By Amy Armstrong, MS, NCC, MCC, LPC

Young, smiling person in business attire sits on bench making notes in notebook

When it comes to résumé writing, the first feelings that often come up are fear and inadequacy. Before the résumé is sent to anyone, viewed by anyone, or considered by a prospective employer or contact—before it even exists—we already start saying to ourselves, “My background isn’t as impressive as that of other candidates.” Another possible thought is, “I won’t be able to say anything right. All these books and articles have different buzzwords you’re supposed to use. If I don’t put buzzwords in, I might as well give up now.” And then there’s the thought, “I have messed up at too many other jobs and I’m unemployable. Putting this on paper is just going to make it that much easier for people to see that.” Creating a one- to two-page document that celebrates your accomplishments shouldn’t inspire these feelings in anybody.

Here are five ways to approach résumé writing from a healthier, more positive perspective:

  1. Focus on the positive things first. Gather as much information as you can about your contributions. This may seem difficult if you worked somewhere that wasn’t on the ball with performance appraisals, employee recognition, or formal praise. If you didn’t get any of those things, think about the things coworkers often asked for your help with or praised you for. While you’re thinking about the good stuff you’ve done, think about what you enjoyed doing and what you want to do more of in your next role.
  2. Set aside chunks of time to focus on preparing your résumé. Most of us do well with 20 minutes and need a break after that.
  3. Don’t let the quality of your résumé cast a shadow over your job search. Résumés do not get people jobs. Networking and good interviewing skills get people jobs. Nobody wants to believe this, and people keep trying to get me to reveal the way you get a job without talking to anybody, but I haven’t given it away because it doesn’t exist. Your résumé is just one piece of the puzzle. It is an important piece, and it is worthwhile to do your best to get it into the best shape you can before you show it to a prospective employer, but it is not the be-all and end-all of your job-search strategy.
  4. Resist the urge to compare yourself to everyone else who might be competing for similar jobs. While it’s a good idea to speak to a career counselor about tools you can use to research your market and know what employers are looking for, the key is to highlight the skills and experience you have now. If you feel you are lacking in certain areas, take this as helpful information and develop a plan to fill in the gaps. Don’t worry about what you think other people are bringing to the table. If you believe you can do the job well with your current education and experience, all you need to do is communicate that to the right employer.
  5. Know your limits. In the past, I have been firm about the idea everyone should write their own résumé because résumé writing services are expensive; you still need to do a lot of writing to get your information to them; and they will never understand your experiences the way you do. I still believe all of that. However, I know word processors can really kill your joy if you aren’t good at using them, and using templates might just make things worse. Word templates are impossible to edit later. Just don’t do it. If you’re having a lot of trouble getting your credentials on paper, you can investigate hiring a professional résumé writer. If you’re on a limited budget, ask the local library if it offers software that has a résumé builder in it—many do. If that doesn’t work, enlist the help of a friend who is good with word processing and offer to help them with something in trade.

Be happy! The résumé will get done, and you can still have your self-esteem at the end of the process.

© Copyright 2016 All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Amy Armstrong, LPCtherapist in Westfield, New Jersey



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