What’s your story? Crafting a more effective resume

Dr. Lynda Falkenstein

Dear Niche Doctor,

I graduated from college this spring and have been sending out resumes relentlessly. I’ve followed the rules for what a good resume is supposed to look like, but so far no luck at all. They all seem to go into a black hole. Do you have any resume-boosting suggestions?

Thank you!

First off, congratulations on your recent graduation! The “invisibleness” you are experiencing is not surprising – especially if you are following standard resume rules. Nearly all of them leave out the most important element: You. I will give you an example.

I recently worked with another young graduate who’d sent out scores of resumes to potential employers and received back nothing; nada. He’d done everything right according to those standard resume rules: No spelling mistakes; clean format; career goal up front; education; skills; experience – all listed. In my conversation with him, I quickly realized he’d left out an element that could make all the difference. As it turns out, it did!

The element was simple. This recent graduate had spent a year in Mexico and was fluent in Spanish. Since his year’s stay, he’d also visited the country regularly and had a strong connection to the Mexican people, generally. Most importantly, his travel gave him invaluable insights – the kind you can’t get in books, alone.

With this information in mind, I suggested that he include a few lines about the implications of his travel in the otherwise cut-and-dry experience and skills sections of the resume (for example, increased flexibility as a person, able to work in culturally diverse settings, etc.). In other words, I was asking this recent graduate to communicate who he was as a whole person. I was asking him to apply my favorite mantra (people buy people) to his quest for a job. And, guess what? Almost immediately after sending out his updated resume, the phone rang.

Shortly thereafter, our recent graduate was gainfully employed in a job he very much wanted. Interestingly, lots of other people wanted that same job but never got to the interview stage, with their resumes disappearing into that familiar black hole.

So what does this graduate’s story mean for you? Simply this: Whether you’re a seasoned, transitioning executive, an employee wanting to advance within your organization, or a newbie in the job market, you’ve got to separate yourself from the rest of the pack. Your niche must be crystal clear. It must sing out to your target audience.

A way to think about this is to realize that endless numbers of people have the same formal credentials you have. They work hard and are very good at what they do. The thing that most often separates your resume from those that are deep-sixed is that yours tells your story as a person, not just a robot or clone of someone else with an equivalent degree or certificate. So, the question of course is, “what’s your story?”

Dr. Lynda Falkenstein, business consultant and author of NICHECRAFT: Using Your Specialness to Focus Your Business, Corner Your Market, and Make Customers Seek You Out, invites your questions and comments. To contact her with questions or comments, email DrNiche@vbjusa.com or call 503.781.0966. For a free e-copy of her most recent book, email drniche@falkenstein.com . Please note that the Vancouver Business Journal and Dr. Niche reserve the right to publish your letter or an edited version in all print and electronic media.

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