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I own a small business that frequently has openings available for college students and recent graduates. One thing that I have noticed is that there is often a huge disparity between the way job candidates appear on paper and the impression they leave when I speak to them in person.

To be honest, most of the resumes I receive portray applicants career histories as disjointed and inconsistent with no discernible career trajectory. However, when I interview many of these young people, it becomes apparent that they’ve developed many valuable skills. Their problem is that they don’t know how to tell their career story.

Get to Know Yourself

If you want to tell your story, you have to understand your story. To do that, you have to step away from your resume. That’s not to say that your resume isn’t important. It is, and we’ll get back to that later. It’s just important to remember that your career path is more than dates, titles, and company names.

I recently hired a young woman with a scattered career history. If I judged her by her resume alone, I would have thought she was more than a little flaky. In a period of six years she had…

  • Worked at a concession stand at a minor league ballpark
  • Spent a summer as a hostess in a restaurant
  • Answered telephones at an insurance company
  • Been a summer camp counselor
  • Internet at a local food magazine and website

In other words, she had lots of short term jobs and no upward movement.

What she did have was great self-awareness, and an ability to describe how this hodgepodge work experience made her qualified. She was able to communicate in person that she was:

  • High Energy
  • A Customer Service Whiz
  • Well Connected in The Local Food Sports And Entertainment Industries
  • A Great Writer
  • Super Organized

List your skills and strengths. Then, find ways to connect the development of those skills and strengths back to both your employment history and other relevant life experience.

Lead Off Your Resume With a Strong Personal Statement

If your resume begins with an objective statement, get rid of it. Successful writers for resumes now prefer to use a strong personal branding statement. Tell hiring managers what you bring to the table, not what you want them to give you. Instead of this:

Objective: To obtain an entry-level position as a researcher and content writer for a fast growing media company.

Try something like this:

Super efficient, customer service, find it here, oriented writer and researcher with connections to local sports and entertainment industry figures.

Add Keywords to The Career History Section of Your Resume

Once you have your personal branding statement, use keywords to connect your work history with that statement. If your branding statement declares that you are super organized, use the word organized when you describe your prior job experience.

Replace this:

Updated patient records using Microsoft Access

With this:

Maintained and organized a database of more than 25K patient records using Microsoft Access

Don’t expect potential employers to make connections between your career history and your abilities. Use powerful keywords to remind them.

Final Thoughts

If you know yourself, and can communicate you abilities both on your resume and in person, your career story can lead you to the job of your dreams. Start by defining your strengths. Then connect those strengths to your career history. Potential employers will then focus on your talents, instead of the number of jobs you have held, or your official career trajectory.



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