniors planning the big jump into careers, military specialists transitioning to civilian life, and immigrants navigating unfamiliar job landscapes.

I've taught a mix of people in career fitness programs over the years, and I still feel a thrill when, during a session, a client’s attitude about his or her employment prospects shifts from unsure to confident. The “I get it” light switches on. Suddenly he understands why his cluttered resume can’t be four pages long. She starts grinning at her lengthening list of accomplishments. He finds new words – good words – to persuasively describe his unique skills.

At Words River, we always begin our sessions with a conversation. I go into interview mode, asking my client to respond with answers that a third grader would understand. I don’t want the client to try to impress me with an inflated career objective or experience. My early goal is to gather authentic information – good grapes – that we will eventually cull and refine into premium wine.

Last week, a U.S. Army specialist told me he was expert at “breaching.”

“Breaching, huh,” I said. “I thought only whales breached. What are you talking about?”

He was obviously not a whale or a whaler, so he tried to explain the term. I came to understand that breaching is an army-specific term for clearing an area and knocking down doors in a war-time scenario. I adjusted my line of questioning to ascertain what skills breaching calls for. Listing quite a few, the sergeant began to see valuable experience that translated well to a civilian job. He knew about technologies, leadership, stress management, and teamwork – skills aligning with the requirements of his target job.

Moving from another country requires other kinds of translation abilities — and not only from one language to another. Cross-cultural communication involves sending a message from one "way of knowing" to another.

Mary, a student from Mexico needed to find employment after she became an American citizen. At first, she was unsure about the direction she wanted to go with her career. We had several conversations to assess her values, interests and skills, and eventually, she decided she wanted to find the same kind of job she had held in Mexico.

“It was a job in legal work. I love legal work,” she said.

“What kind of legal work?” I asked.

She said she had been an LDA, an acronym for Legal Document Assistant, which is something like a paralegal in the United States. Now that we were clear about the kind of job she desired, we focused on positioning her resume to achieve her goals.

There are many suggestions to consider when preparing your resume – too many to enumerate in a single article. Whatever your background, you don’t have to chart your course without a compass. And you don’t have to settle for a template. There’s a place where you can access 25 years of expertise in writing, business communication, and employability fitness from someone who is ready to take the time to help you succeed.

Call Words River.

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